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‘Youth Over Flowers’ heads to Namibia

Africa installment of star reality travel series destined to be a hit with A-list cast from “Reply 1988”

Star producer Na Young-seok describes the four young men he whisked away to Namibia for his tvN show “Youth Over Flowers -- Africa” as being “just kids these days.”

In a way, that was what he had intended when he recruited Ryu Jun-yeol, Park Bo-gum, Ahn Jae-hong and Go Kyung-pyo, all castmates on the tvN drama “Reply 1988,” for the third installment of the “Youth Over Flowers” series. Speaking to press at the Imperial Palace Hotel in Seoul on Thursday, Na said he made his decision to take the quartet after watching the first episode of “Reply 1988.”

Producer Na Young-seok speaks to press at the Imperial Palace Hotel in Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap)
Producer Na Young-seok speaks to press at the Imperial Palace Hotel in Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap)

“The day after the show, I called Shin Won-ho (the producer of ‘Reply 1988’) for permission,” he said. Na was attracted to the fact that they were new faces on TV, with an “ordinary” feel. “I didn’t know then how big the show would get,” he confessed.

Thanks to Na’s early casting, the four stars were unwittingly booked for a surprise trip to Africa. They were “kidnapped” by Na’s team while they were enjoying a vacation in Phuket, Thailand, after their drama ended, and shoved on a plane bound for Africa. Like their predecessors on the original “Youth Over Flowers” in Laos and “Youth Over Flowers -- Iceland,” none of the cast members knew that they had even been signed up until they were put on the plane. Obviously, they also had no chance to pack.

“We transferred in South Africa, and the person behind the counter kept asking us where our bags were,” Ahn Jae-hong reminisced. “We made all our meals on the trip in one pot.”

Go Kyung-pyo said that the trip, which had them make their way through Namibia to Victoria Falls, was “much easier than expected.” 

“I just kept saying, ‘Guys, we’re in Africa. This is actually Africa,’” he said. But he said the fact that they were on the popular show “Youth Over Flowers” was more unbelievable than the fact that they were in Africa. 

“I never thought I would be invited to this show. But it became a reality, and I just had all these complex feelings. It took a while for it to all sink in, but once it did the tears started coming.”

Na said that the four stars were refreshingly open and honest throughout filming, and said he was surprised by some of their choices on the show.

“When we gave them an allowance, they would immediately split it up between themselves,” he said. “I was so surprised. Also, my original intent with giving them so little money was to have them rent a cheap car so we could see them suffer a bit. But they went for the most expensive car.”

“At the same time, they knew that it was their choice, so they had no problem with sleeping in the car for a few days instead of getting a hotel room. They were just like any other kids these days -- intent on having nice things, caring about appearances.” 

Cast of
Cast of "Youth Over Flowers -- Africa" pose for press at the Imperial Palace Hotel in Seoul on Thursday. From left: Ahn Jae-hong, Ryu Jun-yeol, Go Kyung-pyo, Park Bo-gum (Yonhap)

The star power of the cast of “Youth Over Flowers -- Africa” should make the show a hit, bringing up ratings for the series after the relatively bland ratings earned by “Youth Over Flowers -- Iceland” in January.

“It was interesting because all of these guys have at least 50 percent of their character from the drama in them,” Na said. “Fans of ‘Reply 1988’ will be able to enjoy matching their characters with the actors’ real-life personalities on the show.”

Na also left open the possibility of doing follow-up installments with the female cast members or the older cast members from “Reply 1988” in the future. “They’re all great ensembles,” he added.

“Youth Over Flowers -- Africa” airs each Friday at 9:45 p.m. on tvN.

By Won Ho-jung (