I was born on February 2, 1984. In Boys Before Flowers, I appear in a lot of scenes with [Kim] Bum, and we’re five years apart in age. I’ve always been the youngest, but all of a sudden I became the eldest, which was awkward. [Laughs]
About T-Max, rapping, and training for a kpop music career —
To become a singer, I was a trainee for about four or five years. There were lots of times when (Shin) Min-chul hyung and I rehearsed together and did guide recordings [demo recordings] for the songs written by the songwriter hyungs in the office. That experience really helped a lot. After (Park) Yoon-hwa joined, the three of us debuted about two years later as T-Max. Maybe it’s because we went through tough times together, but the three of us are as close as blood brothers.
Because I don’t have an optimistic personality, it’s difficult for me to take charge proactively. I became a singer after going to a songwriter hyung’s office and learning from him, and I auditioned for the drama on my management’s encouragement. However, when I decide to do something, I think of what I have to do to achieve that.
The other members knew I had auditioned for Boys Before Flowers, but we found out about my being cast in a newspaper report. I didn’t want to tell them when it wasn’t confirmed, so throughout the process I didn’t say anything.
I’m called an old soul a lot. I can’t do this now that I’m so busy, but when I was younger I read a lot of books, and I’ve always been an overthinker. [Laughs]
Through writing rap lyrics myself, within the limited time and restrictions, I tend to choose words to convey as much as possible. It’s also a habit of mine to pay close attention to the words and expressions I use.
My voice is low, and combined with a bit of a nasal tone, my enunciation isn’t that good. But as I practiced rapping, I’ve learned to cover up the worst parts of my enunciation, by accentuating certain parts or emphasizing others. That kind of work as a singer also helps with acting.
Regarding acting and Boys Before Flowers —
Song Woo-bin’s rap-talk and English lines were created after I was cast. Because we couldn’t have all four F4 members be too similar, each of us were given distinctive character traits. In real life, it’s not like I’ve studied abroad and I’m still very awkward with acting, so I’m very glad that there are people who enjoy watching.
In terms of difficulty, it’s that I have to match up to the standard of F4. These guys take on unique activities as their hobbies. I usually just exercise and do simple sports like basketball or soccer, so it was difficult trying things I’d never done before, like golf, tennis, horseback riding.
On location in New Caledonia, our schedules were so tight, it was a struggle. There were a lot more restrictions than when filming in Korea, and because we were overseas, even little problems would come up, like with the food. However, because of the overseas shoots, the actors really bonded. Even when we weren’t filming, we had to stick together. [Laughs] That’s why if you look at the scenes that were shot before then, you can see that we were still awkward around each other. At that point, the extent of our relationships were merely knowing each other’s phone numbers.
I think F4 is likable because of their particular kind of naivete. In real life, they might feel embarrassed or pressured, but because they can be simple-hearted and sometimes make mistakes, viewers see them as cute and feel for them. If you try to act arrogant in real life, you’ll definitely stir animosity. Their appeal is that although they possess a lot of things, they all have their dumb sides too.
A lot of people ask what I’ll do in the future, whether I’ll choose between being a singer and actor. I always have the same response. I want to do both. I think it’s a little ambitious of me to say that when I haven’t yet proven myself in either, but even if it’s difficult, I don’t think it’s impossible. They are both appealing fields. Oh, I think T-Max will appear on a music program soon. I’m looking forward to standing onstage with the other members after so long.
Things are getting more and more interesting
Everyone pays attention at the edge. And that someone on the edge, for the time that he shines in front of the camera, is fully immersed in the role he is playing. Song Woo-bin of KBS’s Boys Before Flowers, played by Kim Joon, is on the other side of Gu Jun-pyo (Lee Min-ho)’s shoulder, trailing a step behind Yoon Ji-hoo (Kim Hyun-joong) surveying the situation while pushing the edge of his lip and displaying his characteristic smile. Even when he shows amusement while their constant companion So Yi-jung (Kim Bum) is involved in a problem, rather than raising his voice or getting worked up, he merely says one or two words in his low voice. Aside from the amusing “bad hip-hop English” he tosses out occasionally, you could almost see him as F4’s “internal leader.” He might not draw everybody’s attention, but once you do take notice, he makes you look twice. His appeal isn’t that he shines brightly from the center, but that he gently guards the corner of Boys Before Flowers.
However, the Kim Joon I met in real life isn’t soft or refined. A short-sleeved shirt reveals a slim body underneath, and slightly tired-looking eyes appear rather sensitive. Whatever question is tossed at him, he replies with words that seem as though they’ve been written down very carefully, and he listens to analysis of himself so objectively, almost to the point of coldness, that I feel the need to check that this young man is really twenty-six. However, his sharp points don’t make others uncomfortable, unlike the prickly thorns others can have. Rather, it’s like he has a finely tuned antenna that he uses to read his own feelings clearly. Perhaps that’s why there’s no apparent sense of discontent when he says, “I may be the least experienced in terms of my acting career, but ultimately all four members of F4 are friends. That’s why when we’re on set, we even call each other by our characters’ names.” ** That’s because what this young man needs most right now isn’t a friendly hyung to take care of him, but a sunbae [senior] from whom he can watch and learn.
(** The implication here is that Kim Joon, as the eldest cast member — minus Gu Hye-sun, who is his age — normally would command respect purely based on age/seniority, even though he’s the least experienced. Someone who is several years older than his co-stars would expect to be called hyung or sunbae in a tone of respect, but it appears that Kim Joon does not want that and encourages them to speak “on the same level,” so to speak. In a separate interview — perhaps it was the F4 Talk Show Special — he explained that he started to accidentally refer to Gu Hye-sun as noona, because all the other actors are younger and called her that. However, that’s technically wrong, since they’re the same age, and she started to call him oppa in retaliation.)
“Watching my acting is still extremely embarrassing”
However, no matter how well the end of that antenna is polished, as someone acting for the first time in his life, what he portrays in front of the camera must be difficult. Furthermore, this is different from taking the stage once to perform something one has been preparing for a long while. It’s a whole new world for him, adapting and becoming familiar with a drama character in a process that exposes oneself gradually.
“When you’re onstage, the audience’s reaction comes immediately. But when I’m standing in front of a camera, I have no idea how my actions will appear and that makes me even more nervous.” Even when watching the monitor, when he’s not watching to catch a mistake in pronunciation or the angle of a hand but rather to get a grasp of a subtle expression or action, he says he’s extremely embarrassed to watch his acting. “I’m sure everyone’s like that, but the more I see, the more the flaws seem to stand out in relief. Like when you look in a mirror and only see the ugly parts.” It’s refreshing to hear his bashful admission, in a world that’s filled with people who disregard their flaws. Furthermore, the sensitive look on his face is cleared by his clean, laughing expression.
He calls himself “an ordinary guy just like others my age,” but Kim Joon’s energy isn’t by any means ordinary. He says, “I’ve never borrowed a manhwa book before. I first read one for the Boys Before Flowers audition. But even though it was kind of uncomfortable, I found it had an appeal, in that it made me curious to know what was going to happen next. I found it fresh and entertaining to see how the male lead character meets a nice girl and his feelings undergo a change.”
However he may have gotten his start, Kim has a strength that sends him searching for the answers he wants. And that strength won’t take him to the edge, but right to the center of a drama himself. No, it’s as though he’s already living his life at the center of his world, as a music-loving rapper, and also as someone who won’t stop in his desire to become an actor. The future looks more and more interesting for this young man, who lives life from the center.
Written by Yoon Hee-sung
Credit: dramabeans + 10.Asiae