Korean Actress Soo Ae Sheds Refined Image in ‘9 End 2 Outs’

Actress Soo Ae has completely revamped her image as the “queen of tears.” In the MBC weekend drama “9 End 2 Outs,” she has broken out of her fragile and elegant shell, playing a 30-year-old, foul-mouthed and disheveled spinster. She has cast off her melancholy mien and transformed into a jaded single woman struggling with life. Working at a small publishing firm, she dreams of becoming a writer, though nobody much cares. She has a baseball-player boyfriend eight years her junior and, thanks to objections from her family and friends, the relationship is going nowhere. As the character Hong Nan-hee, Soo Ae has taken her acting to a new level.

“How many people have realized their dreams at 30?” Soo Ae says. “That’s why Nan-hee is so appealing to female viewers. So many opportunities have passed her by and now she’s 30 and realizing she’s accomplished nothing. Isn’t that how it is with most people? I totally understand her.”

When asked how she pictures her own life at 30, the actress says, “I’m not really sure because I haven’t set any goals, but I think I’ll be hard at work. But it could be that phase in life when you have to let go of something. I want to be 32 fast. I feel that by then, I’ll be more secure and have become a true woman who knows the world. Marriage? Probably not by then. Spinsters these days are in their late 30s, right?”

Her character gets low and vulgar in the show, boozing it up and cursing people out, and this weekend’s installment brings out the worst — or the best? — of it. Soo Ae in reality has a husky, neutral voice, which helps her tomboyish performance feel so natural. But her voice hasn’t always been a plus. “I’ve been told many times that my voice would be a detriment to my career,” she says. “When I first got started, a lot of viewers posted comments online that they changed the channel because of the way I talk.”

“It was odd because I thought of my husky voice as my biggest asset. So I would tell people, ‘Keep on listening, you’ll get to like it.'”

Soo Ae nearly debuted as a member of a pop idol group. Fresh out of high school, a record agent approached the young stunner on the street in the trendy Apgujeong area. She spent six months in grueling practice, but in the end had no album to put out. “I didn’t sing well, but the six months I spent with the team was so fun. I was lucky to get into acting.” So what is her off-screen personality really like? “I’m very shy,” she says bluntly. “I steep myself in my characters so much that often I get too heartbroken to control myself. I didn’t know I had qualities like Nan-hee does. Even my parents are surprised.”

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