ENTERTAINMENT

Star producer reunites old crew for 'New Journey to the West'

By 원호정

Familiar faces hope to provide easy laughs in new Internet format

  • Published : Sept 1, 2015 - 17:47
  • Updated : Sept 2, 2015 - 19:53
The star producer behind hits like “Grandpas Over Flowers” and “Three Meals a Day” is bringing together old friends for a new travel-themed variety show.

That familiar chemistry was what producer Na Young-suk and cast members Kang Ho-dong, Lee Seung-gi, Eun Ji-won and Lee Soo-geun -- who previously appeared together on another travel variety show called “1 Night, 2 Days” -- emphasized at a press conference at the 63 Convention Center ahead of the premiere of “New Journey to the West.”

“It was the first time in five years that I got to take a trip with (this cast),” said Lee Seung-gi. “I was worried at first that we wouldn’t have the old chemistry, but that was a useless concern. It felt comfortable the moment we took off.”

Na said the show originally began with the idea of the old friends taking a road trip together. “(Lee) Seung-gi and I had been talking about going on a trip together with the old crew, and I thought that it would be too much fun to keep to ourselves,” he said.

Inspired by an ancient Chinese classic novel called “Journey to the West,” Na’s new tvN show “New Journey to the West” promises comedy, adventure, and drama as the cast travel through Xi‘an, China, over five days.

(From left) Producer Na Young-suk, Kang Ho-dong, Lee Soo-geun, Lee Seung-gi, Eun Ji-won, and writer Choi Jae-young pose for the media at the 63 Convention Center on Tuesday. (CJ E&M)

“I traveled all over the world while shooting the ‘Over Flowers’ series, and I always thought that I wanted to create something specifically tailored to China,” Na explained when asked about his choice of location. “Every district has its own color, and the country’s history is closely tied to Korea’s. I thought it would be a waste to just do a one-off project there.”

The four members have been assigned to various characters from the original novel as they play Na’s signature games on the trip. Kang Ho-dong plays Pig Guy (Zhu Bajie), Lee Soo-geun plays the Monkey King (Sun Wukong), Eun Ji-won plays Monk Sha (Sha Wujing) while Lee Seung-gi plays the Master (Xuanzang).

“New Journey to the West” is the first project from tvN’s digital content brand “tvN go” for the latter half of 2015, and will stream online instead of airing on TV. According to the cast, that the Internet format allowed them to be more open in the things they said, not least of which was the freedom to talk about specific brand names, which is restricted on traditional airwaves.

“When you’re on a regular set, just seeing all the brand names on products covered and hidden makes you feel like you’re at work,” said Eun. “But on this trip, everything was open, and it just felt like we were there to have fun.”

In addition to more freedom in the cast’s words and actions, the Internet format gave producer Na a chance to try out a new method of distribution.

“Every time we release clips from the show, we will be releasing roughly five clips up to 10 minutes each,” he said. According to Na, each clip will be a wholly contained segment, allowing viewers to enjoy the show according to their leisure. “Someone who has a lot of time can watch all five clips at once. For others, they can look at the titles of the clips and choose what they’d like to see.”

Despite these differences, Na said, the production team’s core concern was on content, and not on underlining the changes that come with doing an online broadcast.

“We didn’t want to get boxed in by the thought that we were doing something of a new genre,” he said.

“Format and platform are important in content, but in the end it’s about whether it’s worth watching. That’s all we thought about while creating the show.”

“New Journey to the West” premieres on the online streaming platform Naver TV Cast on Sept. 4 at 10 a.m. with five clips. The show also has an exclusive contract with Tencent to air the show on its video site QQ.

By Won Ho-jung (hjwon@heraldcorp.com)