On February 23rd, KBS2 had a press conference for its new drama “Thorn Birds,” a follow up to its “President.” It is a story about how a female extra worked her way up to become a top star. Writer Lee Sun Hee, who wrote “Difficult Love”(2004) and “Air City” (2007), and Director Kim Jong Chang, who created hit dramas like “Yellow Handkerchief” (2003) and “I Hate You But One More Time” (2009), came together for this production. Its cast is also full of stars. Young actors Han Hye Jin, Kim Min Jung, Ju Sang Wook, and Suh Do Young are casted as the leads. Actress Oh Hyun Kyung also makes a comeback from her long hiatus since “TV Grandchild Tactics.” Veteran actresses Cha Hwa Yeon and Song Oak Sook are also part of the cast. For 2011, KBS plans to diversify its dramas. ‘Thorn Birds’ aims to target housewives and female viewers.
Ko Young Tak, Director of Productions at KBS, and Oh Sang Min, CEO of GNG Productions, stated that “Thorn Birds” will be a traditional melodrama and that its characters will have the most Korean-antic emotional mindset.
Oh said, “Currently hallyu drama has been wavering off, but that is because dramas that utilize the Korean spirit have not been made. I’m not saying we should only produce sageuks (dramas that are set in pre-modern Korea) like ‘Jumong’ or ‘Dae Jang Geum.’ However, the representative Korean drama genre lies in its melodramas. In ‘Thorn Birds,’ viewers will be able to realize how deeply rooted, in everything Korean, this drama is.
Q&A with Director Kim Jong Chang
What Kind of drama is “Thorn Birds?”
“Thorn Birds” is a story about people making mistakes and forgiving each other. It’s about the growth of two females as they make decisions that go against their families’ wishes. The characters explore matters of filial piety, maternity, and humanity.
Is there a special meaning behind the title? There is a novel with the same name by acclaimed Australian writer Colleen McCullough. McCullough’s novel is about a bride who is torn between her relationship with her fiancé and her belief in God. In 1983, it was made into an American television series and was well-received.
I didn’t put any special thought behind the title, but I did enjoy the novel and television series. The characters in the drama have painful pasts, especially when it comes to their relationships with their mothers. They explore how they can’t really control fate and learn that life has both good and bad times.
You’ve produced many hit dramas. How do you think “Thorn Birds” will do?
I’ve done well in the past, but I’ve never produced anything for the sake of high ratings. If a drama captures the truth and sincerity of life, the ratings will naturally rise. If you put your hear and soul into a project, the reward will follow.
It’s first episode is slated to air on March 3rd. How are you feeling?
I’ve received many questions everything I start a new project as to whether I’m putting my heart and soul to creating a masterpiece. This drama is about the life of an actress and the process of maturing, making mistakes, getting hurt, healing, and forgiving each other. I started asking myself whether the angle I’m taking for this project was too ideal and abstract. For future projects, I plan to produce works that focus on ideology.
Q&A with Han Hye Jin (Suh Jung Eun’s role)
What kind of character is Suh Jung Eun?
Although she grew up not knowing her mother’s face, she’s a bright and innocent girl. She’s the type who does what she does even though she’s aware of its consequences – whether they be good or bad. She started as an extra, but grows up to become a top actress.
She sounds similar to your past character from MBC’s “Be Strong, Geum Soon!” How are the two characters different?
Geum Soon was a daring and spunky character. Jung Eun is a lot more innocent and soft.
Kim Min Jung’s Han Yoo Kyung is Jung Eun’s rival. How do you interact with each other? Do you guys have any battle of nerves?
I got a lot of questions as to how we interact. While I’m older than her, Min Jung has 22 years of acting experience. She’s like my mentor. When I see her on set, I’m awed at her level of concentration and experience. I have a lot to learn from her.
Q&A with Kim Min Jung (Han Yoo Kyung’s role)
Many people have been anticipating your return since MBC’s “2009 Alien Baseball Team.” What were you up to before deciding on this project?
I took a break for about a year and a half. I kept myself busy by working out and keeping in shape.
Can you tell us more about your role in this new drama?
It’s really hard to describe this character in one word. Several descriptions like “dark Yoo Kyung” and “sad femme fatale” sounds pretty accurate. She’s dark, sad, and introverted; but the more you get to know her, you’ll feel attached to her.
Wasn’t it difficult to portray such a depressed character?
There were a lot of emotional scenes, and it was harder than I thought. However, I plan to overcome them and finish the drama strong.
You work with good looking actors Ju Sang Wook and Suh Do Hyung and Director Kim Jong Chang. Out of the three, are any of them close to your ideal man?
I absolutely love our director. Everyone does. Director Kim is the playmaker of our team. There are a lot of difficult scenes in this drama. As actors, we only have to focus on completing our acts successfully. However, Director Kim is all over the place checking up on us. I’ve been in this business a long time, but I find Director Kim a surprising treat.
Q&A with Cha Hwa Yeon (Yoon Myung Ja’s role)
You play Korea’s representative actress Lee Ae Rin. What are your thoughts?
I immediately agreed to join the drama as soon as Director Kim told me about it. There was no doubt. When I later found out about my character, she turned out to be the type every actress dreams of playing at least once in her career. She gives birth to a child early in her life, only to have the baby taken away from her. She lives on carrying the pain in her heart and torments herself. She carries more pain inside of her than what she shows outside.
You work with a lot of young actors. How is it like acting with them?
While it is still unclear, either Han Hye Jin or Kim Min Jung’s character is set up as my daughter. As a result, I feel very protective and motherly towards them.
Q&A with Ju Sang Wook (Lee Young Jo’s role)
Once again, you play the perfect man from a chaebol family. Do you believe yourself good looking?
Yes, I do. (laughs)
If you compare yourself to Suh Do Young, who do you think is better looking?
Why are all my questions like this? (laughs) I think it’s up to the viewers to decide who’s better looking because we both have our own charms.
Will we get to see a different side of you in this drama?
So far, I’ve played characters that were very perfect and from great backgrounds. This time, my character is a lot more similar to my actual self. Suh Do Young will definitely break the image I have created for myself through past dramas. Personally, I’m not the reserved and characters I have played. I enjoy being playful and try to people around me laugh, much like Suh Do Young’s personality.
The drama is centered towards its female leads. How are things like at the filming site?
It’s been a month since we started filming. Kim Min Jung is the most experienced one of us, so we all lean on her to help us get through the shootings.
Q&A with Suh Do Young (Choi Kang Woo’s role)
Tell us about your character.
Choi Kang Woo is a film director. He met Han Hye Jin’s Jung Eun when he was an assistant director and has a crush on her since then. Kang Woo helps Jung Eun mature into the top star she is. Additionally, he’s best friends with Ju Sang Wook’s Young Jo. He’s the one who tries to preserve both love and friendship intact.
Are there any personality similarities between you and your character?
It is Kang Woo’s nature to be bright and cheerful. He’s the type of friend who is always positive and there for you whenever you need him, and I feel like I’m like that too. He’s a quiet guy and doesn’t really know how to express himself, but he also fools around when he’s with his friends and family.
Photos by Kim Soo Jin of Studio V ([email protected])