Most followers of Korean pop culture will remember the megahit TV series "Descendants of the Sun," which created a sensation at home and abroad.
The writer and director of that drama have teamed up again to create a fantasy rom-com based on the lives of an immortal goblin, an amnesiac grim reaper and a high school girl claiming to be the goblin's future bride.
In its lead roles, "Goblin" has cast actors Gong Yoo, Lee Dong-wook, Kim Go-eun, Yoo In-na and Yook Sung-jae, a member of the boy band BTOB.
"It's my second time working with (Kim) Eun-sook. I was fooled," Lee Eung-bok, the director, said jokingly during a promotional press conference held in southern Seoul, turning to the screenwriter seated next to him. "We had such a hard time during the filming of 'Descendants of the Sun' that this time I wanted to do a comfortable piece in a limited area of space but it turned out to have immense scale."
As the drama goes back and forth in time, the goblin, Kim Shin (Gong), appears at first as a military officer dressed in period armor and then as a modern day man with his true identity in disguise. He was cast as a traitor some 900 years ago and put under a spell of eternal life. The only way to break the spell is to meet a "goblin bride" who will pull the dagger out of his heart and end his life. When he meets the high school senior, Ji Eun-tak (Kim
Go-eun), the two develop a friendship that later grows into love.
The cast and producers traveled to Quebec, Canada to shoot part of the series and used various computer graphics for special effects.
"It was amazing," the writer said of the teaser that was screened at the conference. "The battle scenes were portrayed much more majestically than I expected, so I got goosebumps."
Kim has been a hit maker for years. Aside from "Descendants," her portfolio also includes such popular dramas as "Lovers in Paris," "Secret Garden," "A Gentleman's Dignity" and "The Heirs."
Still, it took her five years to cast Gong in one of her dramas.
"I was repeatedly rejected (by Gong) so I was a bit shy to ask him again, but this time he gave a very quick response," she recalled. "He gave me a wonderful response that stunned me."
In a text message from Hawaii, the 37-year-old actor wrote at the time, "Should you be alright with such a timid and fainthearted goblin as me, I will do it."
Gong, who has mostly recently starred in films, explained that he had a fear of TV series, but was encouraged after a three-hourmeeting with the writer and director.
"In a drama, filming is ongoing, so the actors can't promise to be in best shape until the end," he said. "I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to show my best acting."
He confessed that at first he found it hard to play the part of a non-human, but later grew to enjoy it.
"Since I'm not a human, I can do whatever I want. I'm neither here nor there," he said. "My abilities will be revealed bit by bit with each episode. It will be fun to watch."
Meanwhile, the writer shared her discomfort about holding a promotional press conference at a time when the country has been roiled by a widening corruption scandal involving the president and her confidante.
"I want (our drama) to be a short break," she said. "It's a drama that lets those who want to cry, cry their eyes out, and those who want to laugh, laugh as much as they want. I hope you enjoy it."
"Goblin" will premiere on cable channel tvN at 8 p.m. on Dec. 2. The Friday-Saturday series is set to run for 16 episodes.