She wasn’t supposed to shake this badly, yet the words on the white script seemed wavy as though they were dancing. This was the first time she experienced such a thing. Yoojin was angry not at the fact that she became nervous but at the fact that she didn’t have full control over herself. She spat out a breath and closed her eyes. Her intraocular pressure rose until a white light flashed in front of her eyes. In that state, she slowly opened her eyes. The words on the script had returned to normal.
“You get nervous unexpectedly easily,” Suyeon, who was next to her, spoke. Yoojin just nodded back.
The director had definitely said that they would do a full run-through without breaks yet she was the one who caused one. A junior like her had messed up the schedule of numerous seniors in the same space as her. Yoojin felt very sorry and embarrassed to the point that she couldn’t look at the seniors around the table in the face.
“Well then, let’s do that again.”
The director, Joonggeun, signalled the resume. Yoojin licked her lips. She resolved that she would not make the same mistake.
“Let’s start where we left off.”
After Joonggeun’s finger click, Yoojin reflexively started speaking. She mechanically uttered the words she had practiced many times before taking in a deep breath. She did not make a mistake, but nor did she exert any emotions into her words. The line did not contain the voice of the spoiled little daughter. She knew that herself, so she couldn’t imagine what the other actors had to say about this.
“Don’t be late to cram school, and don’t make your mother worried.”
Kang Sooyeol, who was the elder’s second son and Yoojin’s father in the movie, replied to her with his line. Sooyeol didn’t look at the script, but looked at Yoojin in the face as he spoke, and he had a calm smile on his face. It was the smile of a father looking at his daughter. Seeing that smile, Yoojin felt embarrassed on one hand, and was relieved on the other hand. She could feel that her stiff lips had relaxed somewhat. She gained the confidence that she could do it.
“Dad, stop nagging me.”
She recovered from her stiff face as well. She made a grumpy expression and looked at Sooyeol. Sooyeol nodded his head and followed up after.
“She’s good. Kids these days are really good at acting, aren’t they, sir?”
Hearing the director’s words, Moonjoong said ‘of course’. Yoojin was able to smile since she felt that she was praised. She was no longer nervous. Only now did she feel like she was doing a read-through with her senior actors.
Yoojin flipped over the page carefully as she looked at the expressions of the senior actors. Although this was supposed to be a simple read-through, everyone was exerting emotions into their words.
Taeho smashed the table with his fist as he did his line. This scene was where he got into an argument with the main protagonist, Moonjoong, and it was very lively as though someone not looking at the scene might believe that a fight actually broke out. What was surprising was that the two arguing people weren’t even looking at each other in the face, yet those vicious emotions felt very real.
After a storm of words swept past, Moonjoong started his soliloquy after realizing that he was all alone in this world. Even Taeho, who was shouting as though he was about to eat someone, started looking at Moonjoong and the script alternately with a heavy expression. Yoojin had a glance at the other actors as well. Everyone was focusing on Moonjoong’s act just like Taeho was. Of course, no one looked at him passionately. They only nodded from time to time as though they had learned a thing or two from him.
Another page was flipped over. Now, the scene shifted to where the elder, the main character, was walking around the streets while drunk. He no longer sounded angry like before, and just felt powerless. It was as though a portion of his soul was ripped apart. He didn’t slur his words like a drunkard. In fact, the pronunciation became even clearer than before. However, each of those words felt a lot colder than before.
Yoojin saw that Moonjoong’s face had turned bright red. Although his words didn’t contain any power, his expression looked as desperate as a man pushed to the edge of a cliff. The drastic contrast between his words and his expression was splendid enough to go on camera immediately. Yoojin couldn’t even think about looking at the script as she looked at Moonjoong. Moonjoong blamed himself for the attitude of his three sons, and eventually, he looked as though he was over it.
His breath was very thin. It was the lamentation of an elder who had lost his meaning of living. He felt ashamed of himself and angry at his children. At the same time, he felt empathy. Moonjoong expressed the moment that contained those complex emotions with a self-loathing laugh and a sporadic breathing, and Yoojin gaped her mouth slightly as she watched all of this happen.
Shocked? That wasn’t enough to describe it. Overwhelmed? Still not enough. She couldn’t use words to describe this situation. At the end of her contemplation, she arrived at an answer.
‘I became the elder.’
She saw herself in the sighing elder’s position, felt the same pain as him, and spat out that same pain with the same slow breath. The act did not show her, but made her understand, nay, sympathize with the old man. The acting skills made her look at that man and nothing else for a brief moment and made her forget about herself. She never understood when an actor was known for doing ‘immersive’ acts, and now she could finally understand what that meant. She simply didn’t understand what it meant since she had never seen such an actor until now.
And right now, she understood the meaning behind the word fully.
‘This is the best and the worst opportunity.’
Yoojin turned around to have a look at Maru who was sitting against the wall. The script was slowly heading towards Maru’s lines. He only had two sentences. He had to interact with Moonjoong with just those. It was a great opportunity to act in the same scene as a great senior, but at the same time, there was the possibility that the act would pale in comparison to Moonjoong’s. The director would want the best picture possible, and it was unknown what his standards would be after seeing a great act from Moonjoong.
She imagined for a second. Lights and reflectors, camera rolling. Numerous people in the staff would be looking at him, and a great senior would be acting in front of him as well. Eventually, the camera would focus in on his face and towards his mouth. How immense would the pressure be?
She shivered just thinking about it. Not many people blamed new actors for making mistakes, at least in the dramas that she had participated in. However, it would be a different story if that mistake was repeated several times. Sometimes, the director would go as far as to pause the filming itself then and there.
‘Phew. This is why one has to start from the bottom of the ladder.’
A two shot with a great senior actor. If it was before she saw Moonjoong’s acting, she would have accepted it gladly, but now that she had seen him in action, she did not have the slightest desire to do so.
Moonjoong kept acting like a drunkard as he read his line. He was lying down on a bench in the streets. Yoojin had a look at Maru. It was time for him to appear.
“Hey, I said let’s get going. What are you doing over there?” The director spoke.
This line was supposed to be said by Jiseok. The director took his place since he wasn’t here. The director said the following line as well, and now it was Maru’s turn.
However, he took Maru’s line as well.
“What kind of shit have you been doing all this time for you to end up there?”
The director said that line with a little bit of mischief. The actors chuckled. The atmosphere hadn’t changed.
Maru was looking at his script without saying anything. Yoojin felt agitated. The person in question was sitting still, so she was in no position to say anything either. Moreover, he was just an extra. It was much more important to listen to the acting of the main actors, so it would be somewhat out of his position as an extra to break the flow.
Maru seemed to be aware of that and didn’t seem to mind it that much. After all, how many people here would be aware of the fact that an extra like him had attended this event?
She was about to flip her script over when,
“Director,” Moonjoong straightened his back as he spoke. The director looked at him puzzledly.
“The actor is right there, so why don’t we have a listen to his lines?”
“Oh, he’s here?”
The director looked around. Yoojin saw that Maru was waving his hand that was holding the script.
She thought that no one would recognize his presence, but the main character, of all people, called him out. Yoojin looked at Moonjoong and Maru alternately in surprise.
“Sorry, as far as I was aware, the majority of you were absent. Well then, let’s have a listen, shall we?”
“Then let’s start from the line before.”
When Moonjoong flipped the page back, everyone in the conference room followed suit. Perhaps this was what it felt like to be a disciple of a master. Yoojin gulped before looking at Maru.
After a moment of silence, Moonjoong started his line again after a small cough. The self-loathing laugh of a powerless elder repeated itself and following that, the director said the delinquent’s line with a bit of effort.
“What kind of shit have you been doing all those years for you to become like that?”
Yoojin felt very unpleasant the moment she heard those loathing words that came out from the twisted mouth that was Maru’s. His head was tilted slightly sideways and was crossing his legs. He couldn’t look more delinquent-like even when he looked like an ordinary student just a moment ago. No, ‘delinquent-like’ didn’t fit him. He felt much more deplorable than that.
He was looking at the floor, and it seemed that he was looking down on ‘something’. Yoojin had the misconception that there was an elder lying down where he was looking. Leaving aside Maru’s attitude, his eyes looked as though they were looking at something real, not something imaginary, so Yoojin momentarily felt that she was the weird one for not being able to find anything.
When Maru’s lips curved after that line, Yoojin frowned subconsciously. She suddenly had a feeling of disgust towards him. She even thought that Maru’s disgusting inner self had manifested itself through the form of acting. Of course, she was well-aware that that wasn’t the case, but the rejection she felt towards him was unbelievably real.
Maru’s voice was immediately buried behind Moonjoong’s following words. Moonjoong followed up too naturally. No one found a flaw, and no one laughed either. The cheerful atmosphere in the room became cold in an instant. It was as though someone had poured freezing water on them.
Yoojin glimpsed at the actors. Although she did not find any change within the director, Moonjoong, and Taeho’s group, she could feel the faint tension from nearby actors. Suyeon especially - she was looking at the script with scary eyes, and she had a slight smile on her face. Yoojin felt a shiver climb down her spine the moment she saw Suyeon’s expression and immediately had to shift her eyes to her own script.
The street scene ended after Moonjoong’s words. The director, who was in charge of leading everyone, stopped there and crossed his arms as he smiled.
“Sir, kids these days are really good at acting. I mean, really.”
He had a satisfied smile on his face. The moment Yoojin saw that smile, Yoojin clenched her teeth. Those were the same words that he said when she made a mistake. If there was a difference, it was that before, he said those words as encouragement, and this time, he seemed to be truly surprised. She felt a scratch on her pride.
‘Yes, that’s right.’
She had almost forgotten. Something similar had happened in the amateur acting class before. Although she had forgotten about those emotions after Maru left due to injuries, those emotions surfaced again today.
I will do better than you.
That was the objective she set for herself during the amateur acting class. Yoojin heaved a deep breath out through her nose and looked at Maru. He was muttering something to himself as though nothing had happened and was flipping to and from pages.
She felt fired up again. Although the atmosphere felt like there would be a break, Yoojin kept staring into the script without letting it go. She did not want to be behind her peers.
“Uhm, let’s have a break,” the director, Joonggeun, spoke as he stood up.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Yes, Maru changed the line slightly. It will be mentioned in the following chapter(s).
Many people have been asking a list of characters in the novel. So I made one. It's not a 'complete' version, and it's a work in progress. Please bear with me and hopefully comment on characters I haven't mentioned.