[INTERVIEW] Nam Ji-hyun becomes ‘chart climbing icon’

Actress Nam Ji-hyun / Courtesy of Management SOOP

By Park Jin-hai

For Actress Nam Ji-hyun, 21, the drama “Suspicious Partner” was special because it offered a safe landing for her while acting in her first romance drama as an adult. The recently ended SBS romantic comedy, which gained little attention at the beginning, has reversed its viewership rankings, just like her previous drama “Shopping King Louie” did, and Nam gained a new nickname — the “chart-climbing icon.”

“I really appreciate it, since I know very well how hard it is for a drama to finish with a rising viewership,” said Nam during an interview with The Korea Times at a cafe in Seoul, Thursday.

Nam took the role of lawyer Eun Bong-hee, who partners with former prosecutor Noh Ji-wook, played by Ji Chang-wook, to solve a psychopath murder case while a romantic relationship develops between the two.

The actress, who spent more than ten years as a child actress in dramas, including most notably “Queen Seondoek (2009),” says she is very much satisfied with the outcome of her latest drama. “My biggest concern for years has been how to present myself as a grown-up actress to viewers who have seen me on the screen as a child actress for all those years. My strategy has been to take little steps. It was important for me not to lose the image of familiarity that viewers have of me, but to add a new image at the same time,” she said.

“In my previous work ‘Shopping King Louie,’ I portrayed puppy love, and then I moved on to this grownup real romance through ‘Suspicious Partner.’

“I revealed my character as agonizing from love, becoming happy because of it and growing up. I’m relieved that viewers take me as a grown-up actress without feeling some alienation.”

She says the most memorable line of the drama is “You’re dirty but pretty.” “The two adjectives ‘dirty’ and ‘pretty’ don’t go together in most circumstances. The line that Noh says to Eun, after she worked really hard to unearth the truth and proudly revealed it to Noh, sets the entire tone of this romantic comedy,” she said. “While shooting the scene, I thought I might be really happy if I could hear such a compliment from anyone after all my efforts.”

Nam, who appeared in a variety of quiz programs and debuted as a child actress in 2004, says although her works have always been successful, she was not as confident.

“My projects were successful and that helped me land the next project and the next. Inside, I used to question whether being an actress is the right way to make my life happy,” said Nam. “This insecurity gave me guilt that I might be taking the place of others who most eagerly would take acting as their career. In order to get over the guilt, I became a perfectionist about myself. My smallest shortcomings then were enough to let me down.”

After all those years in front of the camera, Nam went to Sogang University majoring in psychology. Now she says she found no other profession that would steal her attention from acting. Nam, who took time off after shooting “Suspicious Partner,” will return to school this fall.

“I feel as though shooting dramas and films is like doing something special for me, while going back to school is like going back to where I belong,” the actress said.

Nam says that she wants to be an actress the viewers can feel comfortable with. “I want to be an actress whose presence in dramas or films would not be a surprise. So when viewers see me on movie teasers or posters, I want them see it as natural,” she said.

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