Or is it the character they portray that you like?
I think we probably all have a long list of our favorite Kdrama actors, especially when we have such a large selection to choose from, but have you ever stopped to think who are your favorite characters. The characters who you wait to see appear, the ones who add humor at just the right time, or those who are just perfect, or who were created be your soulmate.
Once I began to think about it, I realized how often it is those characters who make or break a drama. If there’s no best friend, second lead, comedy relief, or villain there often isn’t really much of a story. A pure love story with no conflict, misunderstood actions, or competitors in the game of love would be somewhat short and boring. And if these surrounding characters are well written, and are acted out well by the actors, then we have characters that take on a life of their own, and draw us into the story being told.
The actor Lee Hong Ki played a band member of the idol group A.N.JELL named Jeremy in the drama You’re Beautiful. Although a central character he was not the first or second lead, but in many ways he made the most impact when on screen. I think we all loved Jeremy, he was innocent and sweet, kind and a little bit gormless. He wanted and needed someone to love, and someone who could love him back. He had dreams of romantic love and didn’t know how to react when he began to have feelings for the new band member, a girl playing the part of her brother. He was confused and scared, but eventually he accepted that love is love. Along the way we saw Jeremy struggle as he added comic relief, anger, tears and loyalty to the drama. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed You’re Beautiful as much if there had been no Jeremy. Think about it and try and imagine the drama without him, it’s hard isn’t it. He was so popular with many fans than when Lee Hong Ki appeared in a cameo in the kdrama My Girlfriend is a Nine Tailed Fox everyone said it was actually Jeremy.
So is Lee Hong Ki a good actor, of course he is, but do I remember the actor more or the character. In this case I can definitely say the character. As far as I can tell Lee Hong Ki and Jeremy are poles apart on many traits and characteristics, and although a good actor is meant to make us forget him, and remember his role, that is not always easy to do, which is why so many actors get typecast in certain roles because studios know audiences can then more easily believe how they act in the drama or movie if they always play a similar type.
John Wayne never died in any of his movies until towards the end of his career because at that time John Wayne, the hero, couldn’t die. When he did eventually die in the movie The Cowboys people were shocked and horrified. John Wayne had become bigger than his characters. This is why you will often see actors take on challenging roles such as villains because of a fear of being typecast. Studios want the same winning formula time after time and so it becomes a struggle for the actor to play against type. But I digress, I’m sorry.
There are multiple characters who I believe really added to a drama, and whether those characters would have been better or worse with a different actor playing the part, who can say. And maybe that is what happens, the right actor plays the character in the right way, and a ‘person’ is born. Born in the sense that we do forget the actor and only remember the character.
I remember Oska from Secret Garden although I’m somewhat embarrassed to say I can’t remember the actor who played the part. (It was Young Sang Hyun) Oska was a ‘bad boy’ in some senses, but he was unswayable in his loyalty and concern for his cousin even though it was all masked behind teasing and competition. He was a character with faults, but he wanted to be a better person. He was engaging and was a perfect foil to the love story of the two lead characters, which occasionally became a little exclusionary even perhaps to the audience. In a way I hope he never changed much after the drama ended.
Sometimes I love the character, and the actor, which can make it hard to know which I really like, this is especially true of a versatile actor like Song Joong Ki, more so because I also loved him on the Variety Show Running Man where he showed more of his real self. So when I watch him act I have to work out how quickly do I forget he is Song Joong Ki and how quickly does he become Captain Yoo Si Jin in Descendants of the Sun, or playboy dilettante Goo Yong Ha in Sungkyunkwan Scandal. I loved both of those characters and their bromances with their best friends. A close friend of the lead is often a necessity to further plot and character development, but many times it can become more than that. In some ways it becomes a secondary love story, one between brothers, sisters, or close friends. There is no way to doubt that there is love between Captain Yoo Si Jin and Sgt. Seo Dae Young, they support each other and would even die for each other and this is part of what makes these characters real and alive, we believe in their love, friendship and commitment to each other. The love story is all well and good, but it is these parts outside of the main romance that can make a drama great and this duo makes me so wish for a friendship like that.
Captain Yoo and Goo Yong Ha are totally different from one another, with one being an upstanding, competent military man, and the other a clever, manipulative playboy initially only concerned with his own enjoyment. One the dramatic lead, the other a sly and mercurial friend to the second lead, yet both characters had their own charms. Even with his flaws Goo Young Ha steadfastly stood by his best friend, even risking his life and future to do so. Both Cpt. Yoo and Yong Ha had their own smiles, that’s how well Song Joong Ki became each character. Which do I like best, well maybe Goo Yong Ha, but I would go out drinking with either of them.
There are so many other characters I like that perhaps I should do a part 2 and talk about how funny characters like Choi Cheon Sang and Kim In Rang in Let’s Fight Ghost add laughter to an otherwise serious tale, or how Kim Shin Hyuk in She Was Pretty was funny, and sad, and annoying all with a blink of an eye. Or how more traditional lead role characters such as Dok Go Jin in Greatest Love, or Choi Han Kyul in Coffee Prince made us fall in love. But in the meantime is there a character who you think became ‘real’ to you? One who you liked more than the actor playing the part? Or do you like a character mostly because of the actor who is playing the part?
Please comment below as I would love to hear your thoughts.
Have a great day everyone.
Photo credits to original owners, probably – You’re Beautiful. SBS Secret Garden. SBS Descendants of the Sun. KBS Sungkyunkwan Scandal. KBS