This is the tragic story of a man. He was born the son of the king’s concubine, and so had to be separated from his father and brother for the reason that his presence threatened the throne. He had a woman he loved with all his heart, but he never got to hold her in his arms because she was the lover of his brother, the king. In the end, he chose death for the people he loved. This man is Yang Myung, from the MBC drama The Sun and the Moon.
He took on different characters with every piece, but finally managed to escape his original image of a good-looking pretty boy with The Sun and the Moon, to become a real actor who could deliver satisfactory performances to his viewers.
We met with Jung Il Woo after he had finished all official schedules including the wrap up event for The Sun and the Moon. He donned not a hanbok, but a dark blue jacket, khaki pants and brown Converse shoes, which made him look the 25 year old young man he was in real life. It had only been three months since our last meeting, and Jung Il Woo seemed to have become even more mature and calm during that short time. His smile, however, proved to be ever the same.
Jung Il Woo received the offer for The Sun and the Moon in December 2011 while he was shooting Cool Guys, Hot Ramen. He decided to take up the offer when he met the producer Kim Do Hoon and scriptwriter Jin Su Wan. There was no reason to hesitate. Because the impact Yang Myung would have on the drama was great, the character tickled Jung Il Woo’s instinct for new challenges.
“The character gave off a definite charm. Yang Myung’s character wasn’t that important in the original novel also, but I thought he was a character with a big impact, and so I decided it would be nice to try out. I made the decision when I found out that the director and the writer’s thoughts matched with my own.”
He barely had time to prepare, because he joined the crew just after he had wrapped up Cool Guys, Hot Ramen. This enthusiasm emphasizes how attractive he thought The Sun and the Moon would be because Jung Il Woo is known to refrain from taking up too many pieces.
Jung Il Woo was entrusted with the task of expressing sadness and happiness without overdoing it. Thanks to this role, he learned the balance needed in acting, and gained courage that after this he would be able to take on any other role.
The drama was mostly popular thanks to its cast of child actors. The child actors showcased some acting that didn’t fall behind those of the adult actors, and succeeded in drawing attention in the beginnings of the drama. Even after the drama had shifted from the child actors to the adults, the viewers were still shouting for more, making the adult actors the victims of a resulting backlash. Jung Il Woo avoided getting involved in the controversy, but he said he was helped a lot by the child actors’ excellent performances.
“Because I didn’t really have much time to prepare for The Sun and the Moon, I could get what the director wanted by watching the young Yang Myung act. That’s why I watched the drama from its first episode. It did more good than harm.”
After being offered the role, he started off on molding his Yang Myung character by reading the original novel. He learned the difference between the Yang Myung in the original and the Yang Myung in the drama, and shed Yang Myung’s original timid image to a bold one who knew how to show his emotions.
“I read the original novel a lot, and I also started watching the drama Tear of the Dragon. Yang Myung resembles Prince Yang Nyung a lot. After [watching] that, I think I kept staring into the script in order to form a picture of Yang Myung.”
Being remembered as Yang Myung
Being the child of a concubine scarred his heart. He was able to receive neither his father’s love nor the heart of just one woman. Yang Myung led the saddest life in the drama, and because of this, Jung Il Woo said that he became more attached to Yang Myung.
Song Joong Ki was praised for his rendition of King Sejong as a child in A Tree with Deep Roots, and Kim Soo Hyun of The Sun and the Moon also caused a syndrome with his role as a king. Did Jung Il Woo ever regret not taking on the king role?
“I think I would choose Yang Myung even if I’m asked to act in the drama again. In the beginning he lived a free life with a bright personality but in the latter part of the drama he becomes sad and endures pain after getting to know Yeon Woo and going against Hwon, so I thought I should digress from the original novel and emphasize his bright side and his dark side. I think my hard work in trying to portray that double-sidedness shows that I love my character. (Laugh)”
The drama was the rediscovery of Jung Il Woo. He acted out a wide variety of emotions in a short time for just one piece. It broke many hearts to see him be bright and mischievous but at the same time give up everything he had because he never had anything for himself to begin with.
Yang Myung met a sad yet happy end. His life ended in death, but he made the choice for the people he loved. The viewers, however, weren’t ready to let him go. Many said it would’ve been better to let him live. What did Jung Il Woo think about the ending?
“I knew that he would die even before we started. I thought that part had the biggest impact. I talked about Yang Myung’s ending scene a lot with the director, and we thought the only way he could take care of the rebellion and protect his Yeon Woo and his brother was death. Because of that I’m satisfied with the ending, and I don’t think I ever thought of an ending in which Yang Myung doesn’t die.”
Viewers winced with those who put together the rebellion when Jung Il Woo put a knife to the king’s throat, and cried when they could see his sad life as a concubine’s son flash before him at the time of his death. Jung Il Woo especially stood out in episodes 19 and 20.
“I keep remembering the scene in which I die. There’s a scene which has me go to Woon after I die and tell him ‘You are my friend’. Woon was blaming himself for not being able to protect me, but I told him, ‘Don’t do that. The people I love could only be happy if I left them. You don’t need to blame yourself because I sacrificed myself for that’, and that scene was the most impressive.”