Dating, loving, marrying... and breaking up. Seems like 3/4 of the Korean TV Drama pie is taken by those activities, yet what happens after that is rarely the focus. Because people can have relationships even after divorcing, breaking up, or simply parting ways for any other reason. Sometimes there's very little glamour in those situations, as once you take off the burden certain 'attachments' had on a failed relationship, then getting along once again can be even easier. It happens in real life, obviously, but seldom on TV, because it might bore the viewers -- or so they say. Friendship, mutual understanding, that air of pleasant familiarity only someone who lived with you can have... it's like starting from the beginning once again. And although now you're 'alone', you might still be in love. What that love is, if it's friendship, newfound attraction, or something entirely different, we can't possibly know. Adapted from a novel by the late, award-winning writer Nozawa Hisashi, SBS' upcoming 16 Episode Drama 연애시대 (Alone in Love) promises to fill that void, and finally show there's life after breaking up. Unless the killer minivan gets you before that.
It was a morning in June 2004, when acclaimed TV writer Nozawa Hisashi was found hanged in his office, leaving behind only a suicide note. Nozawa started working for Yomiuri TV in the mid 80s, and became one of the most popular TV writers in the country, winning important accolades like the Edogawa Ranpo Prize in 1997, and the Yoshikawa Eiji New Writers Prize in 2001. Of course, to Dorama fans, he's probably remembered more for things like 眠れる森 (Sleeping Forest), starring SMAP member Kimura Takuya and a familiar face for Korean film fans, Nakamura Toru of 청연 (Blue Swallow) and 2009 로스트 메모리즈 (2009 Lost Memories). His 1998 novel 'Love Generation' won several prizes, and told the story of 26 year old Eto and 34 year old Hayase, who after divorcing slowly re-discover their sentiments for each other. That of adapting Japanese novels for Korean TV Dramas and films has become a full-fledged trend in the last two years, with a good half dozen films using a Japanese source as their foundations releasing in late 2006.
Dramas like this can fall into a very dangerous minefield pretty easily, but looking at writer Park Young-Seon's past works should give us a sense of relief. Although she took part in many 단막극 (One-Two Episode Dramas) and Miniseries, her best work is in Chungmuro: Park was responsible for the scripts of hilarious comedies like 동갑내기 과외하기 (My Tutor Friend) and 2004's 그녀를 믿지마세요 (Too Beautiful To Lie), which elevated Kim Ha-Neul to instant stardom as one of the queens of comedy in Korean Cinema. Now whether she'll use those experiences to give a more comic twist to Nozawa's novel, we'll have to wait for April. But knowing the PD is another 'Chungmuro alumni', that Han Ji-Seung of 하루 (A Day), who also worked as a producer in 'Too Beautiful To Lie', should ensure the melodrama doesn't get out of hands. Obviously, the key is always the cast, and with an ensemble like this, I think we can be safe 'Alone in Love' will not have problems with the actors' performances.
Although he debuted in the early 90s, it took a long time for Gam Woo-Sung to emerge and fulfill his potential. Just like many popular actors his age, Gam's debut performance was in the 1990 campus drama 우리들의 천국 (Our Paradise), alongside people like Han Suk-Gyu, Jeon Do-Yeon, Jang Dong-Gun, Yeom Jung-Ah, Choi Jin-Shil, and many more. One of the highlights of the show was Jang Dong-Gun singing parts of the soundtrack (I know, sounds creepy, right?), but veteran Lee Jin-Seok won best New PD at the 26th Baeksang Awards, so pretty boys singing ballads wasn't the only thing 'Our Paradise' had going for it. But despite languishing in supporting roles for half a decade, Gam found his career making performance -- at least within the industry. The show wasn't that popular -- with the fantastic 1998 show 산 (Manaslu), about a family of mountaineers trying to conquer the Himalayas. Gam continued his career in TV Dramas, with breezy MBC shows like 예감 (Instinct), 눈으로 말해요 (Speak With Your Eyes), to finally land his first role in Chungmuro. Yoo Ha's 결혼은 미친짓이다 (Marriage is a Crazy Thing) was an eye opener not only because it showed Eom Jung-Hwa could do serious roles with ease, but also because Gam's performance -- completely different from his Drama roles, with a few exceptions -- brought to the forefront the young actor's talent.
2004 showed Gam could carry films on his shoulders admirably, as he led two flawed but extremely intriguing films like 알 포인트 (R-Point) and 거미숲 (Spider Forest), and he also opened his 2005 with the underrated comedy 간 큰가족 (Super Family). Yet, nothing could possibly prepare for what happened at the end of the year. Subbing in for Jang Hyuk, caught in the draft dodging scandal, Gam was cast at the last minute in Lee Joon-Ik's 왕의 남자 (The King and The Clown) which, as you probably know, recently became the most successful Korean film of all time, now approaching the 12 Million tickets sold. Thanks to the Historical Drama, Gam has become a full-fledged star, not only acclaimed by the press for his acting talent, but finally enjoying the popularity he always deserved. And although Son Ye-Jin might not have had many chances to show her talent, she's slowly but surely trying to find her own identity as an actress, removed from the teen idol roles of lugubrious turds like 여름향기 (Summer Scent), and disappointing misfires like 외출 (April Snow). Although by no means a huge challenge, her role in the Drama is a further step into maturation, something which can only please fans of the young actress. The rest of the cast is excellent as well, with talented veterans like Gi Ju-Bong and Kim Gab-Soo rounding up a package which also involves comic master Gong Hyung-Jin.
Debuting after the conclusion of 서동요 (The Ballad of Seo Dong) on SBS, 'Alone in Love' had its production meeting at the Hyatt Hotel in Namsan on March 9. Participating at the Drama's presentation the PD Han Ji-Seung and stars Son Ye-Jin, Gam Woo-Sung, Gong Hyung-Jin and Lee Ha-Na. 'Alone in Love' starts broadcasting on March 27.
Production Meeting Clip (Downloadable, 14mb, Windows Media)
PD HAN JI-SEUNG
"I always wanted to try something like a Miniseries format, and then they offered me to produce 'Alone in Love', so I said, why not? I was really intrigued by the original novel, and since producers Yellow Film promised to respect my production methods, accepting their offer was even easier. I knew and worried that the Drama shooting system [shooting on the fly] wouldn't fit with my style, especially as someone who never worked in this field before. Of course I was also aware of how much more difficult shooting TV Dramas before broadcast can be, for a variety of issues, but they allowed me to shoot a good 8 episodes out of the final 16 before airing the first, so that's how we started. Many people seem to be interested in this show because of its themes, but we're not dealing with one of those Dramas where characters are trying to make up their mind between marrying or not. Personally, it's not really that important that the two main characters were married in the past. What we're focusing on here is the way they cope with this break up, how they start a sort of 'new life' after leaving behind people they loved. And those are the kind of details I wanted to focus on in developing this Drama. Of course the original novel had a lot of comic elements, even going as far as slapstick, but even though we tried to do the same in the show, compared to other Dramas we're dealing with something much more serious. I guess the biggest difference between TV Dramas and Movies is that the latter start from a full shot and then slowly zoom in to find more details, whereas Dramas start from a closeup, and then expand the view. Just this new challenge that difference makes was exciting for me, as a producer."
"I started acting as I just wanted to be in films, but it took me a good 10 years to find the right level, that kind of performance a good actor requires. When it comes to Dramas, if you work with talented people, then there's no reason to turn them down. All you need to do is adjust to the dynamics used in this industry, which can be quite different to those you find in Chungmuro. What's important is what the production team, the crew and the producer have in mind. The most important thing when acting is finding a kind of harmony with your partner, that's what counts. And Son Ye-Jin is the best of both worlds: she hasn't been acting for too long, but she's always very professional, a good actress, and also a very beautiful person. An actress who helped me a lot in the past was Shim Hye-Jin [they worked together in 1998's 수줍은 연인 (Shy Lovers)]. She both influenced the way I acted, and how I approached this profession. In terms of male actors, I'd certainly say Han Suk-Gyu. Thanks to them, I was able to find what kind of actor I was and could be, deep down. In a way, working with Ye-Jin reminded me of the times I spent with Shim Hye-Jin, she has the same kind of aggressive spirit when acting. I'd like to be remembered as a non-mainstream actor who can give viewers confidence. Right from the beginning, I never really paid much attention to working for a huge management company and similar things. Since I haven't been on TV for 4 years [2002's 현정아 사랑해 (I Love You, Hyun-Jung)], I wanted to work in something different, a Drama you can't compare with the others. Just like what happened for 'The King and The Clown', more than ratings, my sense of satisfaction regarding this project is what counted the most."
"It's a nasty and mean character, but someone you can't hate. That's how Dong-Jin (Gam) looks in Eun-Ho's eyes. You look at him in a certain way he and seems OK, but then again he's always so impulsive and cheeky. In 작업의 정석 (The Art of Seduction) we always tried to go for comic situations in every scene, and that kind of exaggeration was the most enjoyable aspect of the show. But if you compare it with 'Alone in Love', this is much more natural. There's a kind of boyish side to her, while at the same time maintaining that natural femininity. Even speech patterns and dialogue are much different that what I was used to. You could say it's a character you can find easily in real life, but someone who doesn't feature in TV Dramas too often. Of course we're not dealing with something too heavy handed and dark, it's just a little more mature and realistic, with an ironic and lightweight touch which really appealed to me. What I liked the most about Eun-Ho was the fact even after divorce she'd worry if her husband was in pain, like a mother figure. She's very mature. If I think of my roles in 클래식 (The Classic) and 'Scent of Summer', I don't think I'd be able to go back to that kind of character. Even looking at 연애소설 (Lover's Concerto), it feels like the kind of acting I could only do at that age. Sure, if I did it again I'd probably do it pretty well, but it would still feel really awkward. I want to do roles which fit my age and personality now, that's what most important to me."
연애시대 (Alone in Love)
SBS - Starts 2006/3/27 - 16 Episodes
PD: 한지승 (Han Ji-Seung)
WRITER: 박영선 (Park Young-Seon)
CAST: 감우성 (Gam Woo-Sung), 손예진 (Son Ye-Jin), 공형진 (Gong Hyung-Jin), 이하나 (Lee Ha-Na), 김갑수 (Kim Gab-Soo), 기주봉 (Gi Ju-Bong)
Produced By: 옐로우필름 (Yellow Film)