ENTERTAINMENT

Ha Ji-won back in ‘The Empress Ki’

By Korea Herald

‘Secret Garden’ actress returns with historical romance

  • Published : Oct 24, 2013 - 19:00
  • Updated : Oct 24, 2013 - 19:00
Stars Ha Ji-won (left) and Joo Jin-mo star in MBC’s “The Empress Ki.” (MBC)
Actress Ha Ji-won is famed for portraying strong, independent heroines that run the gauntlet from modern-day boxer to national ping pong athlete to Joseon-period detective. Her latest role is no exception.

After winning audiences over as an ass-kicking stuntwoman in the hit TV series “Secret Garden,” Ha is returning as a history-making, ruler-to-be in MBC’s “The Empress Ki.”

“I really like historical romances,” Ha, 35, said at the drama’s press conference in Seoul on Thursday. “When I starred in my first period piece, ‘Damo,’ we filmed in very beautiful spots throughout Korea and I was able to enjoy the pleasure of being on set and gazing at the stars at night.”

This time around, Ha tackles a fiction-meets-fact rendering of the life of Oljei Khutugh (1315-1370), a Goryeo Kingdom native who rose from her fate as a concubine of the Yuan, or Mongol, Dynasty to the throne.

Of her latest role, Ha said, “I was utterly taken by such an active character.”

Indeed, the rags-to-riches tale serves as a compelling foundation for the upcoming series, which promises to showcase plenty of high-flying action from Ha’s heroine.

At the press event, co-scriptwriter Jung Kyung-soon revealed that while the inspiration for the drama came from Empress Qi, creative liberties were taken with the heroine, whose name, Gi Seung-nyang, is also fictional.

“Gabi” actor Joo Jin-mo, who is returning to Korean dramas after a nearly four-year hiatus, will be starring opposite Ha as fictional hero Wang Yoo.

During the early stages of development, Joo was initially slated to play a historical Goryeo king, but controversy over fictional liberties being taken with the historical figure resulted in the decision to nix the initial hero for a fictional Goryeo king instead.

Joo, who played a Goryeo king in the film “A Frozen Flower,” revealed, “I am working hard to bring my character to life as scripted.

“This time, my hero initially mistakes Ha’s heroine for a boy and then discovers she is a woman,” Joo, 39, said of his latest turn as yet another Goryeo monarch.

“He falls deeply and happily in love with her,” said Joo, hinting at plenty of romance to come between his hero and Ha’s heroine in the new drama.

“The Empress Ki” starts airing Oct. 28 on Mondays and Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on MBC.

By Jean Oh (oh_jean@heraldcorp.com)