August 9, 2006

Park Jin-hee (left) and Shim Hye-jin in "Please Come Back,

Last year actress Kim Sun-ah became a household name with her beguiling "girl (or woman)-next-door" character Kim Sam-soon in the phenomenal hit television drama "My Lovely Samsoon." Besides her oh-so-real act, Kim bravely gained 8 kilograms for the role, earning the nickname of Korean Renee Zellweger.

More actresses are following in her footsteps on small screens, willingly taking on parts that are far from attractive, instead of playing typical, pretty faces.

One of the most notable is Park Jin-hee, who is starring in Seoul Broadcasting System’s "Please Come Back, Soon-ae," opposite Shim Hye-jin.

Park is a 20-something flight attendant and has been having an affair with Shim’s pilot husband. Their fates cross even more when the two women get into a car accident and find themselves in each other’s body.

Park’s performances as a married 40-year-old have impressed viewers; from blabbering with her friends and dancing at a sauna to making phone calls while sitting on a toilet. Considering her previous sexy, prim image, she definitely has taken a big step. The same could be said of Shim, although she already bowled over her fans when she appeared as an eccentric, comic vampire character in horror sitcom "Hello, Francesca" last year.

The veteran actress was an icon of urban chic when she started acting and modeling in the late 1980s. In the drama, Shim appears as a strong-minded yet vulnerable former field hockey player, free of makeup, only accentuated with free-flowing permed hair, often carelessly fastened with a hair clip.

On the same nights, another veteran actress Chae Si-ra is leading the drama Korean Broadcasting System’s "Invisible Man, Choi Jang-soo," competing for viewers. For over 20 years, she has maintained her position with her serious acting, most notably in period dramas.

Eugene in "Love Truly" (MBC)

But for this drama centered around her and her husband Choi (played by another heavyweight actor Yoo Oh-sung), who seemingly runs away from the family, especially after their son is born with a developmental disability, she has drastically changed her appearance. She had her hair cut and permed like a typical mom and is dressed comfortably. And her character So-young does everything, from washing cars to selling insurance, all for the family. She laughed and cried the whole time reading the script, said Chae. As she recalled, it would be her first gritty role since she played Young-sook, a bookkeeper who is exploited by a gigolo, in "Moon of Seoul" in 1994.

Kim Ji-young, best known as Bokgil (no last name needed here) from "Country Diary," one of the longest-running dramas in local television history, will also play a fearless mother in SBS’s "My Lovely Fool," starting tomorrow.

She is a 33-year-old single mom with a 7-year-old son with an incurable disease. She lives through a nightmare, pursued as a fugitive in Saipan for being an illegal immigrant, and finally returns to Korea for another try.

This weekend, Song Yoon-ah, whose image has been more prudish and sharp, is readying to surprise her fans with SBS’s "My Sister." As the writer promised, Song will portray a woman who struggles to make it through her sudden poverty-stricken life with her brothers after their father’s death. Instead of a classic sister, though, her character Yoon Seung-joo will be a self-centered, fickle graduate student who is quick to lose her temper with her brothers yet is sweet to her boyfriend.

Next month, even more heat will be added when actress Goh Hyun-jeong joins the race with her Munhwa Broadcasting Company’s "Yeowooya." Determined to break her own stereotype, she has reportedly cut her hair off and tossing around dirty jokes to play Goh Byeong-heui, a 33-year-old writer who works at an adult magazine.

The veteran actresses’ willingness to abandon beautiful looks and classy characters will undoubtedly delight television viewers but for some up and coming ones, there have been skeptical voices saying that the efforts were also partly an attempt to mask poor acting.

Sexy icon Lee Hyo-ri failed to boost her first drama "Three Leaf Clover" (SBS) last year although she valiantly chose to discard her smoky makeup and sexy clothes and played a high-school dropout working in a factory. Eugene, formerly one of the girl band S.E.S, has won mixed reviews with her dialect in her chef’s role on MBC’s "Love Truly."

Another singer-turned-actress Yoon Eun-hye, following her debut in "Princess Hours" (MBC) earlier this month, had to go through another controversy for her role in the KBS drama "The Vineyard Man." She portrays a city girl who goes through a series of unfortunate circumstances while in the countryside, only to later fall in love with a man during it all.

Although it is too early to tell, as only four episodes have been aired, the drama is slowly gaining fans and scored a double-digit viewing rate this week, despite the fact that it is in the same time slot with the hit MBC drama "Prince of the Legend."


By Hwang You-mee