By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- Jeon Do-yeon is a versatile movie star, but she sometimes wants to let go of expectations of others and be true to herself to extend her acting range.
Over the past three decades, she has built a reputation as a chameleon actor by flawlessly pulling off various roles, including a wife having extramarital affairs, a prostitute with AIDS, a dual role of a mother and a daughter, a female warrior, a lawyer, and the list goes on.
In 2007, she received an international spotlight by winning the best actress from Cannes with her emotionally distraught mother role in Lee Chang-dong's tragic drama "Secret Sunshine."
Since then, Jeon had mostly played dark, serious characters in films and TV dramas, including psychological thriller "Housemaid" (2010), crime noir film "The Shameless" (2015), JTBC drama "Lost" (2021) and others.
Now 50, she is enjoying a resurgence in popularity for her lovely character in local cable channel tvN's series "Crash Course in Romance," which marked her first appearance in a romantic comedy in 17 years.
In the 16-episode series, which wrapped the last episode with its highest viewership rating of 17 percent Sunday, Jeon stars as Nam Haeng-seon, a former national handball player who now operates a side dish shop and tries to support her niece to get to the top school. She falls in love with a math instructor played by Jung Kyung-ho.
"I was surprised this drama could draw such a reaction, and thankful for the attention and love (from fans)," Jeon said during a recent group media interview. "I was consoled by Haeng-seon, and I was happy and enjoyed playing the character."
Although she has been perceived as a serious actor fit for art house movies following her red carpet moments, Jeon said she is a cheerful person and smiles a lot in real life, and missed more relatable characters.
"I was locked in dark, heavy and serious works for much longer than I expected," she said. "I didn't try to box myself in, but people's perspective locked me in a certain frame."
For the upcoming Netflix movie "Kill Boksoon," Jeon stars as a top assassin who juggles motherhood and her risky career, drawing acclaim for her action scenes during its screening at the Berlin International Film Festival last month.
Director Byun Sung-hyun wrote the crime noir action with the actor in mind and had chances to observe Jeon's relationship with her teenage daughter during his visit to her home, according to Jeon.
"I think director Byun took interest in my life as a mother and an actor, and the gap between the two personas. I'm a veteran at work but not a veteran at home," she said.
Jeon appreciated people's high expectations for her performance and thinks she can take even more, but didn't forget to be true to herself.
"Expectations are good, but sometimes I feel burdened. I try really hard not to feel uncomfortable and do things my way," she said.
Being the most celebrated actress in the Korean film industry, Jeon said she is still on a soul-searching journey to find insight in her life and career.
"I still don't know about myself and am in the process of learning. As I am an actor, I keep looking into myself. I am curious about myself," she said.