Exclusive Interview: After “The Secret Romantic Guesthouse,” Actors Reflect On The Drama, What’s Ahead For Them, And More

Just over a month has passed since the conclusion of “The Secret Romantic Guesthouse,” a charming historical drama with both mystery and romance. Based on a hit web novel, “The Secret Romantic Guesthouse” is about an unconventional boarding house and three students who stay there as lodgers. Shin Ye Eun stars as Yoon Dan Oh, the owner of boarding house Yihwawon, while Ryeoun, Kang Hoon, and Jung Gun Joo play the three “flower scholars” Kang San, Kim Si Yeol, and Jung Yoo Ha, respectively, who are each hiding their own secrets.

Following the end of the drama, Soompi took some time to chat with the main cast members Shin Ye Eun, Ryeoun, Kang Hoon, and Jung Gun Joo, hearing their thoughts on “The Secret Romantic Guesthouse” and also learning more about the actors themselves.

Check out the interview below:

How did you feel about acting in your first historical drama? Are there any specific thoughts you had in mind while preparing for your role?

Shin Ye Eun: Although it was my first historical drama, I worked on it with the mindset of completing it without any lacking aspects. I repeatedly practiced during everyday life so that I could get familiar with the type of speech and actions that I don’t use on a normal basis, and I continuously checked to see how I acted by recording Dan Oh’s lines and listening to them.

Ryeoun: In the beginning, I appear as a scholar studying martial arts, but afterwards [I portray] a deposed crown prince who disappeared as well as a King who has to avenge his parents and save a suffering Joseon. I wondered if I could well portray the character of Kang San who had to train without letting go of the sword in order to achieve his goal….I think I was burdened by the various thoughts I had over whether I could complete this long project smoothly. From start to finish, I thought that my portrayal of Kang San should be relatable to the viewers, so I had the mindset of taking on a challenge after thinking it over and over again. I was actually stuck in an acting rut due to that. Every time that happened, I would converse with the director, staff members, and peers to resolve that. Through this interview, I want to thank everyone once again.

Jung Gun Joo: The first worry I had in mind was to adjust well to using the sageuk tone in order to act more freely. I practiced alone inside my room and at a cafe, just holding on to the script.

Kang Hoon, how did you feel about taking on another historical drama after “The Red Sleeve”?

Kang Hoon: I don’t largely distinguish between modern dramas and historical dramas before preparing. For all the preparations for “The Secret Romantic Guesthouse” along with the details of the character, I prepared with the same mindset I have when starting other new projects. However, after meeting the character Kim Si Yeol, I got the thought that I wanted to use a tone that is slightly different from other sageuk dramas. So I prepared accordingly with those aspects in mind.

Do you have your own criteria for selecting acting projects?

Shin Ye Eun: I feel grateful for even just being given the opportunity and to be able to act. I like taking on challenges, so I think I take on the challenge if there is something for me to gain. I also feel more inclined if it is a story about people living their [everyday] lives.

Ryeoun: I think the word “selecting” is not right for me yet. I’m a person whose strength lies in taking on challenges, so I look at projects with the thought of taking on a challenge. I think rather than selecting, I need to learn a lot through various experiences.

Kang Hoon: First and foremost are the projects that I enjoyed reading, and afterwards, I look at if the role I received is similar or different from the character I acted in the previous project. I slightly avoid [the project] if it is of the same grain, but I select it if I think I can express it differently.

Jung Gun Joo: It’s the synopsis and character. Regardless of a main role or supporting role, I tend to take on the challenge without hesitation if there is strength to the character.

Of the three guesthouse residents, which character is your personal favorite? 

Shin Ye Eun: I will choose Si Yeol. From his bubbly charm and seriousness, I think he’s a figure who can show diverse charms. On top of that, he was great at action. I think it is the type of role that everyone would want to try. Furthermore, it’s also because Kang Hoon brought the character to life very well.

Which of the three guesthouse residents would you like to be roommates with?

Ryeoun: A guesthouse run by Miss Najoo (Lee Mi Do) is no good because the character can’t cook. It should be a guesthouse run by Yoon Dan Oh (Shin Ye Eun). I would like to stay with all three of us together. Jung Yoo Ha (Jung Gun Joo) is a friend who dreams of becoming a king and who will never hesitate if it is for the people, so I think I need him because he will do anything for me without hesitating. I think [I also need] Kim Si Yeol (Kang Hoon) because he is a friend who would risk his life to protect Kang San.

Kang Hoon: Jung Yoo Ha because he likes to be quiet. I think he will quietly read a book next to me. I think we will get along well without interfering with each other’s daily life.

Jung Gun Joo: They all have different charms. Ryeoun is like a playful younger brother, and Kang Hoon is like a reliable senior. Both are great.

When joining the cast of a new drama, do you have your own way of getting close to your co-stars?  

Shin Ye Eun: I think it differs depending on the character [I play]. If she is a bright character, I approach the actors first and actively express my emotions, but if she’s a dark character, I tend to match what the other thinks of me or the other’s disposition.

Ryeoun: I still think going out to eat after wrapping up the first script reading is the most exciting moment. The first script reading is always nerve-racking, and I’m always frozen up.
It’s a lot of pressure to read the script in front of actors I am meeting for the first time. I feel quite happy when we go out to eat together after wrapping up the reading and sending each other applause.

Kang Hoon: If I see [the actors] often before filming, it isn’t as awkward when we meet on set. So if possible, I try to meet them often before filming. Personally, if I start filming without getting close to a certain degree, I feel as if the awkwardness shows on screen. That’s why I tend to meet them before filming begins to talk a lot and spend time together.

Jung Gun Joo: My style is to approach them casually. Each person comes from a different background, so I try to respect that and be considerate of that.

What did you do during breaks in between filming on set?

Shin Ye Eun: We all gathered together on a wooden floor on set and chatted. We are very close and had such great teamwork to the point that we would invite our fellow actors if they were just resting in their cars to come and hang out together. We would order and eat delicious food together and read the script together to prepare for the next scene.

Ryeoun: There isn’t much time to rest in between filming. But if you’re still wondering…if I have breaks in between, I think I would just take a walk.

Kang Hoon: My face tends to swell a lot when I take a nap on set, so I tended to practice my lines while strolling around. I often discovered the parts that I missed while reading the script, so I think I did that all the more.

Jung Gun Joo: I usually read the script, but I also talked a lot with Kang Hoon, Ye Eun, and Ryeoun.

What do you usually enjoy doing on days that you have off? 

Shin Ye Eun: I relieve stress by exercising or cleaning the house, read a novel that I wanted to read, or drink teas that I like. Usually, I enjoy watching films and dramas, but when I’m working on a project, I tend to focus only on myself rather than watching other dramas.

Ryeoun: I walk. Thoughts, worries, and answers are ultimately inside myself, so walking helps me a lot. Also, one of my hobbies is to watch projects of my favorite directors and actors.

Kang Hoon: I just rest no matter what. Sometimes I do work out, but I think it’s important to take rest to replenish my energy. So when I have time to rest on the days when I am not filming, I tend to rest at home instead of going outside.

Jung Gun Joo: I mostly play games or work out!

What were your first impressions of each other, and what are your current impressions?

Shin Ye Eun: Kang Hoon is a kind and smart fellow actor whom I have been close with for a long time. I relied heavily on him in this project also.
Actor Jung Gun Joo may seem a bit difficult [to approach] at first, but he is really witty and a funny fellow actor whose sense of humor matches well with mine. We would say that the atmosphere on set depends on whether Jung Gun Joo is there or not.
Since actor Ryeoun and I are of the same age, there was some sort of comfort felt even without saying anything special. Although we are of the same age, there were so many things to learn from him. Seeing all of his hard work and contemplation for every scene made me think that he is such a professional actor.

Ryeoun: When I first met Shin Ye Eun, I felt she was like a bubbly and energetic younger sister. As we filmed together, I felt that she is definitely experienced on set as she is an actress who has done more projects than I have. She is a passionate person who made me feel that there is a vibe coming from her experiences that cannot be ignored.
When I first met Kang Hoon, he seemed to be expressing “goodness” per se. He himself is very bright and positive, and he made me feel that the atmosphere on set can change so much with just one person’s energy. I also learned that aspect a lot from him. I think our chemistry came out well thanks to him. The more I spend time with him, the more I feel his genuineness.
When I first met Jung Gun Joo, I thought our drama would be successful thanks to him as he is even taller and more handsome than me. I thought he would steal the hearts of many viewers. As I spent more time [with him], I found that he is someone who is really considerate in addition to being handsome and tall.

Kang Hoon: My first and current impressions of Ye Eun are that she is a very beautiful person. Not only her looks, but she is someone with a kind heart and takes good care of those around her. I thought Ryeoun would be difficult to get close to at first because of his sharp looks, but he always approached me first nicely, so I am very thankful to him. Gun Joo is the same when I first saw him and now. He is really kind and likes me a lot, and he is someone with energy that makes others feel good.

Jung Gun Joo: Ye Eun and Ryeoun went from shy younger sister and brother to very cute younger sister and brother, and Kang Hoon is the same as he was when I first met him seven years ago haha.

What is the biggest advantage of acting together with co-stars who are similar in age?

Shin Ye Eun: It’s that we can express our own opinions freely. I felt that the actors from “The Secret Romantic Guesthouse” are especially good at accepting each other’s opinions, and they are very considerate of others. We kept in touch even when not on set and had meals together a lot, too. I think our closeness was also shown in the drama. I think this is the biggest advantage.

Ryeoun: I do feel that there is a different kind of joy that comes with working with actors who are similar in age as me. I feel more comfortable with them to converse or discuss acting with more honesty. We also monitor each other’s acting. I went on set thinking that I wouldn’t be lonely because they were there.

Kang Hoon: First of all, I think we share similar interests. I think it’s good to be able to share worries that we have at our age. Also, it’s a great advantage that I made friends with whom I can meet and talk often.

Jung Gun Joo: Although I learn a lot from acting with senior actors, since each person has their own acting style, there was a lot to learn from [acting with] peers as well. We create scenes while respecting each other’s methods, so in this sense, I think we can showcase natural acting when working together.

What do you talk about in your group chat with the cast?

Shin Ye Eun: We help pick out each other’s photos to upload on social media, and we also compliment each other’s acting when watching our drama. These days, everyone is on vacation, so we’ve been sharing photos of our travels.

Ryeoun: I think we mainly talked about each other’s characters, important scenes, and so on when we were filming the drama. Now, we just share pictures that we took or funny stories and silly jokes. It’s no different from any other group chat.

Kang Hoon: When the drama was on-air, we were complimenting each other. And now that the drama is all over, there are some who are traveling and others who are working [on new projects], so those who are traveling are mostly bragging to those who are working. (laughs)

Jung Gun Joo: Usually we would share feedback with each other while watching the drama on how certain scenes were filmed and what kind of situation they were in.

What is a random fact about yourself you can share with fans?

Shin Ye Eun: I keep thinking of the siraegi samgyeopsal cooked on the lid of a cauldron pot that I ate while filming the drama, so I’ve been looking for the same dish again. (laughs) I really want to eat that again.

Ryeoun: My face tends to swell a lot, so I look up ways to get rid of the swelling every day. I searched for it even now while answering this interview.

Kang Hoon: After the drama ended, I went on a trip. I was really happy, so I plan to travel a lot during my break.

Jung Gun Joo: I’m going to have a delicious dinner with senior actors from “The Secret Romantic Guesthouse” haha. They said they would treat me!

What personal goals would you like to achieve in 2023, and what is your goal as an actor?

Shin Ye Eun: Rather than looking for new goals, I think I want to appreciate what has been given to me and give back for that. I will be greeting [viewers] with different projects in the future, but as any project is a new challenge for me, I have the mindset to do my best no matter what.

Ryeoun: I want to work hard on the drama that I’m currently filming and present [great acting] to viewers. As I have always been, I will learn more, take on more challenges, and live courageously, confidently, and diligently.

Kang Hoon: I received lots of love through this drama so I want to present great acting without resting. I think that way, I can repay the love I’ve received from viewers. And as an actor, my goal is similar to that of 2023. It is to continue acting and impressing as an actor. I will work harder to make it possible.

Jung Gun Joo: My personal goal is to travel abroad a lot. My goal as an actor is to take on the role of a character that can leave a strong impression in the second half of this year. I would like to show [viewers] a side of myself that I haven’t shown before.

Please share a word for fans around the world who love “The Secret Romantic Guesthouse”!

Shin Ye Eun: It is a drama in which each episode has its own charm. Since there is so much to see, it would be great if viewers find the fun points among the spectacle. Please show lots of support and love to the lovable and enterprising character Dan Oh. Thank you.

Ryeoun: There was so much I could’ve done better while filming “The Secret Romantic Guesthouse.” There are aspects I could’ve done better in the emotional scenes, and there were scenes that I should’ve done more clearly and simply in terms of dialogue and breathing, so I personally feel unsatisfied with this project, but I will greet you again an actor who does a better job in my next project. Please enjoy watching the mystery romance that Dan Oh and the three scholars have created.

Kang Hoon: Dear fans who love “The Secret Romantic Guesthouse,” this is Kang Hoon who played the role of Kim Si Yeol. We worked really hard and had fun filming our drama. It’s a great drama that I have a lot of affection for. Please enjoy watching it and show lots of love. Thank you!

Jung Gun Joo: “The Secret Romantic Guesthouse” is a very interesting drama! If you want to feel the beauty of Korean culture, if you like historical dramas, youthful romance, or want to watch a mystery drama, be sure to watch ‘“The Secret Romantic Guesthouse” which contains all of these! Thank you!

Watch “The Secret Romantic Guesthouse” here:

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