[News] SHINee's Onew interview in THE MUSICAL's June issue

Six o’clock as the sun slowly began to set; we awaited Onew on a rooftop as we prepared for the photo shoot. Soon after the preparations ended and the staff exchanged words back and forth, Onew appeared. But my, he seemed more like a curt British gentleman than a young boy walking slowly towards us in his jeans and sky-blue jacket (of course he was still as cute as ever). The cafĂ©’s guests began to bustle around and take pictures of Onew’s unexpected appearance, and we had to hurry to get the job done. But honestly the crowd’s reaction is nothing to be shocked about. He is after all, SHINee’s leader.

Star casting in the theater world is as powerful a card as ever in attracting attention inside and out. And if it’s a current idol star? Then it can only have an even stronger appeal. News of idol group SHINee’s member Onew’s musical casting spread like wildfire, and tickets quickly sold out. Even if you say he had no choice in the matter, wouldn’t he have hesitated despite wanting to 'do his job properly' because of his busy schedule, lack of practice time, people’s high expectations, etc.? “As soon as I heard the news, I said, ‘Oh, really?’ I’ll do it.’ right away.” He had an interest in musicals since he was younger, and always respected musical actors who could sing, dance, and act all at once. He added that because he knew there was a lack of sufficient practice time, there was no choice but to practice in his free time. I heard he first received the script while on overseas promotions in Cambodia, and I once again felt how globally active today’s idol stars are.

It had to have been a burden to be cast in Hey, bro! along with already acknowledged actors, on top of acting in the same role as his sunbae Lee Jihoon. “At first I worried, ‘There’s probably a lot of songs and lots of things to memorize,’ and thought, ‘I really have to do well.’ But the script was fun and the director would praise me with compliments, so I felt good and was able to practice comfortably.” The more interesting part is this. “I liked Lee Jihoon sunbae-nim since I was young, but to meet and act with him like this is completely new. You could even say that we’re “versing” each other, since we play the same character. So I think it was even more fun.” While Hey, bro! was in its rehearsal stages we met with Lee Jihoon who told us this about Onew. “He’s very passionate and has a strong drive. He would prepare a lot before coming to practice through performance videos and CDs. He’s also progressing much faster than expected. In my case I would dread doing new things but I think kids these days are different in that they can accept differences more quickly.”

Onew’s goal as a first-time actor on stage was to ‘understand and play his character who was so different from himself (Onew’s character Jubong is very stubborn and prone to losing his temper).’ It might be a dull answer but this is one’s must truthful desire as an actor. Onew’s biggest obstacle in achieving this goal was ‘fixing’ his speech. “In musicals, line delivery is extremely important, but I had a tendency to garble the ends of my words. So I practiced by talking loudly as if to someone far away. I was told this helps in improving your voice projection.” He said he not only practiced during rehearsals but during any free time he had, but wait, does that mean he practiced with the other SHINee members? “Because there are actors who take on their characters’ identities and act like them in real life, I thought about trying it to. So I (hehe) tried it once with the members (hehe) but they didn’t like it, so I realized, ‘I am me, and my character is my character.’” He thought this was very funny and kept giggling, but held in his laughter as he emphasized each syllable. “But once I actually enter the theater I’m the one who becomes that character, so I definitely. have. to. change.”

Because he likes sports, is the type to not get nervous no matter what he does (even on stage he only has stage fright for 5 minutes), and doesn’t concern himself over people around him or even cameras, I stated, “You have a very manly personality.” But Onew responded with a look as if to say, ‘isn’t that obvious?’ “Me? Of course, because I’m a man.” His facial expression was so serious and innocent that I couldn’t laugh. Onew’s ‘manly’ personality also appears in this next part. He made a pretty ‘big’ mistake during the first musical performance of his life. Instead of 28, he said was 38-years-old, making him a dongseng older than his hyung. But do you think because of this he would become daunted and not be able to prove himself? Absolutely not. “I don’t hold on to bad memories for long. As for mistakes, I think about them briefly after the show is over, so when I go home I can just think about sleeping. (Laughter)” (If you watch the fan-taken video ‘Jinki (Onew’s real name) on the way home from school’ you’ll know exactly what he means.)

Towards the end of the interview I suddenly wanted to ask this unpredictable and yet serious boy the most basic but most difficult question, ‘What does the stage mean to you?’ To this Onew responded, “The stage is the most comfortable place where I can express myself. I can’t do that well in things like interviews.” If that’s the case, does he ever feel that he was born to perform on stage? (Even though it might be too early to make a conclusion about the fate of such a promising 22-year-old.) “Sometimes I go on stage tired, exhausted, and without strength but when crowds of people cheer me on I work really hard without even realizing it, and at times like that I wonder if this is what I was born to do.” During the time we talked, this was moment he shined most. And so my interview with Onew ended. He picked up the strawberry smoothie he had neglected during the entire interview because he was so busy telling his story, and now that he was done with this interview ‘work’ he left with a spring in his step to his stage ‘playground.’

credit to omonatheydidn't