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[Herald Interview] Lee You-mi embraces hate for her character in ‘All of Us Are Dead’

Lee You-mi (Varo Entertainment)
Lee You-mi (Varo Entertainment)

Actor Lee You-mi, 27, returned to the small screen as self-centered high school student Na-yeon in “All of Us Are Dead,” after rising to global stardom with Netflix’s megahit “Squid Game.”

Playing a character that is nearly the opposite of her role in “Squid Game,” Lee was surprised to receive barbed comments from drama aficionados, but was satisfied with her performance in the latest zombie thriller.

“Unlike how the viewers showed their love and support for me after watching Ji-yeong in ‘Squid Game,’ the drama (‘All of Us Are Dead’) fans revealed their hatred and anger toward Na-yeon with memes, video clips and online posts,” Lee said during an online interview on Monday.

“I think I’ve heard years’ worth of curses and swearing in just the last two weeks,” she quipped.

But the actor said she took the outpouring of hatred as a compliment, because it meant that she was able to shed the previous image of Ji-yeong and that the audience was invested in her new character.

Lee mesmerized “Squid Game” viewers by playing Ji-yeong, a young woman also known as Player 240 in the show. Her sacrifice for her game partner amid the battle to win 45.6 billion won ($38.9 million) in prize money was one of the most moving scenes in the series.
Lee You-mi plays Ji-yeong, a young woman also referred to as Player 240, in “Squid Game.” (Netflix)
Lee You-mi plays Ji-yeong, a young woman also referred to as Player 240, in “Squid Game.” (Netflix)

Meanwhile, Na-yeon is an impatient, selfish and spoiled student who is condescending toward poor people and ends up endangering her classmates for her own survival.

“Though Na-yeon might have triggered many viewers’ anger, I hope the drama fans take into consideration that her actions were motivated by her desire to be loved by the people around her. Na-yeon is not an evil person, but her misbehaviors were driven by her wish to be the center of attention,“ Lee said.

“Though filming Ji-yeong and Na-yeon at the same time -- in the summer of 2020 -- was not an easy task, I think the experience will definitely help me develop as an actor and present more unique characters in the future,” Lee added.

The actor knew after reading the script that Na-yeon would be hated by many for her annoying remarks and behavior. But playing the villain is a coveted goal for many actors and she did not hesitate in taking the role, she said.
Lee You-mi stars as an impatient, selfish high school student in “All of Us Are Dead.” (Netflix)
Lee You-mi stars as an impatient, selfish high school student in “All of Us Are Dead.” (Netflix)

Having debuted as a child actor in “The Yellow Sea” (2010), the actor, with a 12-year career under her belt, said she does not have a specific standard in choosing roles.

“Because of my latest projects -- ‘Young Adult Matters’ (2021), ‘Hostage: Missing Celebrity’ (2021), ‘Squid Game’ and ‘AOURD,’ many people think that I try to find characters with complicated personal stories. But I think I am interested in roles which truly pique my curiosity,” Lee told The Korea Herald.

Being able to imagine and understand characters’ actions in various situations are great privileges for an actor, Lee said. The desire to experience the life of a character who sparks her interest, may be her “standard” in selecting a role, according to Lee.

When asked which character intrigued her the most, Lee answered Su-hyeok, played by Park Solomon in the zombie series, without hesitation.
Lee You-mi (Varo Entertainment)
Lee You-mi (Varo Entertainment)

“Instead of running away from the zombies, I wanted to face them head on. It would be amazing to fight against the undead with my fists and kicks,” the actor said.

The actor made plain her wish to work in various genres and play diverse characters.

“I definitely wish to work in the action genre. Sports-related projects or a martial arts-based character will be very exciting. From a police officer to an ordinary woman falling in love with a man and an emperor’s daughter, there are just so many things that I wish to do,” Lee said.

By Lee Si-jin (sj_lee@heraldcorp.com)
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