Even during its early production stages, “Grand Prince” had everyone abuzz. With its stellar cast and dynamic director-writer team, this new project is bound with expectations of royal proportions. Having an “Avengers” type cast and production team can be both a blessing and a curse. They can either take the drama to new heights or fall short on what’s promised. But based on what we see in the first couple episodes, it’s worth the watch!
Warning: minor spoilers below.
Unlike many dramas that end with a dramatic reunion or a big revelation of sorts, “Grand Prince” opens with the opposite. The long lost Prince Lee Hwi (Yoon Shi Yoon) makes way back to the palace after a great deal of effort.
The opening is quite important because this is where the conflict begins. The reigning King is on his deathbed, and Lee Kang (Joo Sang Wook), the crown prince who grew up longing for the throne, becomes more power-hungry and eager to replace the King. But this becomes even harder as Lee Hwi, Grand Prince who was believed to have been lost and dead, comes back alive. The story revolves around the dynamic between the two opposite princes, whose brotherhood is threatened by love for the same woman, (Jin Se Yeon).
Yoon Shi Yoon as Lee Hwi
From the get-go, we see that Lee Hwi has a gentle and loving heart, even at a young age. He’s mild-mannered, treats his servants like family, and lives like he’s not aware that he’s in line to become the future king. While we don’t yet know how he gets banished from the palace, Hwi’s sad and kind eyes don’t change even when he’s an adult. Playing a character with a pure heart of gold isn’t new to Yoon Shi Yoon; he has an ability to capture audiences with his genuine performances. The boy who plays the young Lee Hwi is also so adorable and talented, and it looks like he’ll be the next big child star!
The different faces of Yoon Shi Yoon in this drama
Joo Sang Wook as Lee Kang
While Lee Hwi gets along well even with the palace maids and guards, Prince Lee Kang is the opposite, as he considers everyone beneath him. He gets influenced at a young age by his uncle (who has a hidden agenda), making him believe that the reason they keep him away from the palace is because he’s a threat to the throne. It’s quite rare to see Joo Sang Wook play an antagonist role, since he mostly tends to play good or romantic roles. Right now, his character seems like a cardboard sketch of an evil and power-hungry individual, but I’m excited to see what motivates his actions and learn more about the lonely prince who only longs for love and recognition.
Jin Se Yeon as Sung Ja Hyun
Ja Hyun is a young noblewoman who causes two princes to clash, similarly to Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand ships. The character is played by Jin Se Yeon, who is known for her appearances in many historical dramas. Unlike the meek and passive women of her time, I like that Ja Hyun is strong-willed and does not let anyone get in her way, not even her parents. It’s also fun to see her play a character that’s not so serious and uptight as her previous roles.
Jin Se Yeon plays an unconventional daughter from a noble family who has an outgoing and carefree personality
Ryu Hyoyoung as Yoon Na Gyeum
So far we are seeing that the female characters in this drama are all fierce in their own way. If Ja Hyun mirrors Lee Hwi’s determination, Yoon Na Gyeum is on the same boat with Lee Kang’s greed and jealousy. She and Ja Hyun have a history of being friends, until feelings and desires get in the way, which we will learn more about as the drama progresses. This will make Na Gyeum do everything to help Lee Kang take over the palace.
Son Ji Hyun as Roo Shi Gae
Ji Hyun is quite unrecognizable in this drama as Roo Shi Gae, a tomboy and warrior who’s a loyal friend of Lee Hwi. It has yet to be revealed if she is involved in the princes’ love line, but judging by the way she looked at Lee Hwi in the forest, there might be a huge possibility. It’s fun to see Ji Hyun set aside her past idol status and play a role that’s outside of her comfort zone.
The standout moments
The royal household’s deep-seated problems are rooted in the childhood of Grand Princes, whose personalities are completely different from each other. Little prince Lee Hwi is known for his intelligent mind and penchant for traditional writing and poetry. He lives his days in the palace being carefree and happy, while his older brother, Lee Kang, is raised in another house that’s far from the Queen and the royal grounds. This made him harbor feelings of jealousy, loneliness, and hatred against his brother.
Childhood stories are always fun to watch because it shows the reasons how the lead characters become who they are as adults. We get to understand more of their motivations and it gives more color to their personalities. The child actors do quite well, but the young Lee Kang stands out even more because of his natural charm onscreen and bright personality.
The plot highlights the power and political struggle between the two princes, but essentially, it’s a story of brotherhood. Joo Sang Wook plays his role really well, as he switches from an impressive big brother type to a manipulative individual who only has his eyes on his goal. But sometimes he breaks down his walls for his brother Lee Hwi and moreso when he’s in front of Sung Ja Hyeon, the woman he loves.
The prince and his aide Gi Teuk forms another notable “bromance.” Gi Teuk has shown his immense loyalty since both of them were young.
Unlike the usual sageuk dramas that take the characters too seriously, “Grand Prince” throws in some quirky characters that make the story more interesting.
Sung Ja Hyun comes from a noble family, but her mom (Kim Mi Kyung) is quite a character. This feisty mother doesn’t always follow the rules and sometimes defies her husband. In this scene she is caught by her daughter secretly playing a gambling game with her friends while her husband is away.
In this scene, Sung Ja Hyun takes a regular “bride etiquette” class where women from noble families learn proper decorum that fits a “Lady.” With her carefree personality, it’s the last thing that Ja Hyun wants to do, so she skips the class and goes outside to explore. Like mother, like daughter!
The love triangle
Another premise of this drama is the love story that will tear the two princes apart. We can already see some chemistry between Yoon Shi Yoon and Jin Se Yeon, but at the same time, Joo Sang Wook is also a good contender, being the amazing actor that he is.
Yoon Shi Yoon’s ponytail
Yoon Shi Yoon’s hair in this drama deserves its own moment of appreciation because it totally changed his image from being a wholesome, happy-go-lucky character to a tough, intense manly character.
“Grand Prince” comes at a good time, as several dramas that are airing at the moment are all set in modern times (not that it needed this kind of push). But there’s still a lot of room for improvement, as what we have seen so far is the classic and cliché story of a royal power struggle. Still, the story is in the capable hands of its actors, and their intense portrayals (there’s a lot of teary and glaring eyes in the first few scenes alone) will surely pull you in. Judging from the second episode we can expect a lot of cuteness and mischief from Prince Lee Hwi as he woos Ja Hyun. There’s a lot of potential, so if you’re looking for romance, action, drama, and everything in between, then definitely check this drama out. It’s a chance to see Yoon Shi Yoon each week, what more can you ask for?
Catch the first episode of “Grand Prince”:
Hey Soompiers! What do you think about this new K-drama? Let us know in the comments below!
DP_Kim is an English magazine and online writer and former stylist based in South Korea. Follow her Korean adventures at instagram.com/dianne_panda.
Currently watching: “I Am Not a Robot” and “Misty”
Looking forward to: “That Oh Man Soo” and “Are You Human Too?”