Actress Song Hye-kyo was careful to begin her interview with The Korea Herald on Monday with an apology.
A week has passed since news of a tax evasion scandal involving the actress shocked many of her fans. The timing was especially unfavorable for Song, who was set to promote her new movie "My Brilliant Life" ahead of its Sept. 3 release.
She nevertheless decided to open up to the media to apologise multiple times. She admitted it was a big mistake and said she regretted that she disappointed many people.
"It resulted because of my ignorance and carelessness. I wasn't sure if I should appear before the public or not and if doing an interview was the right thing to do," said Song.
"But as much as I take the sole blame for my faults, I had the responsibility to minimise the damage the scandal had on the movie crew who worked so hard for this film," she said.
"(Doing promotional work) was a promise I made with the film, so I could not break another promise."
It was frightening to be back in the spotlight after the scandal, even for the veteran actress who had maintained a clean-cut reputation throughout her 17-year career. But as she could not hide, she decided to accept her faults and face her fate.
This required some courage for Song, who spoke in her distinctive composed tone.
It took a different kind of courage for her to play a mother for the first time, though her character is not a typical mother. She plays 33-year-old Mi-ra, who had her son Ah-reum at the age of 17.
"If the role required a typical motherly love and dedication, maybe it would have been pretty tough," said Song. "But Mi-ra's age is very close to mine and she is more like a friend to her son, so that was less of a concern to begin with. Also I saw some part of myself in her character-straightforward and easygoing."
The film, "My Brilliant Life," based on Korean novelist Kim Ae-ran's 2011 best-selling novel of the same name, centers on 16-year-old Ah-reum, who has progeria ― a rare genetic disorder that causes premature aging in children. So at the age of 16, Ah-reum's body is already 80 years old. As his parents, Mi-ra and Dae-soo (Kang Dong-won), cope with their son's disease, they learn about parenting, life and love.
"I had full faith in the director of the film," commented Song. "When I watched director E J-yong's past films, including 'Untold Scandal' and 'An Affair,' I liked the way he showed unique and elegant details in the films. So when I read the scenario, I said yes without a second thought. It was not a typical sad story.
"The circumstances are tragic, but the film gracefully draws humour out of Ah-reum and his parents, which I think elicit heartfelt tears," said the actress. "I liked the fact that the characters are bright and cheerful, quite the contrary from traditional films related to illness. Maybe the happier it gets, sadness escalates."
The film mostly centers on the protagonist Ah-reum, played by Jo Sung-mok, who had to undergo five hours of aging makeup before shooting. "But he never complained." said Song.
"My role was to pepper the father-son relationship in the film," said Song, who had mostly played lead roles in the past.
"At some point in my career, I realised making a film is working together. When I was young, I was too concerned about my acting performances only. But now, I am beginning to learn how to support others in the film and know where to relax and where not to back out."
She said that the movie helped her to think of her family. "As I play a mother, my own relationship with my mom helped me to think and act what motherhood is. My mom is full of energy and she is like a friend to me, so in a way, it is similar to my relationship with Ah-reum in the film."
When asked if she has plans to have her own family, she said she couldn't even take care of herself.
"When I was in my 20s, I wanted to get married soon, but now, I don't have quite the courage to form a family on my own," she said. "But I really admire Dae-soo and Mi-ra's perseverance and courage not to give up on their son. They do everything they can to protect the family. I think that is really beautiful."
She smiled and continued.
"So maybe, if I am fortunate to have a family in the future, I would like to have a friend-like family, as in the film," said Song.
What will her future be like? She said she wanted to do everything possible to minimise the damage caused by her to the others who worked on the film.
But when the time is appropriate, she would like to play diverse roles, hopefully a villain ― something she has never played.