[2021 Dracula] Starnews Interview

On performing during the pandemic

"When the pandemic began last year, I experienced small and big things, too, including 'Dracula' being stopped for a while in the middle of the run. While we were doing the run last year, there was already talk about the 4th run this year. We told ourselves that we'd make up for the year in the 4th run."

"At the time, the general vibe was that we'd be free from Covid by the next year and I thought so, too. I had my hopes up since the run was set to start in May. Doing shows within the restrictions of Corona is not ideal but I'm grateful that I'm able to perform."

"Performing during the pandemic makes the gratitude I have for being able to meet audiences feel really tangible. I had a big scare when we had the incidents (co-stars being diagnosed as Covid-positive). The cast is being extra careful and, aside from when they're on stage, everyone wears masks in their dressing room."

What he did during quarantine

"I watched TV and played games. I also rehearsed by myself. I was quarantined during the rehearsal period for 'Dracula,' so I read the script. I spent a lot of time thinking."

On being called "the Dracula master"

"I'm flabbergasted. That's how grateful I am. I do my best every show. Each actor has their individual appeal and interpretation. I don't know if I should say this myself but my Dracula has a bit of a psychopathic side to him. I wanted to portray Dracula as human, cynical, scary and someone who makes your skin crawl. When the scene allows it, I try to bring these sides to the fore.

"I have more wherewithal since this is my 4th run. When you get up to the 3rd, 4th run, you begin to ask questions. Even if it's the same lines and script. I make it a journey of discovering answers while I'm performing. For the audience, catching those small differences in my performances could be part of the fun of watching a live show. Within a certain framework, I give myself freedom to variate my performance such as which words I stress, the tone of my speech or the way I talk."

"When other actors respond to that, it gives me the energy to respond back. It's synergistic. These changes can make the same musical feel different to the audience. For this run, the lighting and sets have been really done well. I think they heighten the level of immersion for the audience."

On his red hair

He confessed he receives questions about his hair from fellow actors, too. "As it turns out, many people are responding to the red hair. I've kept it for all 4 runs. It's not easy to maintain the red hair and perform for months on end. The red dye washes out quickly, too. I need to re-dye it every week. And the color rubs off on my pillow. I need to put a towel over it every night. But the audiences likes seeing me perform with red hair. I don't know how they will respond but I decided to go with the red hair again in case they thought "He's lost his drive."

"I didn't want his posture to feel normal - I wanted it to feel classic but not human. In addition to his behavior, I wanted his laughter to feel eerie and supernatural. It's hard to portray a supernatural being. When I first read the script, I was perplexed. I thought "How am I supposed to do this?" It was the same way I felt when I was offered the role of Death in 'Elisabeth.' When it comes to portraying a character out of a fantasy like Dracula or Death, it's important to embody everything like the gestures, hand movements, gait etc. I put a tremendous amount of thought into it."

"I don't have any jinxes. I stick by 2 rules. The first is sleeping well. I try to sleep at least 8 hours. Even when I feel great in the morning, if I haven't slept 8 hours, I try to go back to bed. The second thing is trying to eat something before I go on stage, be it a gimbab or hamburger. In the past when I was dieting, I skipped my meal and performed on an empty stomach. It was tough and I felt dizzy. When I perform 'Fresh Blood' or 'It's Over,' sometimes I collapse as soon as I'm behind the curtains. So I try to keep my stomach full. It's hard singing on an empty stomach. Other than that, I don't have any jinxes."

This & that, including favorite scene

"I try to greet staff without fail and I do. This is a personal side note but I'm actually shy."

"For the Train Sequence, I have to be up in the coffin a while before the scene. I believe I'm safe but it's incredibly high and could be dangerous. I always tell the stagehand who pulls the main rope, "Thank you for your work (sugohashipnida)" I say it every time I have to ride the coffin because it puts me at ease. Luckily I'm not afraid of heights."

Kim Junsu says a different number resonates with him with each show. "In the first run, I wanted to sing 'Loving You Keeps Me Alive' as soon as I heard it. I wanted to sing my heart out on the stage with that song. I felt affection for 'Fresh Blood' during the 2nd run. For the 4th run, I'm drawn to the Train Sequence. The emotionally complex Dracula requires more facial expression since he even responds to Mina's voice. He's devastated and feels betrayed after 'It's Over' but in the Train Sequence, he lights up at Mina's voice. I don't know how other actors express it. I play it as suspicious: 'Is she co-operating with Van Helsing?' Then I feel betrayed. It's an important scene before the finale, which demonstrates how emotionally torn Dracula is. It's also [logistically] dangerous but the scene has resonated with me this time."

"The actress Bangeula, who's the voice you hear at the beginning of the show, told me to "stay healthy until your 1,000th show." This was at my 100th show. I thought, well I won't have to wear prosthetics to play an old man but how am I supposed to portray Dracula after he becomes young. I'll do my best until then. As long as there are audiences willing to see me, I'll do my best. 'Dracula' is a musical I want to be a part of for every run. If I don't feel young during 'Fresh Blood,' that'll be the time for me to let go."

On his co-stars

"Cho Jung-eun nuna is an intricate actress. She surprises me every time. She's good at expressing mysterious attraction, the attraction she feels for Dracula when she knows, realistically, she must go to Jonathan."

"Lim Haeyoung nuna is the spriteliest. She's cheery in the scene Lucy chooses her husband, laughs a lot and plays a lovable Mina. This side of her stands in stark contrast to when she falls for Dracula. She has her doubts during the Train Sequence but because she has established Mina as a bright character in the first Act, her change during Act 2 becomes more prominent." Kim emphasized that this was just his personal impression.

"The audience can feel differently. At a certain point, Haeyoung nuna makes it clear that Mina has completely given her heart to Dracula. She grabs the coffins and wails in the final scene. I'm still inside the coffin at that point, and it's always heartbreaking to hear her wail and sob."

"Park Jiyeon is the newest Mina and the strongest. I think that's why my tone becomes stronger with her, too. To me, Mina is a character that wavers a lot but Park Jiyeon's Mina is headstrong and unyielding. When she gives herself to Dracula, however, she does so without hesitation. Her Mina has an individuality all her own."

"I also change up the performance according to my mood. In the past, I used to be like 'It has to be this line!' I now variate my lines each day. They're small differences but they affect me, too. I'm told these small details give audiences food for interpretation. The ad lib scenes are important because they show Dracula's humanity. He wasn't born Dracula. He was a devout but ordinary person, as shown in the line 'I've been cursed with eternal life.' The train station ad libs are lighter moments in the musical but they're important to me. It makes his isolation at the end all the more heartbreaking."

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