Both Lee Seung-gi and Bae Sue-ji (a.k.a. Suzy) -- stars of MBC’s upcoming fantasy drama “Kangchi, the Beginning” -- boast a massive following.
Girl group member-and-actress Bae tweets to over 1.6 million followers, while singer-actor Lee is back to the small screen after a successful debut in Japan, where he dropped his first Japanese single and held a solo concert at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan arena.
Now Lee and Bae are ready to tackle their first period piece in what looks like a surefire Monday-Tuesday night viewer ratings victory, especially with “A Gentleman’s Dignity” director Shin Woo-chul and “Bread, Love and Dreams” scriptwriter Kang Eun-kyung also on board.
Then again, actress Kim Tae-hee is starring in SBS’ Monday-Tuesday night contender “Jang Ok-jeong” (working title) as the ill-fated Jang Hui-bin, giving rise to speculation over which of the two historical romances will come out on top when both start this coming Monday.
Despite Kim’s formidable star power, Miss A’s Bae seemed unruffled at the drama’s press conference in Yeouido, Seoul, on Tuesday, tossing out a lighthearted jest: “She is very beautiful, but I am younger.”
The 18-year-old K-pop idol then took a slightly more serious tack with, “I will work extra hard. Passion! That’s what I can bring to the table.”
Bae explained that as this is her third TV drama to date, she “prepared a lot for this role.”
“When I saw the script, I was immediately drawn to this tale of a demigod,” Bae revealed, adding that she was a little sorry she did not get to play the half-spirit, half-human lead herself.
While Bae’s heroine Dahm Yeol-wool may not have a demigoddess background, Bae was able to draw similarities between herself and her character.
“Yeo-wool is far from feminine,” said Bae, who connected to that aspect of her tomboy heroine. “When other kids were playing house, I grew up smashing objects with my hands and feet. You see, my father was head of a taekwondo school.”
Costar Lee praised Bae, saying, “She isn’t busy trying not to get hurt. She is tough and doesn’t complain.”
Indeed, Bae seems well suited for her turn as a Joseon-period martial arts instructor who crosses paths with a demigod, played by none other than singer-actor Lee.
Of his role as hero Choi Kang-chi, Lee said, “Up until now I felt like it was me, Lee Seung-gi, acting. I mean, how should I put it in words? I worked hard then, but now that is a given.”
Explaining that he sees his latest work as an opportunity to take his craft further, the 26-year-old actor said, “Now it hinges on the actor’s ability to interpret a role. I guess you could call this subtext.
“So, at the moment, I am focusing on how I will portray Choi Kang-chi.”
Lee looks like he will have his hands full playing a demigod whose action-packed struggles to become human are central to the series.
Then again, this is a star who has managed to successfully balance his work as an MC, actor and singer over the years, and who, according to news reports, even served as the inspiration for the character of Japanese author Banana Yoshimoto’s upcoming work.
“I am very honored,” Lee said of having a prominent author model a character after him.
Lee added, “Someone told me Yoshimoto was a fan of my work but I didn’t believe it at the time. I also heard that she watched my television dramas when she needed to rest and heal.”
“Kangchi, the Beginning” starts airing April 8 on Monday and Tuesday nights at 9:55 p.m. on MBC.
By Jean Oh (email@example.com