ENTERTAINMENT

Eric comes back with TV rom-com

By Jean Oh
  • Published : Jul 5, 2011 - 18:12
  • Updated : Jul 5, 2011 - 20:40
Whatever happened to singer-turned-actor Eric (a.k.a. Mun Chong-hyuk)? After the boy band rapper wrapped up a lackluster TV drama in 2008, he dutifully split the celebrity scene to join the military.

Last October, he became a free man, ready to jump back into the fray, but his next move was a long time coming. First he signed on for a titanic ocean blockbuster aptly-titled “Poseidon.”

Delays in production led to him jumping off board what looked like a sinking ship (ironically, “Poseidon” is slated to air on the heels of Eric’s latest project) and on board KBS’ brand new Monday and Tuesday night series, “Spy Myung-wol.”

Goodness knows what he might have been thinking when he signed up for what looks like an uncertain hit-or-miss rom-com.

Perhaps it was the opportunity to partner up with golden girl Han Ye-seul, though the “Couple or Trouble” actress’ image was slightly tarnished by an alleged hit-and-run charge this May (she was cleared of all charges).

What did he have to say? At the drama’s press conference in Seoul on Tuesday, the 32-year-old said he is glad that his comeback drama is lighthearted and that he can enjoy working on it “comfortably.”

A rom-com is a great way for a longstanding heartthrob to return to the celebrity circuit, but when it runs on the premise that a bombshell North Korean spy (Han Ye-seul) is sent on a mission to seduce and marry a major hallyu star (Eric), one has to stop and wonder: Just how willing audiences are to buy into this unrealistic story? 
Singer-turned-actor Eric a.k.a. Mun Chong-hyuk and co-star Han Ye-seul attend a press conference for their upcoming KBS drama, “Spy Myung-wol,” in Yeouido, Seoul on Tuesday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Han revealed that while she personally has a penchant for realistic story-lines, she felt that these days “viewers seem to want to tune into content that is comfortable and fun to watch.” It was that which clenched her decision to tackle her second TV rom-com.

While it has been a while since a femme fatale spy has been featured as a heroine in the fluffy genre, centering a puff-pink romance around a hallyu star hero could quickly become stale.

Cha Seung-won’s raucous portrayal of a hallyu hunk in MBC’s smash hit “The Greatest Love” has left a strong imprint on audiences. With it still fresh in our memories, Eric faces the challenge of topping Cha.

Eric revealed that he, like many others, is a fan of “The Greatest Love” and that he tuned into it all the way to the end. As the airdate for his drama approached, he admitted that he “got nervous about taking on a role that will be compared to Cha’s lead character.”

He also revealed that as a result, he has deliberately changed the slant of his character. Initially, he stated that he had considered developing a specific tone and accent for his role (remember Cha’s own memorable soundbite-worthy lingo?) and was ready to do some serious romantic scuffling with co-star Han’s heroine to amp up the comedic factor.

However, that seems to have all changed, and Eric looks like he will be stepping onto the small screen, sans special accent or tone. “I think this drama is closer to a melodrama than a comedy,” he said.

As for the role itself, it helps that Eric is one-sixth the popular boy band Shinhwa, giving him insight into the workings of hallyu stardom. Eric, however, was hesitant to claim he is well-versed in the Korean Wave lifestyle.

“You could draw similarities between me and this character, but it has been a while since I was a hallyu star,” he said, adding that his memories of that golden time have blurred with time.

Choi Ji-woo’s ex-boyfriend Lee Jin-uk, who completed military service four months ago, will also be starring in the upcoming series.

“Spy Myung-wol” starts airing July 11 on Monday and Tuesday nights on KBS 2 TV at 9:55 p.m.

By Jean Oh (oh_jean@heraldcorp.com)