IU’s star continues to rise

By Korea Herald

Singer-actress cements leading lady status with new TV drama

  • Published : Nov 19, 2013 - 19:21
  • Updated : Nov 19, 2013 - 20:50

The cast of KBS’ “Bel Ami” (from left to right) ― Jang Keun-suk, IU and Lee Jang-woo ― attend the drama’s press conference at the Imperial Palace Hotel in Gangnam, Seoul, Monday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Singer IU is returning to the small screen hot on the heels of the release of her chart-topping third full length album, “Modern Times.”

As she sets to crown her new album’s launch with a concert this week, IU is also taking the next step to leaving her days as a supporting actress behind with a lead in KBS’ “Bel Ami.”

In two years, IU has managed to leap from her endearing first supporting role as a dorky singing ingenue in KBS’ “Dream High” to leading lady status, first as the plucky heroine in the weekend drama “You Are the Best!” and now as the self-described “quirky” and “playful” Bo-tong in the upcoming “Bel Ami.”

Some might question her decision to tackle a second heroine while still supporting her album. IU, however, said, “I felt I could do both.”

“I was into the second week of activities for my new album when I received the synopsis, and it was great fun to read,” the 20-year-old singer-actress explained as to why she could not turn down the opportunity despite its overlap with her singing schedule.

IU’s latest role, which she describes as a mash-up of her “Dream High” character and her “You’re the Best!” heroine, is a left-of-center, near-geek girl who pines for a handsome ladies’ man-in-the-making, played by hallyu star Jang Keun-suk.

In the drama ― which is based on a comic book series ― Jang’s hero, Dokgo Mate, makes his way up the social ladder with the aid of 10 well-heeled women who are enamored with his striking good looks and charm.

One can only guess that as he dates a string of wealthy socialites, Dokgo will eventually see the true swan in Bo-tong’s ugly duckling.

Jang, himself, already sees the real thespian in IU.

“She is like a veteran actress who has been honing her craft for years,” Jang, 26, said of working with her at the drama’s press conference on Monday.

Since IU made her debut in 2008, she has proven herself well-steeled for all the fame and success that has come her way, displaying an even-keeled ability to intercept most any question with earnest, sometimes unexpected, answers.

At the press event, IU answered questions regarding what kind of men she finds charming with ease, saying, “A man of many talents, and I do not mean someone who can carve out a lucrative career for himself, per se.”

After a pause, she added, out of left field, “Like a guy who is exceptionally gifted at playing a short bamboo flute?”

Amidst all the fun and laughter, IU shed some light on how she has kept it together throughout her rise to stardom.

“After debuting I think it was smart to use a stage name,” said IU. “I can separate my personal from my public life.”

The starlet, who turned 20 this year, elaborated that as IU, she has grown wiser and increasingly thoughtful about her work life. Conversely, as Lee Ji-eun, IU said she has been able to increasingly simplify her private life, dwell less on matters and stay true to her emotions and her personal relationships.

“I think that is good,” she said.

“Bel Ami” starts airing Nov. 20 Wednesday and Thursday nights on KBS 2 TV at 10 p.m.

By Jean Oh (oh_jean@heraldcorp.com)