In Record of Youth, Park So-dam’s character An Jeong-ha is a talented make-up artist with big dreams. Jeong-ha is confident in her ambition, but does not yet have enough credentials to call the shots, so she faces verbal abuse from a co-worker jealous of her talent.
Facing obstacles in realizing a dream is something Park knows well, since her early acting career included more than a few rejections. Those rejections seem short-sighted given how quickly she became an international star playing a leading role in Bong Joon-ho’s Academy Award-winning film Parasite. Yet it was facing resistance early in her career that provided some insight into her Record of Youth character.
“What was similar was An Jeong-ha’s clarity in understanding what she hopes to achieve and her relentless pursuit of that dream,” said Park. “As an actor, I too have pursued this career without giving up, and I continue to put in great effort to improve myself.”
Not only was Park surprised and pleased when she was cast in Parasite, but being in a film that won award after award—and finally standing on the stage at the Academy Awards—was at times overwhelming.
“Thanks to Parasite, I’ve experienced something unforgettable,” said Park. “It’s still overwhelming when I think about that moment. Because it’s such an honor, I think that I must now continue to strive and to improve more so than before to fulfill my responsibility and calling as an actor. Instead of grand aspirations, I hope to continue to push myself and not get complacent.”
After Parasite, Park played a mysterious muse in the film Fukuoka, directed by Korean-Chinese filmmaker Zhang Lü. The film, starring Park, Kwon Hae-hyo and Yoon Je-moon, premiered at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival in Feb. 2020. With the drama Record of Youth, she returns to the small screen, where she was last seen in the 2016 romantic comedy Cinderella and the Four Knights. She decided to act in the tvN drama, which also airs on Netflix, because of the refreshing script.
“I am just happy and excited that I can express myself through acting, regardless of genre, character or platform,” said Park. “I’m a big fan of, and have appreciated work by, director An Gil-ho and screenwriter Ha Myeong-hee. As soon as I read the first page of Record of Youth, the story and the characters were so captivating that I had to read the whole script in one sitting. I think that’s how much Record of Youth means to me.”
Not only did Park study her lines, which include lots of witty, fast-paced banter with co-star Park Bo-gum, but she learned how to apply make-up like a pro.
“There’s a salon I frequent, so I received help and detailed information from its staff members,” said Park. “I looked up YouTube videos on makeup and other reference material so that I could learn the techniques and hand motions.”
Filming all of Record of Youth was enjoyable, but for Park one of the scenes stands out.
“It was always fun on set and I will remember all of the scenes,” said Park. “But the most memorable is the fashion show. While we were filming it, I hoped that the viewers would understand how much effort and preparation it takes for the models and the staff to put together such a show on stage. This scene is memorable because first and foremost it’s the first day for my character to be on site where Hye-jun and Hae-hyo work.”
When Jeong-ha first meets Park Bo-gum’s character Hye-Jun, she can’t speak. She has long been his devoted fan. She watches his modeling videos when she is feeling down. His picture is the screensaver for her phone. But there he is in person. It’s intimidating.
Park confesses that in real life she is the devoted fan of one film and drama star. She greatly admires and hopes one day to work with actress Kim Hye-soo, who recently starred in the drama Hyena.
“I’ve always wanted to work on the same project and share deep conversations,” said Park. “I only got to greet her during award ceremonies, but I was always grateful that she’d hold my hands warmly in encouragement. Her energy is inspiring, so I wanted to be the first one to truly see from her perspective, to feel and learn from it.”
Park’s future plans feature an appearance on a variety show and a stage role.
“My immediate plan is to experience Record of Youth as a viewer. Then I’ll be on a variety outdoor show called Gamsung Camping that introduces remote and hidden gems of land in the country that are more exotic than places overseas. Then I’ll be facing live audiences in the role of Constance in the play L’Étudiante et Monsieur Henri.”
The award-winning actress has some hard-won advice for young people pursuing their dreams and facing obstacles.
“I think you must always be prepared,” she said. “If you’re not ready, it doesn’t matter how many opportunities come your way, because you can’t seize them. I hope you persevere with a positive attitude, searching for the goals you want for yourself and finding ways to achieve them. Do not give in to hopelessness and the barriers that exist in real life. Do not waver in driving toward your dreams.”
This story was originally published on forbes.com.