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Q&A: Musical actress Shin Young-sook

16 years ago, she debuted as an unknown actress with a minor role in the musical The Last Empress. This year, she enters the stage as the Empress herself

Your nickname is “Mama” (Korean for Her Majesty). How do you feel?
It started as a joke when my fans started calling me “Nok-su Mama” when I was playing Jang Nok-su in the musical E. I used to be rather uncomfortable (I mean, imagine being called “your majesty” all the time in public) with that nickname, but I’ve aged enough that it sort of makes sense at this point. Plus, I’m actually the Empress now. It’s a really emotional experience for me, and to my fans who always called me by that nickname I cannot thank you enough. “Your words become your reality,” was no lie!
 
The Last Empress must mean a lot to you as your debut musical.
I was only a neophyte actress. I didn’t know anything when I was playing Son-tak. I’m so honored to be taking on the title role.
 
I heard that Yoon Ho-jin (Pres. at Acom International) recommended you as the Empress. How did you feel?
I guess it was that zeal that only a newcomer can possess when I told everyone that, “I’m gonna work hard to become the Empress one day” at the first team dinner all those years ago. Mr. Yoon remembered that and watched me over the years. He finally decided that now is the time and so, he called me. This has only pushed me to work harder and to be better.
 
It’s been 16 years since that time. Did you ever think it would take this long?
I never stopped working for the past 16 years, so it really doesn’t feel that long. This opportunity is especially meaningful in that it’s the 20th anniversary for the musical. I hope that my experience has adequately equipped me to be able to express the complex inner agony of the Empress. I feel like I’m ready, both emotionally and physically, to take on this role. 
 
I heard that there have been a lot of changes in creating a new version of the musical for its 20th anniversary. What’s one noticeable difference?
There are some additional musical pieces to flesh out the characters both historically and emotionally. I didn’t really have the chance to keep up with the various changes over the years, but even throughout rehearsals, I never felt that the musical itself was dated. I’m really excited for all the transformations and enhancements. 
 
You’ve achieved your dream of becoming the Empress. What’s next?
My next goal is to play Donna in Mamma Mia (chuckles). It’s my favorite of all time. I don’t know when I’m going to retire, but as long as I’m in theater, I plan to always push myself to become a better actress than I was the day before.

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