Actress Jun Ji-hyun (left) and co-star Kim Soo-hyun pose at the press conference marking the launch of TV drama, “My Love from the Star” at SBS headquarters in Seoul on Monday. (SBS)
With her long, lean legs, velvety hair, and sassy image, Jun Ji-hyun ― known as Gianna Jun in the U.S. and China ― has remained at the top of Korea’s entertainment scene for more than a decade.
Ever since playing the protagonist in the smash-hit movie “My Sassy Girl” in 2001, Jun has been one of few actresses who can boast longevity through a handful of films and heaps of TV commercials. For a long time, she topped the surveys of men’s favorite actresses and, moreover, represented a new generation of Korean femininity ― pretty, outspoken and confident.
On Wednesday the 32-year-old actress makes a return to the small screen after 14 years away.
In “My Love from the Star” scheduled to air at 10 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays on SBS, Jun portrays Cheon Song-ee, a top actress who doesn’t really know life outside of showbiz. After a string of scandals break out that drag her down to the status of a nobody, she falls in love with an “alien” ― played by Kim Soo-hyun ― who has lived in Korea for more than 400 years.
Alongside Jun and Kim, a number of up-and-coming actors are co-starring in the drama, including Park Hae-jin as an avid admirer of Song-ee; Yoo In-na as Song-ee’s friend and nemesis; and Shin Sung-rok as a cold-blooded businessman.
Unlike her last TV drama appearance on “Happy Together,” where she was the youngest of the bunch and relied on household-name actors such as Song Seung-hun and Lee Byung-hun, this time, Jun is the eldest of the leading actors. Kim, Yoo and Park all expressed their excitement in working with Jun, their senior.
At the press conference Monday marking the launch of the drama, Jun showed off her maturity, and that she had more than a pretty face and a pin-up figure. After hitting recent box office home runs with “Berlin File” and “The Thieves,” she looked more laid back and confident than ever.
“Aging definitely brought me to where I am. As I entered my 30s I began to think about what other people do ― get married, think about my career in a long term … those are what I have done, too,” said Jun, who married a banker last year.
“I have come to acknowledge that I am a grown-up and that I need to go slow at this point and speed up at that. Thanks to the films’ success, I have the opportunity to focus on what I have chosen,” she said.
Jun’s character of Song-ee ― the “star of Asia” ― is bold, blunt, and sometimes overly confident in situations that could easily make her look dumb. She drinks like a fish, swears like a sailor and does whatever she wants, including drunkenly pounding on other people’s doors in the middle of the night.
This reminds viewers a lot of Jun’s character in “My Sassy Girl.”
Jun would have refuted such claims in the past, but now she seems unperturbed.
“Well, all the characters I have played come out from me and it is natural that they reflect pieces of me. I am not the kind of person who has multiple personas. It is natural that you may think that they look alike in a way,” Jun said.
“But with the lines (written by star writer Park Ji-eun of ‘My Husband Got a Family’) and the environment (directed by Jang Tae-yoo of ‘Deep Rooted Tree’ and ‘Painter of the Wind’), I am sure I will be playing Cheon Song-ee effectively,” she said.
Jun shared the spotlight with actor Kim, who rose to stardom after appearing on the MBC TV drama, “Moon Embracing the Sun” last year as a handsome and romantic king. Kim played Jun’s sort-of love interest in the movie “The Thieves.”
“I have to admit that one of the main attractions of the drama was working with Jun,” Kim said. “On set, she really sets the atmosphere and she knows what to do. It really helps.”
“Jun was the first person on the list for the Cheon character. But we all thought, ‘Hey, would Jun really take it?’ When she did, we couldn’t believe it. It was a true dream come true,” director Jang said. “It will be the best rom-com ever!”
By Bae Ji-sook (firstname.lastname@example.org)