Shin Min Ah Reflects On Her Career, Why She Loves Taking On Challenges, And More

Shin Min Ah sat down for an insightful interview with Marie Claire Korea!

The actress is currently promoting her film “Diva,” which is a mystery thriller in which she stars as Lee Young, nicknamed the “diva of the diving world.” After a car accident, madness steadily encroaches upon Lee Young as she struggles with memory loss and the disappearance of her best friend Soo Jin (played by Lee Yoo Young).

Shin Min Ah described “Diva” as an important film for her, saying that it feels like a part of her. “Before we started filming, I spent a long time working hard at diving training with my co-stars,” she said. “It’s a film that inevitably required a long period of preparation. I put a lot of work into the movie up until it reached its premiere. I thought a lot about Lee Young’s mentality and I worried about the diving techniques too. Since I prepared for it and took part in it in many different ways, the movie feels even more so like a part of me.”

She was asked to describe what drew her to the role when she first read the script, and Shin Min Ah replied that she related to Lee Young’s mixed and sensitive emotions, which drive the film’s story. She also shared that while the role appeared to be something she hadn’t tried before, it also didn’t feel unfamiliar to her. “That’s because when I read about the character in the script, it felt like something that might be inside me,” she said. “I kept feeling drawn by her and the story.”

Shin Min Ah explained that she’s thought about why she related to the character, and she realized that there’s a clear similarity between athletes and actors. “Athletes, like actors, also have to be strong mentally,” she said. “They also have to achieve goals. Of course, athletes are evaluated more acutely than actors, but they’re both similar in that a lot of people are interested in them and love them.”

The actress spoke more about the diving training she underwent for the role, pointing out that the characters in the film were all amazing athletes and Lee Young was a world star athlete who could pull off incredibly difficult techniques.

“In addition to diving training, we needed to train on wires too so that we could learn the movements that connect the moves,” she said, sharing that all the actors had spent four months training so that they could perform their roles as best as possible.

“Since I was doing basic fitness exercises that focused on the upper body, like real divers do, as time went on I started to develop the body of a swimmer,” she said. “I exercised every day with the coaches, doing ground training for two to three hours and then two hours exercising in the pool. Since my body had to remember the techniques, training didn’t end once we began filming. I could get injured if my body forgot a movement, so I was always practicing at the pool whenever I was off filming.”

Shin Min Ah was asked to describe working with Lee Yoo Young, and the interviewer said it seemed like they’d have to keep a tension on set too since they were playing rivals.

“That part was fun,” she said. “Since all of us actors who were playing athletes had trained together, we came to both rely on each other and also spur each other on.” For example, if she thought she couldn’t do a move, seeing her co-stars pull it off made her realize that she could do it too.

“We started off diving at 0 meters,” she continued. “Because of the depth of the water, when you actually dive, even if it’s just 0 meters, it feels deep. You slip right in. Then the height was increased bit by bit. If my co-star managed it then I’d say ‘You did so well,’ and while I was praising them, I was thinking ‘I have to do this too though.’ It made the energy good. If I had been doing it on my own, I think I wouldn’t have been able to learn how to dive that quickly.”

The interviewer pointed out that Shin Min Ah has often had to learn how to do certain things to play her many different roles.

“I oddly seem to have ended up doing those projects,” she said. “Starting with my debut film ‘Volcano High School.’ Now that I think about it, I’ve really learned a lot of things for my projects.”

“I practiced the cello for ‘A Bittersweet Life’ even though it wasn’t a big part of the film, and I once even fainted for five seconds while I was practicing boxing for the drama ‘Punch,'” Shin Min Ah shared. “I learned to dance for ‘Go Go 70s‘ and I went to action school for ‘My Mighty Princess.’ I was younger back then so I worked really hard while using my strength. I used my whole body in my training, and I played a lot of roles that could only be performed if my body was used to the task. ‘Diva’ was the same thing. I was determined to pull off the movements, and after pushing myself like that, I came to love it more and it felt like a part of me.”

Shin Min Ah also said that while she’d worked hard on her latest film as she had in the past, she had a bit more fun during the process of working on ‘Diva.’

“It was really difficult physically, but whenever I see stills from the set, I’m always smiling,” she said. “I’m smiling with blood on me, it’s always fun on set. When I talk about how I acted using my strength, for example before an emotional scene I would stay in that emotion and not talk to other people. But this time I thought, ‘I shouldn’t let myself get worn out. I need to do a good job, have fun, and not get hurt.’ I’m also having fun in this moment now as I promote it. I don’t get worn out. Work is always fun.”

When asked if anything has been an obstacle when she’s choosing projects, Shin Min Ah replied that it might be dealing with having an “image” as an actor.

“When I took a role in the drama ‘My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho‘ after having done ‘Volcano High School’ and ‘A Bittersweet Life,’ it was said that my image was too dark to be playing a ‘lovely’ character,” she explained. “After I learned what people saw my image as, I felt pressured to show different sides of myself in the future. Once I’d done a bright role, articles started referring to me as ‘lovely.’ I had been called ‘cold’ before that, but then it became the opposite. Due to the combination of the image that people have of me and my age, there’s a limit to the works and characters I’m offered. Since I’ve shown many different sides of myself through a lot of projects, I don’t feel as pressured now about my image becoming set. ‘Chief of Staff’ is a meaningful project for me too, in that way. It was a challenge for me. I was able to perform the role of a true adult who is devoted to her job.”

Shin Min Ah was asked if she fears failure when she has to decide about potentially taking on a challenge. “No, the thing I’m scared of when I’m choosing a project is that it might be something I’ve done before,” she said. “I worry that people might feel tired of me if I show them something I’ve already shown before. When I’m about to do something new, I always feel excited. Acting is never boring. It’s complex and deep.”

On the topic of the project that’s had the most decisive influence on herself, she chose “Go Go 70s.” “I also had a lot of fun preparing for that film,” she said. “It was similar to the way I went about ‘Diva.’ I thought, ‘I’m working really hard. I’m going to work really hard so that I can portray this person from head to toe.’ That’s how passionately I prepared for it.”

When asked whether acting is a job with a lot of painful moments or a lot of happy moments, Shin Min Ah chose painful. She said, “I’ve been talking about how it’s fun, but there are a lot of painful moments. It’s painful but exhilarating.”

In addition, she talked about what kind of work she wants to add to her filmography. Shin Min Ah said, “I want to keep trying a lot of different things. I’d like to play a woman who has a sexiness that’s a good fit for me.”

“Diva” premiered in theaters in Korea on September 23. Shin MIn Ah’s full interview and pictorial can be found in the October issue of Marie Claire Korea.

Watch Shin Min Ah in “Go Go 70s” below!

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