[CELEB] Bae Suzy proves she's more than just a pretty face in 'Anna'

Actor Bae Suzy in the Coupang Play series ″Anna″ [COUPANG PLAY]

Bae Suzy isn’t used to getting compliments on her acting.

Ever since she was little, Bae’s sole passion lay in singing and dancing. She had never thought of becoming an actor until her K-pop agency suggested it, and, shortly after, she was offered a lead role in a teen drama called “Dream High” in 2011.

Having had barely any training in acting, Bae stood in front of cameras and became an instant target of critics who dismissed her as another case of a facetious K-pop idol making her way onto the small screen out of the blue with a pretty face and no real talent as an actor.

Despite the initial negative press, she rose to earn the title of “Korea’s sweetheart” after appearing as a college freshman in the 2012 movie “Architecture 101.” There seemed to be a constant stream of demand for Bae the actor. In 2017, the girl group to which she belonged, Miss A, disbanded, and she moved agencies to focus more on her acting career. She has starred as leads in series including “Big” (2012), “Gu Family Book” (2013), “Uncontrollably Fond” (2016), “Vagabond” (2019) and “Start-Up” (2020), and films “The Sound of a Flower” (2015) and “Ashfall” (2019). Her acting improved over the years, yet still received mixed reviews. By this point, no one was expecting anything more from Bae as an actor — her popularity guaranteed viewers, but she was not considered a serious professional.

Actor Bae Suzy in the Coupang Play series ″Anna″ [COUPANG PLAY]

But Bae saw more potential in herself than that. After her last series “Start-Up,” where she played a bright and ambitious entrepreneur, she had a hankering for a role that deviated from the cheery ones that she typically took on. So, when Bae was offered a rather dark and troubled character in the psychological thriller series “Anna,” she jumped at the opportunity.

“I felt a weird sense of confidence that I could play this role really well,” said Bae during the interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily at a cafe in Samcheong-dong, central Seoul, on Wednesday. “I had to have it. I didn’t want to lose it to someone else.”

“Anna” shows the life of Yumi, portrayed by Bae, whose ambitions were always too big for her parents’ pockets to satisfy. Angry and desperate to escape her cruel realities, Yumi tells one harmless lie that snowballs, causing her living a double life as a rich Yale-graduate art professor named Anna.

Actor Bae Suzy, left, and Jung Eun-chae in the Coupang Play series ″Anna' [COUPANG PLAY]

Just halfway through the six-part series, Bae is already being showered with praise for her understated, elegant performance. Some are even calling it her career-defining role.

“It all seems too good to be true,” she said. “I don’t know if I actually did do well, but this is the first time that I have gotten this many compliments.”

Actor and singer Bae Suzy [MANAGEMENT SOOP]

Bae, 28, was polite and casual as she entered the interview room in jeans and a white t-shirt.

Possibly one of the biggest stars in the country who has spent the last decade under the close eye of the public, Bae was ready to come fore as just a regular person who isn’t short of human flaws after her performance in “Anna.”

“Yumi was a character that I found myself rooting for even though she was a huge liar and the one to blame for all her misfortunes,” she said. “The show was originally titled ‘The Anna that You Know.’ At first, I didn’t know what that meant, but as I worked my way through the script, I realized that everyone has a little bit of Anna in them. People only show what they want to show to others. We also lie and feel anxious about having our true selves seen.

"I thought that the emotions Yumi experienced were extremely real-to-life, and I even experienced some déjà vu."

Actor Bae Suzy, right, and Kim Jun-han in the Coupang Play series "Anna" [COUPANG PLAY]

For an authentic depiction, Bae closely consulted with an actual psychiatrist about her role, who taught her the thought process of people with personality disorders and guided her through emotionally complex scenes.

The realism of the character was accentuated by Bae’s understated facial expressions and subtle tone.

“Instead of trying to get Yumi’s anxieties across the camera and over-dramatize it, I wanted it to be real because, let’s be honest — we all have those moments,” said Bae.

For this, Bae had to face her own insecurities and anxieties first. She even started a diary.

“While I was looking back at the past, I realized how fast-paced my life had been. It wasn’t easy dissecting my weak points. I remember thinking to myself, 'Acting is such a weird job!' But this time not only helped me to play the role of Yumi but also helped me mature into a better person and an actor.”

Actor Bae Suzy in the Coupang Play series "Anna" [COUPANG PLAY]

The role also required substantial physical transformations for Bae. Bleary-eyed with a pale and exhausted face, Bae appears before the camera with a look that she had never before let herself publicly display.

“Honestly, I am very familiar with that face, but when people said they were surprised to see me that way in ‘Anna,’ I thought to myself ‘Wow, I’ve done a good job hiding it all those years!’ It was quite liberating to be in front of the camera like that.”

Actor Bae Suzy in the Coupang Play series ″Anna″ [COUPANG PLAY]

Aging some 20 years on camera was a new challenge as well. Bae first appears on the show as a 19-year-old high school student and plays the character until her late 30s when she gets married. She said that she wore over 150 outfits.

“I trusted the makeup and costume staff to make me believable at my different ages,” she said. “As for me, I wanted to display Yumi’s growing age through the progression of her lies and reactions to them. At first, she is not sure if people will believe her small lie, and she isn’t used to feeling so anxious. But as she realizes that her lies are working, she becomes bolder and starts to look down on the world.”

Actor Bae Suzy in the Coupang Play series ″Anna″ [COUPANG PLAY]

Going forward, the actor said that she is always on the lookout for new roles that can broaden her acting spectrum, but ‘Anna’ made her realize that she wants to do this at her own pace.

“During my teens and 20s, I worked non-stop. Taking the time to reflect on the role of Yumi, I learned that I needed to slow down sometimes and make time for myself. In my 30s, I want to keep working but with a more relaxed mindset.

“I may have unintentionally begun acting, but it has always been something of an unexpected gift for me. I cherish it very much and plan to continue going down this path. There is more in me that I haven’t been able to show yet. I hope to divulge it all, one by one, in the days to come.”

Singer and actor Bae Suzy [COUPANG PLAY]

Suzy (Bae Suzy)

Date of birth: Oct. 10, 1994
Zodiac sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gwangju, South Jeolla
Debut: July 2010 as a member of girl group Miss A
Agency: Management SOOP

Bae Suzy, whose stage name is Suzy, debuted as a member of the girl group Miss A in 2010 under one of the country's K-pop powerhouses, JYP Entertainment. The group quickly rose to stardom with hits including "Bad Girl Good Girl" (2010), "Breathe" (2010) and "Hush" (2013). In 2017, Billboard ranked Miss A at number 10 on their "Top 10 K-pop Girl Groups of the Past Decade" list. JYP announced that the group would disband in 2017 after two of the four members of Miss A did not renew their contracts with the agency. Bae debuted as an actor in 2011 through KBS’s “Dream High.” The next year, she made her way onto the big screen with a lead role in “Architecture 101” and earned the title of "Korea’s sweetheart."

This information was confirmed by Management SOOP on June 30, 2022.