(Yonhap Interview) Actress Kim Seo-hyung's villain roles peak in 'Sky Castle'
SEOUL, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- The supporting role of a shameless villain in an adulterous relationship that Kim Seo-hyung played in SBS' 2009 hit drama series "Temptation of Wife" brought her out of more than 10 years of obscurity.
Since then, many more villain roles have come her way, including her cameo role in the 2018 drama series by MBC "Come and Hug Me," fixing her image on the small screen as a cold-blooded, merciless woman.
Her latest role in "Sky Castle," a black comedy and thriller by the cable channel JTBC whose final episode is set to air on Friday, has brought her villainous career to the next level.
Kim plays Kim Joo-young, a miserable professional coordinator for college admissions who manipulates and eventually destroys rich, high-class parents in a deal with the devil to get their children admitted to the country's top medical school. Sky Castle is the name of the luxurious residential compound where Kim's clients live.
"At first, I thought I cannot do this, so I wanted to quit and run away," the 46-year-old actress said in a media interview on Tuesday, referring to the imposing challenge the latest role posed to her.
"I really did not want to create another Shin Ae-ri," Kim said, recalling her career-making role in the 2009 drama series. "I hate repeating (what I have done already). I really hate what was seen already being seen again."
"The Shin Ae-ri character in 'Temptation of Wife' made me what I am now, but at the same time, it also traumatized me," Kim said.
"The habits of Kim Seo-hyung as an actress, such as characters and voice, constantly seeped into Kim Joo-young, so I felt I could not do it. It was the first time I wanted to run away (in the middle of a series)," she said.
Eventually, she made it to the end of the 20 episodes, immaculately and chillingly personifying the character who, having destroyed her own genius child with her desire for academic excellence, seeks revenge to bring down parents like her.
The drama series laid bare the cruelty and inhumanity of the country's blind competition to go to prestigious universities, resonating widely with the audience.
It also made TV drama series history, garnering a record-high viewer rating of 22.3 percent for a drama series aired by cable channels, according to Nielsen Korea.
The previous record was held by "Guardian: The Lonely and Great God," a fantasy romance by tvN that aired from 2016-2017 and had a viewer rating of 20.5 percent at its peak.
"Sky Castle" was so famous, even from its first episode, that the script of one of the episodes was leaked ahead of its broadcasting, leading the production team to file for a police investigation into the public leak.
With the sensational success of the JTBC program, every actor and actress in the show stormed into the public consciousness, led by Kim, whose steely facial expressions, fashion style and speech created a flurry of parodies on the small screen and on the Internet.
"I never, ever dreamed that I would have another heyday after 10 years," she said, attributing the success to her previous villain roles.
"The villain characters I played, including Shin Ae-ri, were, in fact, not steel-willed roles but rather pathetic characters," she said. "I cried a lot while playing the role of Kim Joo-young, (because) it made me wonder, 'Why do I have to always play poor roles that make me lonely?'"
Kim also recalled the painstaking behind-the-scene efforts she made to bring to life her "Sky Castle" character.
"Every week, I had scenes for two or three episodes, and it took me nearly four hours to try on costumes for the episodes," Kim said.
The style of her hair, all tightly pulled back in a bun, was a major source of pain throughout all the episodes. "The frustration and rage from the headaches in the initial part of the series were beyond verbal expression," she said, adding that the pain caused her to regret her part at some points.
The massive pressure also put her on an emotional edge all throughout the shooting, barring any solid communication with actor Lee Hyun-jin, who played the role of a faithful assistant.
"The two lonely characters managed to pull through the show very well," she said with tearful eyes. "We could take our first smiling photo together only when the shooting reached the final 19th and 20th episodes."
[INTERVIEW] Kim Seo-hyung steals show
By Park Jin-haiNeatly combed-back haired and dressed in all-black, when actress Kim Seo-hyung appears in the popular JTBC drama "SKY Castle," she steals the show with her domineering charisma and eerie, mysterious aura. The 45-year-old veteran actress plays cold-hearted personal counselor Kim Ju-young in the drama, who is hired by super-rich parents, who want to give their children easy tickets to the most coveted university to pass on their wealth and social status. "Hearing just that the drama revolves around mothers obsessed with their children's education, I was worried that it could end up being the same old soap opera with helicopter moms. But the first two episodes changed all that," the actress said during an interview with The Korea Times at a cafe in southern Seoul, Tuesday. "Each episode felt like a film with great cinematography and great directing. So to some extent, I forecast that it would garner good rankings. I thought it might rise to around 10 percent. But I didn't know it would be this successful."With just one episode left to go, the 20-part black comedy mocking Korea's insane education fervor has been enjoying an explosive response from viewers. The drama kicked off with 1.7 percent viewership for its first episode aired Nov. 23, but its latest episode aired Sunday surged to a cable networks' record of 23.2 percent, surpassing the previous record of "Guardian: The Lonely and Great God" with 20.5 percent.Kim is best known for her previous role as a mean woman who lures best her friend's husband in the daily drama "Temptation of Wife" (2008-2009). In this show, the villain is a woman with personal pain, responsible for ruining her prodigy daughter with her own hands. Her personal tragedy and a sense of inferiority make her use all means available to destroy the perfect-looking families so that they suffer the same pain as she does. "Although the scenes that I appear in were relatively shorter than other actresses, in many I had to play this important role of triggering some incident in the beginning of each episode, and developing it into the one that has potential to shred the entire family in the end," said Kim. The actress who says her acting has been "over-estimated," added it was a challenge to control her expression. "Compared with Shin Ae-ri of Temptation of Wife, who ostensibly let out her emotions; for this Ju-young character, I had to hold her pain and sufferings inside. Yet I had to retain the tension and charisma she has. So I kept on asking myself if I was playing my character right."As the drama has been immensely popular, many fans have played a guessing game on who did what and posted their scenarios. Part of drama's script has been also leaked online as well. "The strength of our drama lies in a story that goes beyond imagination. It was fun to read all those fans' guessing scenarios, some of them did really make sense and were convincing, following all those small cues on the screen. But when I receive the script, it has another surprise after another," Kim said. The actress said all the other small details made it a great drama. "As for the selection of hair styling and clothes, they were the outcomes of careful discussions among me, my staff and director to better express the scenes and character's emotional state," she said, telling a dress fitting process sometimes lasted four to five hours. "In wearing all black, I chose a high-neck collar blouse to show her firmness, while I intentionally chose black leather in blackmailing Seo-jin, the mother of her student."As for her charismatic roles in dramas, she said she was thankful for that, because they all made her the actress she is today. "I've bagged many similar strong female characters, but I try hard to express my characters differently," she said. "Creating a new character is a painstaking process that requires a lot of energy. So while I'm not acting, I try to empty myself and be easy with myself, so that I can play another strong female character in my next project."