Im Ji-yeon, Park Sung-hoon, Kim Hieora, Cha Ju-young, and Kim Geon-woo The five greatest villains have all gathered!
The drama series on Netflix, <The Glory>, which depicted the glory or ruin of a woman seeking revenge in the midst of violence, has come to an end. It’s been a while since we’ve discovered so many new faces at once in a single work, and it’s a great pleasure. The drama’s fierce friends, Im Ji-yeon, Park Sung-hoon, Kim Hieora, Cha Ju-young, and Kim Geon-woo, have all come together in one place.
Kim Gun-woo is an actor who was recommended by screenwriter Kim Eun-sook after watching his audition video for <The Glory>. His first drama was the KBS drama <Fight For My Way> in 2017, where he appeared as Tak-soo, a nasty antagonist fighter against Park Seo-joon. His role as a top actor who often quarrels with Park Bo-gum in tvN’s <Record of Youth> was originally a special appearance. The director of the drama is Ahn Gil-ho of <The Glory>. Considering that the amount of screen time for the special appearance actor increased gradually, we can imagine the joy of the director who “discovered” Kim Gun-woo. During the script reading of <The Glory>, Kim Eun-sook, who was usually quiet, left a comment after Kim Gun-woo expressed a desire to hear feedback.
“Keep doing what you’re doing now.”
Son Myeong-o, who lives with a sense of inferiority and humiliation in the rigid hierarchy structure, handles various tasks among a group of perpetrators, as he confirms his position at the bottom of the rank every day. Just like all the actors who played roles of perpetrators who committed severe school violence against Moon Dong-eun (played by Song Hye-kyo), Kim Gun-woo also had to find his own justification even within the evil character. “Myeong-o gives off a thug-like vibe that you can see in everyday life. To put it positively, he has some level of innocence. Compared to characters like Jae-jun who have wealth, he would be more ‘underground’ or ‘street’.” Kim Gun-woo’s first shoot was with Song Hye-kyo at a snack bar. His senior actress’ advice to him was “Do whatever you want to do. Do everything you prepared for.” Kim Gun-woo felt comfortable from the first day due to this relaxed approach. “However, every time I work on a project, it’s only at the end of the shoot that I feel like I understand it. I don’t have any regrets about giving my best in acting, but there’s always a sense of regret left.”
One of the stories that are frequently heard in the entertainment industry is the moment of a star’s birth, which often starts with the phrase, “I went to an audition or academy with a friend.” “In high school, my closest friend was going to an acting academy. But when I listened, he was doing something strange, saying he was learning how to awaken his senses. I was suspicious, so I went with him once”, he said. The meditative training to “awaken the senses” may have sounded a bit strange to a male student who was active as a band vocalist in middle and high school, but he went to protect his friend and ended up enrolling in the academy the next day. “They asked me if I wanted to read a script while I was there. I tried it and found it fun (laughs).” Recently, it has been circulating like an artifact that Kim Geon-woo, who is in his early 30s, entered the Korea National University of Arts as the top student in the theater department (what he was famous for at the university is available on the <W>, YouTube channel).
Despite their image on stage, Park Sung-hoon and Kim Gun-woo, who are also a great talkative couple, share the experience of having many part-time jobs. “My nickname was ‘part-time job monster’ (laughs). Convenience stores, cafes, barbecue restaurants, large supermarkets, department stores, clothing stores, toast shops, etc. I worked at so many places. Wherever I worked, I enjoyed it and worked like a professional. The bosses who hired me were lucky. But I always thought I was just passing through these places because I loved acting too much. I’m a slow person. Even when I step on the accelerator, I’m slower than others. My 20s were a time for me to accept that I’m a slow person who produces results slowly.” He didn’t envy his successful friends or get discouraged. He understood that everyone has their own pace and believed that when his time came, he could do well. He has now joined the original musical <Paris Bakery> which will be performed at the Sejong Cultural Center’s S Theater in May. This is his first challenge in which he can finally experience being on stage. From this rising star who speaks of being in “good foam” amid the attention surrounding <The Glory>, one can feel a sense of stability and calmness that comes from his solid foundation. I want to wait and see how much glory Kim Gun-woo, who has embraced slowness as an aesthetic, will achieve in the future.
“Yeon-jin, I cooked stew at home.” Im Ji-yeon receives messages like this from even her parents these days. Park Yeon-jin, the axis of evil in <The Glory>, is a presence that ignites all sorts of memes with her cruel violence. Playing a character who is simply a bad person for no reason can be a daunting choice for an actor because it lacks empathy and persuasion unlike a villain who can be explained to some extent. “Does Yeon-jin have psychopathic tendencies? Is it because she grew up under a twisted mother? After much thought, I ultimately concluded that ‘Yeon-jin knows nothing.’ She doesn’t understand the concepts of badness and guilt. She never tried to work hard to get something she wanted, she just enjoyed what was given to her. From there, everything just unraveled.”
“I will never die.”
After the first shoot for <The Glory>, the director felt that Yeon-jin’s performance was lacking something. When Yeon-jin met Dong-eun (played by Song Hye-kyo), she needed to exude a stronger and more intimidating presence than her other friends who were also attackers. “But when Yeon-jin was supposed to be attacked by Dong-eun, she had to show a momentary sign of being caught off guard. This would make the audience feel satisfied. After trying to show Yeon-jin’s powerful energy, I found myself frequently making a face that ignored Dong-eun,” explained Im Ji-yeon about her acting. She often observes herself as if she were a third party, discovering details she didn’t even know about and being surprised by them or understanding cause-and-effect relationships. The lopsided smile on Yeon-jin’s face as she sneered at Dong-eun’s laughter was a characteristic of Im Ji-yeon’s smile. “The elements I originally had become more pronounced as I acted.”
The studio where <The Glory> team photoshoot was taken happened to be the same place where the group photos for <Tazza: One Eyed Jack> were taken in 2019. The impression Im Ji-yeon left on me at the time was that she was ” desperate.” I remember Im Ji-yeon’s desperate expression, who received a text message from someone saying,”Ji-yeon, you were really desperate,” and said “I cried a lot because I was so grateful that I was able to show what kind of emotions I had while acting.” What’s interesting and somewhat agonizing is that many of Im Ji-yeon’s stories, when she sat down years later at the same location after she met the hit character, Yeon-jin, were still different versions of urgency and desperation.
“My sense of urgency comes from wanting to do well with what I am given. It’s for myself. I lived as Yeon-jin for a few months, and I thought a lot about the role. But what if I couldn’t do well on set? Even the thought is dreadful.” She is someone who constantly whips herself because she thought it seems like she was not doing well if the acting was going smoothly. Once the pain passes, Im Ji-yeon returns to whipping herself with the pleasure she feels. She is undoubtedly someone who enjoys the pattern of suffering. “Perhaps it’s because of my sense of inadequacy. I always envied my talented friends. All I could do was work hard. I don’t think I have many natural abilities. I grew up in an ordinary environment, where I was comfortable and happy. So if I, who is like that, want to act, I have to cling to it desperately.”
When the movie <Obsessed> was released in 2014, Im Ji-yeon, who made her debut as a commercial film lead actress, was a rising star receiving the spotlight. Recently, she finished filming the drama <The House with a Yard> with Kim Tae-hee, and is currently shooting <National Death Penalty Vote> without a break. The current atmosphere of once again receiving a spotlight despite not being in the debut era is a moment that actors have probably imagined at least once. However, Im Ji-yeon is once again confirming who she is. “I received a lot of praise, and I thought I would be really happy to be recognized, but it wasn’t like that. ‘That person’ who often comes to me is still there. Like a devil whispering to me to quit acting while tormenting me (laughs). I think ‘that person’ come to see me about twenty-five times during the filming of <The Glory>. I met him yesterday too. Whenever I feel like ‘that person’ is gone, I get so excited that I can live on with that energy. Every day is urgent for me. It’s always desperate.”
The character of Jae-jun in <The Glory> is peculiar. The fact that he is not a “nice bastard” but just “a bastard,” yet still so intriguing and appealing, is what makes him a peculiar character. This is the vision of the writer Kim Eun-sook regarding the role of Jae-jun.
“Sexy but not cheesy”
Park Sung-hoon needed to start with external efforts. “I did a lot of costume fittings more than any other work. I also managed my diet and paid a lot of attention to my hairstyle. I thought about how to implement the feeling I received from the script, and came up with a long hairstyle. It looks more rough and weighty if it’s rough.” Creating an “elusive sensual aspect” is also largely dependent on speech, breathing, and a low-pitched voice. A character that combines the weight of a handsome gangster with brutal energy and a comedic element. A successful villain is born when the actor’s talent and the excellent script that serve as the backbone of the work are tightly balanced.
Park Sung-hoon, who was known to have become an idol on the theater stage, has recently gained a lot of attention after actively pursuing his career in the media. It’s curious that the two works that particularly drew public attention to him were the weekend drama “My Only One” and the current “The Glory,” It can be said that KBS weekend dramas and Netflix are enjoyed by parents. In <My Only One>, Park plays a kind and innocent dentist named Jang Go-rae, while in <The Glory>, he plays a male student who seems likely to win the national competition for outstanding students, but is actually the spoiled son of a wealthy family named Jeon Jae-jun. Despite the stark contrast between these two roles, Park has managed to captivate audiences with his performances.
Recently, Park was surprised to see himself being referred to as an “heir to a chaebol family” while watching a variety show. This is a reference to a trend where actors who come from households with medical or law professionals are automatically assumed to be from wealthy families. However, despite this perception, Park’s career has not been a sudden leap to success. He has worked various part-time jobs and started his acting career as a minor character before reaching where he is today.
Park previously appeared in the 2008 film <A Frozen Flower> as a member of Hwarang, alongside actor Jung Sung-il, who he also co-starred with in <The Glory> as Ha Do-young. He reminisced about a time when he worked as a bartender until dawn after filming and then went straight to the set in the morning. “When I was young, I was rather passive. There were many relatives in my house who were good at studying, and I don’t have many memories of being recognized in various ways. Then, when I acted and received applause, it was like feeling recognized for the first time.” He, who had been shooting advertisements all day and entered the filming studio for <W> late at night, began to visibly perk up as he brought up a story from quite some time ago. “During my first year of college, I stood on stage for the play <Taxi Driver> as part of a workshop. After the first performance, I couldn’t forget the moment when I received applause during the curtain call. It was then that I finally felt tremendous excitement and a sense of achievement.”
What if Park Sung-hoon tried comedy? From the sense of humor that can be extracted from Jae-jun, to his ability to create a thrill with his impersonations that leaves the faces of <Knowing Bros> cast members frozen, to his stable vocalization that even led him to the final round of a voice acting audition, and the ‘gap’ effect that arises when he delivers comedy with his voice, Park Sung-hoon may be an undiscovered talent in the comedy genre. He loves the unexpected gags like those in the movie <Rollercoaster> made by Ha Jung-woo, and hopes to someday meet a suitable comedy project.
For now, he is struggling behind the smooth results. He has finished filming the Netflix series <Seonsan>, which depicts a series of unfortunate events for those who inherit Seonsan, and was also filming <Nam-nam> on Disney Plus, which tells the story of a naive mother and her mature daughter, even on the day of the photoshoot for this article. “I’m grateful for the current atmosphere, but I don’t have much time to enjoy it. Solving the given homework in the current project is more urgent. I think I need to be not ashamed of myself in order to not be ashamed in front of people.”
During the photo shoot, Kim Hieora wore a wig, but these days her hairstyle is a shortcut with a bleached light blonde color for her roles in a drama that is currently being filmed. “In <The Uncanny Counter 2>, I appear as a demon. If we’re talking in terms of power, this demon would be about eight times stronger than Sa-ra from <The Glory> (laughs). Since it’s not a human character, it’s much easier on my mind. It feels like an animation.” Looking closely at her eyes, they are a translucent brown color, almost like she’s wearing colored contact lenses. In <The Glory>, the painter Lee Sa-ra, who was corrupted by drugs, now smiled gently with the same eyes that used to glare. She said, “I think I look even hazier because of these eyes.”
Her name means “live purely and cleanly” as it was given by her parents. As she shares her life story, it feels like watching a coming-of-age film. As a young girl growing up within the confines of the school system, she felt like she stood out and was different. “I was sensitive and often lost in thought about people and things around me. I liked to ask questions, and my innocent curiosity was sometimes appreciated by some teachers, but others scolded me to be calm. Fortunately, my parents never tried to restrain me.” In the drama “The Glory,” in which she played a drug-addicted artist Lee Sa-ra, she performed live shows while under the influence of drugs in front of church members who were watching. When Kim Hieora, who was born into a devoutly religious family, was confused and wondering “Am I a flawed person?” during her childhood, the one who warmly said to her parents, “she seems to be a smart kid who senses more and faster than others,” as if telling a child to listen, was her pastor. During her high school years in the entertainment department, Kim Hieora felt alive and energetic when she tried acting for the first time in class. “I was always treated like a strange kid, but when I acted, it felt like a time when I was allowed to be truly myself. I could ask any questions I wanted.”
Viewers and audiences may easily perceive that an emotionally charged actor will move intuitively, but behind the smooth result, there is a process of questioning and probing. However, what if the character the actor needs to delve into is a vile villain? “I think question marks are important when acting. Why is this scene necessary? Why say these things? What’s presented in front of the camera is what happens after those question marks turn into exclamation marks. But Sa-ra isn’t an ordinary character. At some point, the production team said, ‘Sara is just a bad kid. Don’t try to understand and find reasons for her behavior.'” Kim Hieora found a clue in those words, feeling that acting becomes diluted when the “why” is not sorted out.
“I thought that a friend who is not in their right mind would often engage in actions because they don’t even know why or how they should live. They may seem like a person who doesn’t want to live properly, but in reality, they’re afraid to face something and avoid it because they want to live.”
Through theater and numerous musicals, Kim Hieora, who has been a “somewhat well-known existence” in the Daehangno area, also runs a cafe in the neighborhood. The cafe features part-time workers who dream of becoming actors and paintings by Kim Hieora. “If acting is about showing the result after finding countless ‘whys,’ drawing a picture is like a process of discovering my own emotions that I didn’t even know. It plays the role of a diary or a doodle pad.” She once made a considerable income selling clothes for a while after going to a wholesale market to find clothes to buy for her nephew. She also developed a poem she wrote in a creative writing class in college into a single called “Love in Your Thirties.” Stories big and small sprout at various points in Kim Hieora’s life, which is driven by action. Among them, when it comes to the past audition, it is likely that Kim Min-ki’s words that he said will come to mind like a footnote whenever we see this actress in the future.
“When I acted out a scene where I talk while looking at the stars in the sky, he said, ‘You must have actually grown up looking at a lot of stars. You’re blessed.’ My home was in the countryside when I was young. The school was in the city, but I grew up in a mountainous area and went to school with snakes (laughs).” While working on the set of “The Glory,” Kim Hieora received affection from the staff and gained confidence that she could become a truly good actress. She expressed her gratitude on her face, feeling that the time she spent performing for more than ten years was not wasted and that she had lived quite well. “It’s strange. Even though it feels like I’m going on my own path alone in my own place, it feels like someone was always watching over me.”
It’s hard to imagine someone other than Cha Joo-young as Hye-jeong. She has big eyes that are busy observing her surroundings and her facial features reflect her emotions subtly. If she were in the same social circle, she would have been treated like a luxury-loving princess. She doesn’t have the ability to perceive insults from those classified as “friends,” or even if she does, she ignores them and uses evil tactics to stay in the group. In the drama, Yeon-jin (played by Lim Ji-yeon) never compromises herself even in difficult situations, but when Hye-jeong realizes that Dong-eun (played by Song Hye-kyo), the victim planning revenge, is close to her future mother-in-law, Hye-jeong immediately kneels down. Her wickedness may have arisen from her anxiety, as if there were no scapegoats in the group, she could become the target. “I couldn’t find anyone like Hye-jeong around me and felt frustrated. I wrote something on my memo in a state of anger. I don’t like having unsolvable worries, and my head felt like it was going to explode… Eventually, my conclusion was to stop trying to find someone like her and just focus on the script. So I just read the script” she said.
Cha Joo-young, who read the script exceptionally well, maintained a state of extreme tension throughout the approximately eight-month filming period in retrospect. Although the atmosphere on set was not difficult for anyone, she put pressure on herself due to her own obsession. “When the actors saw me, it seemed like I was just enjoying it. But I was actually very tired. Even after hearing the sound of ‘cut,’ I felt regret on the director’s face. But as we passed the middle of the filming period, I started to hear reactions like ‘good, do more’ and so on. As I talked with the actors and had various conversations, I gradually came to realize that I think the director created an environment for me to stay more like Hye-jeong in the early days. At some point, he definitely encouraged me.”
Cha Joo-young filmed the dramas <Again My Life> and <The Glory> at the same time. When you recall the appearance of the secretary who existed coldly and quietly next to actor Lee Kyung-young, you can see the temperature difference in her acting. Cha Joo-young, who was able to return to her daily life immediately after leaving the filming site and had a good “on and off,” practiced living like Hye-jeong even in her daily life with the difficult mission of playing the role. She practiced living by expressing herself in a simple and straightforward manner without deep thinking.
“I have a cautious personality. As I become more light and simple, I feel like something is being released little by little.”
Cha Joo-young is currently filming for the KBS weekend drama <The Real Thing Has Appeared!> which will air on March 25th. She appears as the first love of the male lead. Following the success of the OTT work, she is now appearing in a weekend drama that is watched by middle-aged parents nationwide, so it is time for her spectrum as an actress to broaden. “Before coming to the photo shoot studio of <W>, I went to the sauna. I like saunas, and today I came with the determination that it was my last sauna (laughs).”
Cha Joo-young does not like expressions that blur the end of her words with a “like” tone, but when it comes to acting, she can only say that it seems like fun. “I don’t really know, but it seems like it (laughs). I started acting without knowing anything about it, so I never found the set interesting until now. When I appeared in <Cheese in the Trap>, it wasn’t because I thought of it as a job. I just had a thought that the medium that combined my interests in music, movies, and architecture was movies, and I wanted to live like the world in the movies someday. But then I got hooked on acting. I hope I can continue to be hooked like this. I know that I cannot compete with actors who have such great energy. So, my only thought is to give my all when I am given the opportunity.”