Car chases, shoot-outs and bed scenes. KBS TV series “Iris” has been grabbing viewers’ attention from the start with its daring sideshows. The all-star cast, including Lee Byung-hun, Kim Tae-hee, Jung Joon-ho and Kim Seung-woo, boasts an enormous scale that one would have thought impossible to put together. But in between the glamorous moments of the drama, actress Kim So-yeon catches our eyes with a clean-cut look and clear character. Playing the role of North Korean agent Kim Sun-wha, she cut her trademark long hair and worked hard to shoot all the action scenes while suffering injuries. But she focuses more on the inner depth than the outward appearance of her character. She said she is happy and excited about “the things I’ll be showing you in the future”. <10Asia> met with Kim So-yeon, who has long dreamed to play the sad and beautiful female warrior that has never before been portrayed in a Korean drama.
10: You have been in shooting for quite a while now. Is the atmosphere on set pretty loose?
Kim So-yeon (Kim): I was cast in February and started shooting in March. We shot exactly half of the drama right before it aired. (laugh) It’s a drama that relies heavily on action scenes rather than the story, so there’s still a lot of stuff that I need to do. Many dramas wrap up with a weak ending, but the directors on “Iris” are determined to do everything til the end so it’s a little exhausting.
10: You have two directors. Most people would think director Kim Kyu-tae would be responsible for mise-en-scene, while director Yang Yoon-ho would be in charge of the drama’s big scale. (laugh)
Kim: In general, that’s true but they are both very meticulous about mise-en-scene. (laugh) The two sets of the crew have been named “Team K” and “Team Y” after the directors’ last names. Both teams have their own color. “Team K” has a warm charisma and is always filled with quiet laughter. When you shoot in that kind of atmosphere, you feel like you’re soaking into that as well. As for “Team Y”, director Yang is such a cool man. He has a loud voice, gives clear directions and makes his actors feel really comfortable. The atmosphere is very lively and you feel like you’ve accomplished something when you finish shooting.
10: You have been shooting for a while, so the actors must have pretty good chemistry with one another.
Kim: The guys are all so funny that we became close very quickly. Jung Joon-ho is really funny, but he himself never laughs. (laugh) Kim Seung-woo is a really good person. It was very touching when he told me and Tae-hee, “We are going to make you feel moved at least once, and after you finish shooting, you are going to think that you did good at least once." Lee Byung-hun is an awesome actor and I found out he has a very fun personality. Tae-hee has the image of a prim and proper girl, but she’s very hard-working and nice.
Kim: I started shooting in Japan. Tae-hee and I had a huge action scene together at the end of the Japan shoot, so we practiced every night in the meeting room. Lee Byung-hun had to do car action and jump off a dam, so it was pretty tough for him. The shoot finished after a month and on the last day, it felt almost like a wrap-up party. (laugh) But after that, we had just as much to do in Korea, then in Hungary, and we had to do more shoots on location in China. The tough work never ended.
10: You did a lot of shooting abroad. Did you have any lines in the local language?
Kim: Tae-hee had some lines in Japanese, and I had a scene in the first episode where I had to speak Hungarian. It’s a completely different language than English and it was totally unfamiliar, so I could never get it right no matter how I hard I tried to imitate it. I went through so much pain for just one sentence that I don’t think I will ever forget that line. It was an important scene, so I was very stressed out about it and messed up a lot of takes. I ended up crying after we finished shooting. That rarely happens for me.
10: I heard you had a lot of problems with the props as well.
Kim: There was a scene where I had to hold a long rifle to kill Hyun-joon (played by Lee Byung-hun) and it weighed about eight kilograms. We couldn’t get one in Korea so I practiced for the scene with a plastic gun. But on set, I got the real rifle sent from Germany. It was heavy, but it was turquoise and very pretty. (laugh) They wouldn’t even let you touch the gun freely unless you were the person in charge, so there was a lot of tension, the gun was so heavy and the scene was a long one. I ended up becoming a zombie. I always put all my strength into the first take, but I was so disappointed and frustrated that I kept getting the lines wrong, even though I had rehearsed them a thousand times.
10: How were the other action scenes? I heard there were some injuries -- weren’t you scared to shoot after you got hurt?
Kim: Everybody had a hard time because the action scenes were so intense. Lee Byung-hun had a poultice all over his body, but I was the only one who got in the headlines because many of my injuries were very visible. (laugh) When you’re shooting a scene where you have to punch or kick someone, it’s hard to control yourself when you’re too focused. And it gets even harder when you’re trying to do it right on the first take. (laugh) I think I can control about 30 percent of my strength. And it looks better on screen too. I’m still learning how to do action scenes.
10: You must have undergone a decent amount of training before going into shoot.
Kim: I usually don’t exercise, so it was hard trying to get used to the massive workouts. I also had to gain a lot of fat in the beginning and do physical strength training. I learned taekwondo and kung-fu too. I would get home and fall asleep without even taking off my makeup because I was so tired. It was exhausting but fun. I wanted the part so badly and that desire overtook the pain.
Reporter : Yoon Hee-Seong email@example.com
Photographer : Chae ki-won firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor : Lee Ji-Hye email@example.com
Editor : Lynn Kim firstname.lastname@example.org
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