The Korea Herald


Managing expectations

Kim Myung-min, star of new MBC drama ‘A New Leaf,’ talks about new role, craft of acting and pressure for success

By Korea Herald

Published : April 30, 2014 - 20:23

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Kim Myung-min knows how to act. He has managed to captivate viewers on screens big and small, perfectly morphing into whichever characters he was given.

The star of two MBC dramas, “Great White Tower” (2007) and “Beethoven Virus” (2008), is now tackling the role of a cold-hearted hotshot lawyer who, after suffering from amnesia, turns into an opponent of social ills in a new MBC drama that went on air Wednesday.

In “A New Leaf,” he plays Kim Suk-joo, a high-flying attorney at a major law firm who loses his memory in a tragic accident. While trying to recover his memory and identity, the man who in the past did not mind playing foul to succeed gets the chance to look at life, people and society from a completely different point of view. 
Kim Myung-min (left) and Park Min-young, stars of MBC’s new drama “A New Leaf,” pose for photos during a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald) Kim Myung-min (left) and Park Min-young, stars of MBC’s new drama “A New Leaf,” pose for photos during a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)

The 18-episode courtroom drama, helmed by Park Jae-bum of “Scandal: A Shocking and Wrongful Incident” (2013) and “Miss You” (2012), is his first small-screen project since SBS’ “The King of Dramas” (2012).

Kim was particularly drawn to the character of Kim Suk-joo, because he undergoes a dramatic turn in life.

“It’s (about) a single character, but it changes dramatically after (Kim’s) amnesia,” the 41-year-old actor said at a press conference on the new series in Seoul on Tuesday.

“Every time I encounter a demanding role that has a lot to be explained and expressed, I get anxious about whether I will be able to pull it off, but at the same time, I feel an urge from inside to challenge myself.

“For me, Kim Suk-joo was such a character.”

To make the character more believable and captivating, the actor has done a lot of research by watching famous Western courtroom dramas, meeting real lawyers and sitting through actual trials.

“There is a gap between real courtrooms and staged courtrooms. I try to narrow the gap, while not hurting the dramatic sense,” he said.

Legal terms and jargon are a technical challenge.

“Because I’m playing a lawyer, I get a lot of lines and I have to speak them fast so as not to bore viewers. There’s no easy way to do that. I just practice, practice and practice until I get them right,” he said.

As with every drama, the first two episodes are the most difficult ones, he explained, because viewers tend to think the new character he is playing is not very different from his previous ones.

“I hate to hear people say, ‘Oh. It’s the same character again.’

“If people watch a little more with patience, then there will come a point where they realize the difference,” he added.

Kim first rose to fame as the charismatic lead character in the period drama “The Immortal Admiral Yi Sun-shin” (2004-05). The highlight of his acting career was in 2007 and 2008 when he played a snobbish, ambitious surgeon in “Great White Tower” and a feisty orchestra conductor in “Beethoven Virus.”

Since the phenomenal success of “Beethoven Virus,” Kim shifted his focus to the big screen, appearing in a wide range of genres, from the tearjerker “Closer to Heaven (2008),” period action comedy “Detective K: Secret of Virtuous Widow” (2010) and sports film “Pacemaker” (2011) to the sci-fi horror thriller “Deranged” (2012).

Some were successful and others not, but none came anywhere close to the popularity of the two MBC dramas.

After “Deranged” in 2012, Kim staged a TV comeback with SBS’ “The King of Dramas,” but failed to reel in high viewer ratings. He has not been on big or small screen since, except in some commercials.

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel any pressure,” Kim said.

“At one point, the pressure really got to me and I found myself increasingly worried about failing to live up to the expectations. It made me become passive and introverted,” he went on.

“It will do more harm than good if I think too much about the expectations. So I will just put my utmost effort into this role and this series, not paying much attention to viewer ratings.”

“A New Leaf” fills MBC’s Wednesday-Thursday 10 p.m. time slot and competes with SBS’ “You’re All Surrounded,” starring heartthrob Lee Seung-gi, and will go on the air May 7.

The MBC drama also stars Park Min-young from “Sungkyunkwan Scandal” (2010) as an intern at the law firm working directly under Kim Suk-joo. Chae Jung-ahn is his fiance from a wealthy family, while Kim Sang-joong is the cold-blooded CEO of the law firm.

By Lee Sun-young (