“King The Land” Stars YoonA And Lee Junho Describe Each Other’s Characters, Their Teamwork And Similarities, And More
The two are currently starring in JTBC’s “King the Land,” which follows the unlikely romance between Gu Won (Lee Junho), a chaebol heir who can’t stand fake smiles, and the constantly smiling Cheon Sa Rang (YoonA), who becomes known as the “queen of smiles” while working her way up at the King Hotel.
In their respective interviews, the actors spoke about how they chose to star in “King the Land,” the ups and downs of a pre-produced drama, their similarities and chemistry, and much more.
As the interview was held a few days after the final shoot for “King the Land,” YoonA was asked how she felt to wrap up filming. She revealed that at nearly 10 months, “King the Land” was the longest drama she had ever done and that it was awkward for the cast to no longer see each other every day. YoonA added, “I think I’ve also forgotten what my everyday life without ‘King the Land’ is like.”
Now that she’s essentially gotten an inside scoop on hotels, YoonA described how she views them a bit differently now. “While filming, I went to a hotel to attend a friend’s wedding,” YoonA explained. “I ended up carefully watching how they served food. And figured it was the same way I was taught. While filming, I went to places I would’ve never gone to as a guest, like the linen room and kitchen, so it felt new and fun.”
With regards to what makes a good rom-com, YoonA shared, “If the leads have good chemistry and banter well, I think you watch more enjoyably. The director emphasized this too. That’s why we filmed while making sure you could feel our chemistry in each line. Because we gave so many ideas back and forth, rehearsals were really important for our filming. That process of creating together was so fun.”
Imagining their characters in real life, YoonA remarked, “A man like Gu Won? The Gu Won I observed while acting was a man who really made me want to hug him. It’s not sadness, nor is it a protective instinct, but it feels like wanting to be next to someone who is so completely alone. Even though he’s not originally like that, he’s like someone who has blocked out the world and tries to be by himself. That Gu Won meets Sa Rang, begins to smile and get along with others, and then straightforwardly approaches Sa Rang. When he’s like that, he’s cute and like a puppy. Because it’s an image he only shows to Cheon Sa Rang.”
As the drama’s leads are both second generation idols, YoonA touched on their similarities, saying, “We haven’t worked together before. This is our first time but our approach to this project was similar. Both our affection for the project and our desire to create together. On set, we comfortably shared our opinions and helped each other focus on acting. That’s why Junho, the director, and everyone else thanked each other really often. If I want to do something a certain way but that doesn’t match with the opposite actor’s opinion, it may not work out, but the director, Junho, and I, the three of us always matched up well.”
Elaborating on her experience working with Lee Junho, YoonA shared, “He’s incredibly thoughtful and has amazing focus. Just like Gu Won and Sa Rang have different characteristics, Junho had things I didn’t so that complemented well on set. We pondered over the script together and I depended on him for a lot. He also has a lot of variety in his expressions. When you monitor, he has a charm that takes over the screen. Also, he speaks very logically and well. To the point where it’s impressive. It’s an image I wouldn’t have known of if I hadn’t worked with him so closely.”
Interestingly, their characters’ names Gu Won and Sa Rang directly translate to “salvation” and “love” respectively. When asked which of the two she would rather have, YoonA answered, “Love. Because you can just save with love.”
Lee Junho described this new drama as a romance between an introvert and extrovert, elaborating, “Because of his past, Gu Won is a character who likes being alone. When he meets Sa Rang, a gradual change in emotion occurs.”
The actor then revealed that “King the Land” was his first pre-produced drama and explained that even though he and YoonA thought they would cry once filming ended, they actually began anticipating the broadcasts rather than feeling sad. Lee Junho continued, “Even in the case of ‘The Red Sleeve,’ nearly half was pre-produced so it premiered when we were filming Episode 12 or 13, and the drama ended around the time we finished filming, so there was a refreshing feeling of everything finishing all at once, but this [‘King the Land’] filming period was quite long.”
Expanding on his first experience with a pre-produced drama, Lee Junho commented, “There are a lot of pros and cons. In the past, I would barely sleep and film 16 episodes in three months, but there was a unique charm to that too back then. When you film at the same time as broadcasts, you can see feedback and take it into account. On the other hand, there’s sufficient preparation time for pre-productions, it feels like you’re increasing its completeness, but you don’t know the reactions. If you don’t get feedback on something you’re doing for a year and a half, you get so curious.”
When asked if he tries to gauge whether a project will do well or not, Lee Junho answered, “From a certain point on, I completely stopped having those thoughts. It was meaningless. Rather than ‘it will or won’t do well,’ I now think, ‘how can I make this fun?’ Even when I first saw the script for ‘King the Land,’ you know how people say rom-coms are a ‘familiar taste’? I thought it was more classic than cliché. And because it’s a familiar taste, it could be a drama you want to try.”
Thinking back to when he chose this drama, Lee Junho recalled, “I met the really great project ‘The Red Sleeve’ and since it was a project with such a strong story, I was able to engross in acting. In that environment, I kept holding the pain of my character Yi San so it was very hard on me. That’s why I wanted to go lighter, lighter than before. [I thought,] I want it to be a drama that everyone can watch comfortably. Like a drama you suddenly turn on even while eating.”
Just like YoonA, Lee Junho talked about their teamwork for “King the Land.” He shared, “It was so comfortable and our chemistry was really great. And the director always said this. ‘You two are so good at caring for each other.’ It was a set where we could each do what we needed to do well, and communicate well without speaking. The director really liked us and we really liked them too.”
While describing YoonA’s character Cheon Sa Rang from the perspective of his character Gu Won, Lee Junho shared that the drama’s characters were easy to imagine at first glance, so they tried to make them feel more multi-dimensional through complex emotions. Lee Junho explained, “The Sa Rang that Gu Won sees is someone who has a lot of things I don’t have, and someone who breaks me [open]. You know that saying. ‘You’re the first person who’s made me feel this way.’ However, this is not a difference in status between a hotel general manager and employee. Gu Won really hates business smiles, but the person who sports that smile and is always by his side is Sa Rang. They become like that while holding on to painful reasons and exchanging subtle emotions. ‘You’re the first person to approach me emotionally like this.'”
Given that “The Red Sleeve” ends with a tragic death, the interviewer asked to make sure that “King the Land” has a happy ending for everyone. Lee Junho responded, “I believe that ‘The Red Sleeve’ has a ‘sad-py’ ending, but ultimately a happy ending. Although it’s so sad, the two were still happy. Ultimately, I believe that. That love just means the two need to be happy.” Laughing, Lee Junho added, “But these days, I believe viewers want a definite happy ending. Our drama is quite organic. There’s no MSG.”
Lee Junho’s interview concluded the same way as YoonA’s as he was asked which he would rather have between “salvation” and “love.” He responded, “I want to save, and I want to receive love.” He explained with a laugh, “It’s the human heart to want more love even while receiving it. That’s why receiving love is so amazing and something to be thankful for. While promoting for 15 years, I gradually come to realize that more and more, and consistently loving someone is just unconditional love. I often say that loving us at our debut is amazing, but continuing that love for over 10 years just means that the person doing the loving is amazing.”
The next episode of YoonA and Lee Junho’s “King the Land” airs on June 24 at 10:30 p.m. KST, and their full feature will be available in Allure Korea’s upcoming July issue!
While waiting, check out “The Red Sleeve” with subtitles below:
Also, catch YoonA in “Prime Minister and I” here!