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[11.04.18] Interview with Hedwig’s Kim Dongwan: I’m not what you imagine me to be (1/2)

May 7, 2011

In 2008, with military enlistment impending, he said, “I want to go to the army as soon as possible.” At that time, 30-year-old Kim Dongwan looked at me as if he was tired of his 10 years in showbiz, looking forward to the time when he can pay more attention only to himself. 2 years have passed in a flash, as a member of the everlasting Shinhwa, talented Kim Dongwan is preparing to stand in front of us as a musical actor. How has he changed before he decided on taking up this brand new challenge? Kim Dongwan gives his first interview about the musical.

“Hedwig” is the triathlon of the musical world?

The news of Kim Dongwan in musicals, and particularly “Hedwig” was a surprising piece of news to many people.

Because I’m a singer and an actor, I had a strange preconception of “I can sing only on stage, and I can act only in dramas and movies”. While I wanted to do both, I didn’t want to, because musicals are difficult.

In the case of the homosexual role in “Hedwig”, I wanted to try doing it, and it’s a role that’s difficult to play and difficult to understand. This piece of work is a little like the triathlon of the musical world. Yes, I might get picked on if I do this, but I went ahead with it anyway. After I received the proposal, I pondered over it for just 2 days and I asked to be given the role.

Hedwig is not an ordinary role. It’s difficult to just label him as a transgender. He’s really complex. John Cameron Mitchell is really attractive and complex as a person. Many outstanding actors have taken up the role before, and the musical has also been made into a movie before. I’m still at the stage of finding out what Hedwig is as a character.

Have you watched previous performances?

Although I’ve been very interested, I haven’t watched it before. When I started to prepare for the show, I felt that it was a really good thing that I haven’t watched it before, as I won’t end up imitating anyone. But now I’m searching for videos to watch. (laughs) I’m regretting it, ah, the things I have to watch… There seems to be a lot.

This is your first musical, you must be excited and nervous at the same time.

I think my strength has always my confidence, but when it comes to the musical, it becomes reckless confidence. There are many things to think through. The director says that acting is a technique. As you do it repeatedly, you get more familiar with it and you become an expert at this role. If you do it based on your feelings and to feel good, you’re less likely to succeed. I think she’s right.

Of course singers and idols all work very hard, but the energy they get from the audience when they’re on the stage; and their naturally endowed attributes give them much popularity, but in the case of musicals, if we’re not fully prepared, it will be difficult to even receive recognition. The drop in popularity will be detected.

Don’t all the different types of stage and performing experience help?

I’ve been a singer, I’ve acted in dramas, and I’ve done things here and there, isn’t it all for the sake of being able to be in a musical? (laughs) It all helps. In the case of Hedwig, it feels like you’re doing your own show. Because it’s a monodrama, I’ll have to keep speaking to the audience and observe their reactions. My experiences as an MC and radio DJ will come in handy.

To transform yourself into Hedwig, what kind of external and internal preparations are you making? Rumor has it that you said that you wanted to “get rid of your muscles”.

I haven’t been able to get rid of my muscles (laughs). I exercised to get rid of them, but I ended gaining more muscle mass. Since I got rid of my excess fats, my body looks even more defined now (laughs). I’m trying my best to lose the weight from my face, so that I can look more feminine when I dress up, while I’ll go with a muscular body. That’s all.

I picked up some of Harisu’s gestures, and asked for advice in transgender forums. But then again Hedwig isn’t completely transgender either. Gradually I’m feeling the differences.

I’m curious about what the reactions, including that of the Shinhwa members, to “Kim Dongwan starring in a musical”. Andy is actually your senior when it comes to musicals.

They’re not really paying much attention (laughs). Because I haven’t been meeting up with people very often. I haven’t seen any of Andy’s performances. Although there are many works of beauty and happiness, these are not where my interest lies (laughs). That’s why I want to do this even more. Because you don’t get to realize this kind of work through dramas.

The music of “Hedwig” has a very strong sense of individuality. The genre of rock is different from the songs that Kim Dongwan the singer has sung before.

It has a very famous OST. I like it very much. The person who wrote these songs seem to like Kurt Cobain. There are many of his stories and the style is similar too. There are stories of Phil Collins too, but with Radiohead’s style. The taste in music is very similar to mine.

When I was in high school, I formed a Nirvana copy band called “Impact”. And I originally entered SM Entertainment as a bass guitarist for a band called “Bad Boys”, but Mr Lee Soo Man said, “You’re more suited to be an idol”. I told him, “I want to be in a band, I’m not suited to be an idol”, but then when I saw the videos of the other Shinhwa members, they were really awesome. So I told him, “I’ll work hard (to be an idol)”.” (laughs)

What is your favorite song in the musical?
“Wicked Little Town”. There seems to be a lot of emotions in the flow of the song. I’m also drawn to the message in “Origin of Love”.

(to be continued)

Credits: PlayDB + Absolut Shinhwa

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