Following the premiere of “Island” Part 2, Cha Eun Woo has shared some fun behind-the-scenes stories and talked about his character!
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Based on the hit webtoon of the same name, “Island” is a fantasy drama about a dark secret hidden on beautiful Jeju Island—and people who are fated to fight evil forces that are trying to destroy the world. The drama stars Kim Nam Gil as Pan, Lee Da Hee as Mi Ho, and ASTRO’s Cha Eun Woo as a young exorcist priest known as John.
A few days before the premiere of “Island” Part 2, Cha Eun Woo sat for interviews with the local press to discuss the drama. Thinking back to when the drama’s first season premiered, Cha Eun Woo remarked, “It was filmed a year ago, so I was also curious. [When Part 1 came out,] the actors’ group chat was filled with everyone saying, ‘Wow, [I can’t believe] this scene came out like this.’ After that, I also discussed a lot of things with the martial arts director and the CG [computer graphics] team leader. Now, with Part 2, I’m curious as to how the audience will react and I’m also excited to see how the stories will develop further.”
He then reflected on his own acting by saying, “Some parts were good and some parts were disappointing. I think I had a lot of mixed feelings. Genre-wise and character-wise, acting as John was an interesting challenge for me. It was fun and I’d love to do it again if another opportunity comes.”
On what compelled him to star in the series, Cha Eun Woo cited his co-stars saying, “I met the director for the first time in his office and he had a picture of the lust demon on the wall. The director said, ‘I’d love to do this project together with you.’ When I was thinking about it, Kim Nam Gil invited me to brunch and said, ‘Eun Woo, let’s do this [drama] together.’ He gave me courage first. I trusted him and the director and finally said, ‘I’ll do it.’ One of the reasons I wanted to do ‘Island’ was because of the amazing seniors. I was so proud to be doing a drama with them. I had been curious about how the senior actors approach their roles and interact with the staff, and I think I learned a lot of positive things through working with them this time.”
Cha Eun Woo went on to describe his experience on the filming set, mentioning how he often saw Kim Nam Gil suggesting additions to the drama or bringing ideas from the original webtoon. He remarked, “Kim Nam Gil usually jokes around and is funny behind the cameras, but during rehearsal or when we are shooting, he fully gets immersed into his character. It was fascinating and amazing to see. I was positively influenced and learned a lot just by watching him.”
Another co-star that Cha Eun Woo mentioned was Choi Tae Joon, who made a special appearance in the series as his brother. Touching on the two brothers’ emotional and tragic last scene together, Cha Eun Woo confessed, “I found that scene to be the most difficult, but it’s also my favorite scene.”
He elaborated, “I cried a few times reading the script. The fact that I had to kill my own brother with my own hands…I also have a younger brother, so I understand the affection between brothers. I found myself imagining the pain and sadness that John must have had in that situation and tried to channel those emotions into my acting. During the filming, the director also shed tears. It was an honor and I felt grateful. Choi Tae Joon also hugged me after filming, saying, ‘You did a great job.'”
In addition to his stellar performance in emotional scenes, Cha Eun Woo also received many favorable reviews for his action scenes. Cha Eun Woo recalled proudly, “I asked the martial arts director, ‘Am I considered good?’ and he said yes. ‘No one is immune to flattery,’ they say, so I said I’ll work even harder.”
To elaborate, he chose a specific scene and commented, “There was a fighting scene with Pan, but the staff said [the props/set] couldn’t be restored once it was broken, so we had to film in one take. It was my first time riding an action wire, but the director complimented me saying I did well.”
However, all these compliments did not come from nothing. Describing his efforts to nail the action scenes, Cha Eun Woo shared, “Before shooting, I went to an action school for three months. On days when I didn’t have scheduled activities, I went every day to practice. The martial arts director gave me a rubber knife the same size as John’s sword, so I kept practicing whenever I had time at home or in the waiting room.”
Another big aspect of John’s character that needed great effort was language. On playing a priest who’s fluent in Italian and Latin, Cha Eun Woo commented, “Italian and Latin were languages that I had never tried before. I went to a cathedral in Ilsan and visited a priest. I’d record the lesson and the priest’s pronunciation. I’d listen to it and practice speaking over and over again. Then I’d record myself and send it back to the priest and ask them if my pronunciation was okay.”
However, more than anything, Cha Eun Woo’s presentation of a “hip hop priest” was probably what created the most buzz for his character. Earrings and headphones that blasted out K-pop were John’s trademark, but Cha Eun Woo revealed that the production team had initially agreed for John not to wear the earrings. “But I insisted,” he said. “I said I think it’d be right for John to wear it. When John gets ‘awakened,’ his spiritual powers increase greatly and I thought we’d need a tool [to represent that]. I thought [the earrings] could be such a tool. I wanted to carry his distinctive trait and I thought it was necessary for the process of bringing the character to life.”
Regarding the headphones and hip hop songs John was listening to in the drama, Cha Eun Woo shared an interesting anecdote, saying, “I just left the headphones off when I was filming and pretended I was grooving to some rhythm. But then the director contacted me while he was editing and asked me, ‘What music do you want [John] to listen to?’ I answered, ‘Can you put ASTRO’s music in?’ However, the director said, ‘I’d love to, but I don’t think it’ll fit with the vibe of the scene.’ I even thought about making new music, but in the end, we just decided on hip hop.”
When asked if he ever found it unfortunate that people occasionally put more emphasis on his good looks rather than his acting skills, Cha Eun Woo wisely replied, “I think my (look) is one of my strengths too,” but went on to give himself a score of only 50 points for his visuals. “I’m rather hard on myself. 50 points because there are so many cool people out there and because everyone has their own charms. I appreciate the compliments on my appearance, but to be honest, it doesn’t really hit me. Part of it is because my mother raised me strictly. I try to focus more on my inner self rather than my appearance. I think people who do that are cooler.”
On his acting skills, Cha Eun Woo also gave himself 50 points, explaining, “The more I act, the more difficult it gets. I humbly accept [the mixed reviews] I get and am also grateful for the positive feedback. My family and friends also said, ‘I like ‘Island’ because you look comfortable.”
Cha Eun Woo then humorously shared, “The ASTRO members said it was comfortable to see because it wasn’t a romance drama. After all, all of us have been living together since we were trainees, so I think that’s why they said that. Moonbin said he would definitely watch it and told me he had paid for and subscribed to TVING because of me.”
While on the subject of ASTRO, Cha Eun Woo was also asked about their future plan as a group. He answered, “We don’t have any promotion plans for ASTRO yet. But I really like doing team activities, so I want to [perform] on stage. I’m also open to solo [promotions]. I really enjoy standing and singing on stage and it’s something I’m grateful for.”
On the group’s recent seventh debut anniversary, Cha Eun Woo remarked, “I can’t believe it’s already been seven years. While having dinner with my members recently, we talked about how to spend our seventh anniversary. We were thinking about visiting MJ [in the military], but I had a shooting schedule that day.”
At the end of 2022, ASTRO’s agency Fantagio revealed that JinJin, Cha Eun Woo, Moonbin, and Yoon Sanha had all renewed their contracts, while discussions with Rocky were ongoing. As MJ is currently serving in the military, his contract discussions will take place after he is discharged.
When asked about the group’s current contract renewal status, Cha Eun Woo carefully said, “We’re communicating with the company individually. We haven’t had a deep conversation amongst ourselves yet. But whatever each of them chooses, they’re people that I’ll be friends with forever. The members have a really good relationship. We have been together for a long time since we were trainees who were nothing. Even up until now, we get along well all the same. We support each other so much.”
Lastly, Cha Eun Woo commented on what viewers should look forward to in “Island” Part 2, saying, “The action scenes will be taken to a whole new level. The stories behind each character will be more developed and their chemistry and the reasons for their respective actions will become more defined. Viewers can anticipate the conflict that happens when those points overlap.”
As for his character John, Cha Eun Woo remarked, “I was so hurt when John exorcised his brother with his own hands in Part 1. In Part 2, John’s internal struggles and conflict will build up. He believed in and followed God all this time, but this situation has led him to wonder ‘Is there a God?’ [Part 2] will portray John’s journey of growth. I hope you watch enjoyably as we’ve worked so hard on it. Please give lots of love to ‘Island’ and John.”
“Island” returned with Part 2 on February 24. New episodes come out every Friday via TVING and the drama is also be available around the world on Amazon Prime Video.