[TRANS] Seohyun’s Mamma Mia! Interview with “The Move”, April 2016

Interview with Musical ‘Mamma Mia!’ Seohyun <Role of Sophie>

An idol’s passion and hard work, who wrote a diary and sang while running on a treadmill.

<Mamma Mia!>’s Sophie, who has become well known to the public with the movie of the same name starring Amanda Seyfried, is definitely a spunky lady. SNSD Seohyun is acting the role of Sophie, who possesses the ambitious and cheeky idea to invite three men who could potentially be her father to her wedding, without her mom knowing.

Seohyun, who normally has a calm and modest image, has escaped the image of classical dramas and is acting the character of a spunky lady. But this casting selection was not because of her famous idol status. Even though she is one actress in a role that was triple cast, she is an idol actress who still beat out a competition of 350:1 and won the audition.  

One of the reasons that Seohyun was cast through the audition was because of her ‘passion’, where she personally made a diary belonging to the mom role, Donna, and practiced. We will tell the story of <Mamma Mia!> according to Seohyun, Ock Juhyun, who is a mentor and a close unnie and shattering preconceptions as an idol actress.

Q. We heard that you made and brought a diary for Sophie’s mom, Donna, to the audition.

I had already liked <Mamma Mia!>, and I had the opportunity to audition. More than thinking about getting the role, I really liked that I was participating in the audition. But I didn’t want to do just an audition. The story in the musical starts with mom Donna’s diary.

At first I wrote a diary on a scratch pad. But then I was overcome with the curiosity of ‘What would Donna’s diary look like?’. I ended up making it imagining ‘If this was really mom’s diary, how would I read it?’.

Q. Sophie is a character with a daring side. Do you have a personality like that?

I don’t think I have a lot of opportunities to show the public my personality. When I appeared on a lot of variety shows, I didn’t show my true self. I have various sides and I haven’t shown that. But this could also be an advantage. If I can show one of my personalities, amplified through a character, everyone will be surprised thinking ‘Seohyun had this side of her?’.

If I become close with someone who didn’t know me well, there are times when they are surprised thinking ‘You had this side in you?’. On broadcasts, I don’t talk a lot and I have a quiet image. (Kim) Geumna unnie, who is triple cast as one of the Sophies, told me a lot that, ‘I thought you were quiet but you have a bizarre charm? I think it will be good for people to know this side of you’. Backstage, if mom Donna is reciting her lines, I (playfully) impersonate Sam’s lines.

Q. During <Moon Embracing the Sun>, we interviewed Super Junior’s Kyuhyun. At that time, Kyuhyun said that when you compare his musical debut to Seohyun’s musical debut, that Seohyun is much better.

I’m so thankful. When I hear this, I feel a lot of responsibility. (Laughs) I think Kyukyun oppa is so much better than me so the fact that he thinks that makes me want to do even better than I’m currently doing.

Q. As a musical actress, of the advice and help you’ve received from sunbaes, if there’s a word of advice that have become your blood and body?

(Ock) Juhyun unnie has advised me, ‘Don’t try to sing, one of the easily made mistakes by singers is trying to sing well, but in a musical, you need to carry the piece with acting and when emotions heighten, you add the melody and it becomes singing. Don’t divide it, like you’re acting and then singing’.

Through unnie, I learned that when you’re singing as a singer, if matching your energy with the audience is important, in musicals, you need to prioritize emotions. At first, unnie’s advice was difficult to embody but as time passed, I experienced that unnie’s advice was right.

Q. It’s two hearts, one mind. Ock Juhyun mentioned Seohyun during her interview for her new work <Mata Hari>.

(Laughs) After I watched unnie’s work, I wanted to do musicals. Unnie is admirable and cool. When I saw what unnie is like away from the stage, I learned how thorough her self maintenance is. When she’s in a show, she matches all of her day-to-day patterns to performances. For musical actors, throat is most important, so when she’s performing, she doesn’t meet up with a lot of people to save her voice, and to increase her stamina, I saw unnie consistently do ballet, yoga and pilates.

Juhyun unnie once told me, ‘Even if you do hundreds, or thousands of performances, there is always an audience member who is watching a musical for the first time. For those people, you need to work hard at every performance as if it’s your very first’ and now that I’ve been on the musical stage, I can relate to these words hundred times more.

Q. As you watch Ock Juhyun’s self-maintenance routine, how do you take care of yourself?  

The day before a performance, I try not to meet up with people for my voice, as much as possible. If you meet up with people, you end up using your voice. Sleep helps with your voice, so the day before a performance, I try hard to go to bed early. Increasing stamina is important too so I run on the treadmill while singing.

Q.  Including <Mamma Mia!>, having done three musicals, your understanding of finding characters must have broadened.  

I think it’s important to accurately know the character written in the script, so during the first musical, <Moon Embracing the Sun>, I read the novel, in addition to the script. I checked off (the role I acted) Yeonwoo’s lines in the novel with a highlighter and tried to grasp the character. After understanding the character in the script, I try hard to bring out the personality I possess that matches the character.

Q. If you read the novel <Moon Embracing the Sun> in order to act in the role of Yeonwoo, you must have watched the movie of the same name starring Amanda Seyfried for <Mamma Mia!>.

I thought that when I watched the movie, I needed to be careful. Because the Sophie that I’m acting and the Sophie that Amanda Seyfried acted in the movie should be different. So I tried hard not to become absorbed in Sophie in the movie. I watched the movie for image training of the beautiful scenery in Greece depicted in it. Bright sunshine and sand, the relationship between mom Donna and the three dads, I focused more on the interrelationships between the characters.

Q. Then, what kind of Sophie is Seohyun’s Sophie?

She must be a Korean Sophie. (Laughs) Unlike Amanda Seyfried in the movie, I can show Sophie who is witty and full of spunk on stage.

Q. The numbers in the musical weren’t created for the musical, but isn’t it comprised of Swedish group ABBA’s music?

Not just as musical numbers, but ABBA’s music has been receiving love worldwide for 40 years. Like ABBA, I want to leave behind music that can continue to receive love even if time passes. The utmost happiness for singers is that they sang songs that receive love for a long time, even if generations pass. I’m envious, but it also stimulates my desire for singing music like this going forward.

Q. What kind of feedback do international fans leave on your SNS regarding your musical stages?

Fans know very well that I’m happy when I do musicals. They cheer me on a lot through SNS. A fan once left feedback that said, ‘I’m your fan but I worried if you’d be able to act well. After I saw you in person, I was very surprised’. I was very thankful after I read that. I was also touched by a fan’s writing that said, ‘I’m cheering you on, not just as a singer, but also as a fan of musicals’.

Q. People could see you with the preconception that you’re an idol actress.

I think it’s inevitable that people will see me through an idol lens, because I didn’t start as a musical actress. The reality is that my first impression is not as a musical actress, but as SNSD’s Seohyun. There are both advantages and disadvantages when I stand on stage. If you look at it a different way, I think it’s a double-edged sword, but I don’t think musicals have been as popularized yet, like Broadway.

Even if people aren’t very interested in musicals, people who know me or SNSD think, ‘Seohyun is starring in a musical? I’m curious’, and I think the fact that it can stir curiosity is the advantage of idols starring in musicals.

But if the audience comes to the stage after seeing my name and if I can’t sing or act well, that would be the worst. As an idol, when I stand on stage, I think getting the audience’s approval is my responsibility. As a result, it was very overwhelming. (Regardless of being an idol or not) There are people who come to see the musical and there are audience members who come to see me.

In order to satisfy both of these types of audiences, I thought that I must have the skills to be acknowledged as a musical actress, so I worked hard to learn the differences between singing as a singer and singing as a musical actress.

For example, in musicals, the mic is stuck on your forehead, so when you sing, you need your head voice. In other interviews, I’ve been asked, ‘After doing three musicals, is there anything that has become easier?’. But as you get to know musical more and more, you learn more things so as I do more of it, I feel like it’s becoming increasingly difficult. When I stand on the musical stage, I think my sense of responsibility needs to be clear and thorough.  

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