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[INTERVIEW] Why Jo Woo-jin regards his 'Hard Hit' role as the highlight of his career
  • June 21, 2021

[INTERVIEW] Why Jo Woo-jin regards his 'Hard Hit' role
as the highlight of his career

Updated : 2021-06-21 13:07

By Kwak Yeon-soo

For actor Jo Woo-jin, who toiled in obscurity for 16 years before his breakthrough as a merciless villain in the 2015 film, "Inside Men," his late-blooming success feels like "a miracle."

Since making his acting debut in 1999 through a stage play called "Last Embrace," the 42-year-old actor has played supporting roles on the big and small screens.

More TV and movie roles followed until "Inside Men" brought him a level of recognition he had never experienced before.

As his career progressed, Jo has taken a couple of opportunities to stretch his acting chops. In "Steel Rain" (2017), he played a North Korean agent and in "The Drug King" (2018), he played a notorious gang boss. More recently, he played bigger roles in the heist caper film, "Collectors" (2020), and sci-fi thriller, "Seobok" (2021).

On how he endured difficulties as an obscure actor for nearly two decades, he said his easy-going attitude and lofty dream kept him going.

"I've always carried with me the desire and dream to become an actor. My easy-going personality has also helped me endure the hard times. I believe a person's stress doesn't disappear even after one reaches his/her goal. We all deal with hardships and pain in life," he said during an interview with The Korea Times, Friday.

In the upcoming thriller, "Hard Hit," Jo plays bank manager Sung-kyu, the main character who receives a call from a stranger who tells him that a bomb has been planted under his car.

The person then commands him to fulfill his demands or he will detonate the bomb. Unable to get any help, Sung-kyu faces a tough situation where he must make wise decisions to save his life and the lives of his children.

Describing the film as Sung-kyu's coming-of-age story, the actor said he was drawn to its gripping script and psychological twist.

"When I read the script, I wasn't sure if I could pull it off. At first, I had fear and self-doubt about whether I could fully embrace the film's thrill and tension," he said.

"Then I met with director Kim Chang-ju and was touched by his passion and creativity. He was a man of self-conviction, who inspired me to sort of throw myself into the character."

"Hard Hit" not only showcases action sequences and car-chasing scenes, but also tracks Sung-kyu's emotional take on fatherhood as he strives to save his family from a stranger's bomb threats.

Picking Sung-kyu's conversation with his daughter Hye-in (Lee Jae-in) as his favorite scene, Jo said Sung-kyu's character resembles him the most from the different roles he has played so far.

"I was able to get myself into the character fairly quickly, because I have a daughter. So I tried to put myself in Sung-kyu's shoes and imagine what choices I would make if it occurred to me," he said.

The versatile actor said he feels overjoyed to be able to present a well-rounded character in a single film.

"I try to take part in each project with a sense of responsibility, or ownership, but the roles I have played until recently were mostly flat or controversial characters because I was a supporting actor," he said. "In 'Hard Hit,' which is the first leading role of my acting career, I was able to express a vital and dynamic character."

Like he said, the film is a gripping thriller that packs a powerful emotional punch. It takes viewers on an emotional rollercoaster as it delivers all the excitement you'd expect of a thriller.

"Hard Hit" will open in local theaters, June 23.