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[Herald Interview] Kim So-hyang has no room for regrets

Stage actor says she feels familiar with the role Frida Kahlo

By Park Ga-young

Published : Aug. 23, 2023 - 14:16

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Musical stage actor Kim So-hyang, also known as Sophie Kim, poses for photos during an interview at the headquarters of EMK Musical Company in Seoul on Tuesday. (EMK Entertainment) Musical stage actor Kim So-hyang, also known as Sophie Kim, poses for photos during an interview at the headquarters of EMK Musical Company in Seoul on Tuesday. (EMK Entertainment)

For Kim So-hyang, the title role in the musical "Frida," was easy to resonate with.

Compared to other roles that shaped her career like Marie Antoinette or Marie Curie, it was easy to find aspects of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo she could identify with.

“I would say the roles of Marie Antoinette and Marie Qurie were more challenging for me, as I tried to seek common aspects with the characters,” Kim told reporters during an interview on Tuesday.

“To embody Marie Antoinette, for instance, I even had to alter how I walk and portraying Marie Curie, who was a scientist, was also a huge challenge. But for Frida, it’s not like I couldn’t sleep at night thinking about the role.”

For instance, the loneliness and the sense of being a stranger Kahlo might have felt when she was accompanying her husband, compatriot painter Diego Rivera, on overseas trips is something she could imagine from her time in the US.

Also known as Sophie Kim, the 43-year-old made her stage debut in 2001. She had established herself as a stage actor when she decided to leave the country to study at the New York Film Academy in the US in 2011. For about five years there, she experienced constant rejections in auditions.

“There was some time when I got really depressed and wouldn’t leave my bed for 18 hours. Following the quite long time of depression, my body got sick. I thought I could die like this," Kim recalled.

Nevertheless, she also made a name for herself there, taking roles like Gigi in “Miss Saigon” and Mary Robert in “Sister Act” among others. She became the first Asian cast member in the Asian tour of “Sister Act” in 2017.

“Ever since coming back to Korea with these experiences, I have been really grateful for everything. I often feel like I would not regret if I die tomorrow because I feel as though I couldn't live any more intensely,” Kim said.

Musical stage actor Kim So-hyang, also known as Sophie Kim, poses for photos during an interview at the headquarters of EMK Musical Company in Seoul on Tuesday. (EMK Entertainment) Musical stage actor Kim So-hyang, also known as Sophie Kim, poses for photos during an interview at the headquarters of EMK Musical Company in Seoul on Tuesday. (EMK Entertainment)

“I know what I can do and cannot. I don’t think I’m an actor who can be perfect in every role. Once I decide what I can do, however, I devote myself to the fullest,” she said, when asked about her strength.

"Frida" was unveiled at the Daegu International Musical Festival in 2021 and was officially taken to the stage in March 2022 for its premiere. Its rerun came back on Aug. 1. Kim has remained on the journey as EMK Musical Company transitioned their original production stages from Sejong Center for the Performing Arts' S Theater last year to Coex Artium this year.

The full name of the small theater musical that features four actors is "Frida: The Last Night Show" because it takes on the form of a TV talk show where Kahlo appears as a guest and reflects on significant moments in her life -- battling polio, surviving a bus accident, meeting her husband, the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, dealing his affairs and enduring miscarriage, all the while channeling her pain into art.

“Frida,” which Kim describes as "a story that says 'your life is beautiful,'” runs until Oct. 15 at Coex Artium, in Gangnam, Southeastern Seoul.

Kim So-hyang performs Frida Kahlo in the musical Kim So-hyang performs Frida Kahlo in the musical "Frida" during a press conference on Aug. 10 at COEX Artium, in Gangnam-gu, Southeastern Seoul. (Yonhap)