|Ahn Hee-yeon, also known as Hani of K-pop group EXID / Courtesy of Little Big Pictures|
By Kwak Yeon-soo
Ahn Hee-yeon, better known as Hani of K-pop girl group EXID, said playing a foul-mouthed runaway teenager in her debut feature, "Young Adult Matters," was a brave and difficult decision.
Directed by Lee Hwan, the film tells a story about a group of runaways trying to help one of their own terminate her pregnancy. Ahn plays play the role of Ju-young, a teenager who flees with her pregnant friend Se-jin (Lee Yu-mi) and comes to see the harshness of reality through a series of unfortunate events.
Ahn explained that it was during her trip to Greece after terminating her contract with Banana Culture Entertainment when director Lee sent her a message asking her to review the script.
"After my contract with my ex-agency expired, I went on a one-month trip to Greece and Italy. At that time, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I needed some 'me time' to think about my next step," she said during an interview with The Korea Times at a cafe in Seoul, Thursday.
The singer-actress read the script and initially turned down the role because it was too much, too quick for her. "The story of youths running away from their homes, living in excessive misery, abusing each other and swearing was too shocking. I also wasn't sure if I wanted to be an actor and I didn't have an agency to consult with," she said.
However, Lee insisted on meeting her and eventually persuaded her to join the project. "When I finally met and talked to Lee in person, I suddenly felt like he could bring out a lot of things in me. My mother also told me 'Even if there is just one reason to do it, do it,'" Ahn said.
|Ahn Hee-yeon in a scene from "Young Adult Matters" / Courtesy of Little Big Pictures|
The dark social drama explores the worst aspects of society, looking at how teenagers are prone to sexual exploitation and abuse. Ahn said she was often moved to tears while playing Ju-young's character and was able to empathize with her struggles.
"Ju-young is a character who seems far away from me. But I realized that we do share some similarities ― like the perpetual conflicts in relationships and a sense of frustration and pain," she said.
Ahn said the hardest part of acting was the burden placed on her to express the fiery character. The cast and production team held several workshops to practice acting and share ideas about the film.
"One thing that I noticed about working on films is that it's teamwork. There were a lot of film crew who were waiting for me to do my job so we could move on to the next scene. The workshops were really helpful in bringing out my aggressive and hostile side. The director really pushed me to my emotional limit," she said.
The singer-actor also thanked her acting partner, Lee Yu-mi, who plays protagonist Se-jin in the film, for encouraging her to improve her confidence. "If I was a newly-hatched duckling, Yu-mi was a mother duck. She taught me good habits and manners that an actor should possess ― from rehearsing with fellow actors to respecting the film crew," she said.
Following "Young Adult Matters," the 29-year-old actress has starred in MBC's web drama "XX" and Kakao TV's web series "How to Be Thirty." Ahn said she hopes to continue her acting career in the future.
"In the past when I was an idol, I was a goal-oriented, future-oriented person. I had a clear blueprint of my life until the age of 60. Now I realized that life is a collection of small moments. I want to live in the moment and be kind not only for myself, but also for others as well," she said.
"Young Adult Matters" will hit local theaters, April 15.