While feeling relieved to meet the expectations of long-awaiting drama fans, hit filmmaker Kang Yun-sung, who made his drama debut with Disney+’s crime thriller “Big Bet,” said what the viewers saw on screen was a little different from story that was toyed with at the production stage.
“A screenwriter cannot create the whole story by himself. If the creator wishes to present a realistic character, the actor’s personality, tone and interpretation must be considered. I personally believe actors' opinions are right most of the time. It was same for ‘Big Bet’ as well,” Kang said during an interview with reporters at a cafe in Samcheong-dong, central Seoul, Monday.
The director, who made a name for himself with the crime flicks “The Outlaws” (2017) and “The Roundup” (2022) -- both reaching the coveted 10 million-admission mark -- and crime action movie “Long Live the King” (2019), initially planned several dynamic action scenes.
“After discussing many scenes with veteran actor Choi Min-sik, I agreed that many of the scenes should focus on the emotional exchanges and interaction between the characters rather than physical clashes,” Kang told The Korea Herald. “In many cases, we are expressing our emotions with words, eyes and faces. We are not beating someone up every time.”
He said that he felt embarrassed to admit that he had planned to present something flashy for the audience, while wanting to make the story as realistic as possible.
The characteristics of the two lead characters -- Korean detective Oh Seung-hoon (played by Son Suk-ku) and junket room agent Jung-pal (played by Lee Dong-hwi) -- were changed after the actors rehearsed a few scenes.
While Kang imagined a rational, tough-looking detective, he was convinced by Son’s interpretation of Seung-hoon and felt that his performance would be more effective in leading the whole storyline. Kang had Son, who studied abroad, write his own English lines, adding his accent and style to the translated script.
“Jung-pal was a serious, dark character as well. But after watching Dong-hwi’s performance, I felt that Jung-pal was the only one capable of friendly interaction with casino mogul Cha Moo-sik (played by Choi) in style,” Kang added.
The director, who was once a binge-watcher, felt that completing the 16-part episode with two seasons was a satisfactory decision.
“Releasing all episode may be a good way to make an impact. But separating the series into two parts seemed to raise the possibility of the series being a talked-about project for a longer time. Viewers nowadays have too many contents to watch, so a two-to-three-week break seemed appropriate,” Kang said.
When asked about concerns over presenting the Philippines as a lawless country -- Kang’s “Roundup” was banned in Vietnam for being too violent -- the director said he was not too worried.
“The series has no intention to disrespect a foreign country or make cultural appropriation. ‘Big Bet’ only presents one aspect of how Koreans and Filipinos live in the Philippines,” he said.
The 51-year-old filmmaker said the upcoming season of "Big Bet" presents the much-anticipated clash between the characters and reveals the truth behind the mysterious murder cases.
“I do have plans and ideas if ‘Big Bet’ were to expand with more stories. But such an opportunity will come when the series does well, right? I hope the fans will continue to love and support the series for a possible season 3," Kang said with a big smile.
The first three episodes of “Big Bet” season 2 will be released Feb. 15. The first eight-part series is available on Disney+.