Bangkok Post - - FRONT PAGE - STORY BY Tatat Bun­nag

Korean stars Park Shin-Hye, Hyun Bin team up for TV

South Korean se­ries re­mains a pow­er­ful ve­hi­cle of the K-drama wave that shows no sign of wan­ing across Asia — and South­east Asia. And fans have a new rea­son to be thrilled as one of the year’s most an­tic­i­pated tele­vi­sion se­ries aired its first episode on Dec 1.

Mem­o­ries Of The Al­ham­bra, on the Korean cable net­work tvN, has been made avail­able to in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence on the same day as in South Korea via Net­flix.

The show has gar­nered a lot of me­dia at­ten­tion since be­fore its pre­miere due to the cast­ing of two of to­day’s hottest South Korean su­per­stars, Hyun Bin and Park Shin­hye, who make their on­screen ap­pear­ance to­gether for the first time. Mem­o­ries Of The Al­ham­bra, a genre-bend­ing mix of ro­mance and sci-fi and ac­tion, marked Hyun Bin’s re­turn to tele­vi­sion af­ter three years, fol­low­ing his turn in Hyde Jekyll, Me in 2015. Hyun Bin’s best-known work among Thai au­di­ence is My Name Is Kim Sam soon, a ro­man­tic se­ries that spear­headed the Korean wave in the mid-2000s.

The two ac­tors, along with direc­tor Ahn Gil-ho, met Asian press in South Korea one freez­ing af­ter­noon last week.

“Nor­mally when I’m choos­ing my next role whether it’s TV se­ries or films, I’m al­ways look­ing for new ideas and new top­ics — some­thing I hadn’t done be­fore in the past so I can give my­self an­other chal­lenge,” said Hyun Bin.

“And in this case, I was in­trigued to be work­ing with direc­tor Ahn and writer Song who are very tal­ented, and also thrilled to find out how sci-fi and the tech­nol­ogy like AR [Aug­mented Re­al­ity] can be in­cor­po­rated in a do­mes­tic drama, and how the au­di­ence find it as in­ter­est­ing and re­fresh­ing as I did.”

Mem­o­ries Of The Al­ham­bra is a joint ef­fort be­tween Stranger direc­tor Ahn Gil-ho and screen­writer Song Jae-jung from hit se­ries such as W and Queen And I, all hit se­ries among de­voted K-drama fans.

In Mem­o­ries Of The Al­ham­bra, the story takes place in the near fu­ture world where Hyun Bin plays the role of Yoo Jin-woo, a CEO of an in­vest­ment com­pany who trav­els on a busi­ness trip to Granada, Spain, in search of the mys­te­ri­ous cre­ator of an in­no­va­tive AR game. It’s a game in which play­ers wear­ing smart con­tact lenses, a fic­tional AR gam­ing de­vice, are able to see the city around them turn­ing into a fan­tasy ac­tion world.

In Granada, things be­come com­pli­cated as Jin-woo’s life gets en­tan­gled in a strange in­ci­dent af­ter stay­ing in an old hos­tel run by for­mer clas­si­cal mu­si­cian Jung Hee-joo, a char­ac­ter played by Park Shin-hye.

“Al­though my char­ac­ter has less to do with the other part of the show, which re­volves around AR gam­ing and ac­tion as­pects, I be­lieve Jung Hee-joo is also one of the key char­ac­ters that moves the story,” said Park.

“I en­joyed this char­ac­ter be­cause I can re­late to her a lot, a warm-hearted and artis­tic per­son. She’s got a pos­i­tive en­ergy. She likes meeting peo­ple and is very op­ti­mistic, and yet she is shy at the same time. So she’s a very real per­son.”

Most of the story in­clud­ing the first few episodes were en­tirely shot in the beau­ti­ful scenery of Granada where both ac­tors de­scribed the back­drop of the city as a per­fect lo­ca­tion to cap­ture a mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence of the show, which has a good bal­ance be­tween two dif­fer­ent worlds, magic and sci­ence, mod­ern and me­dieval times.

“Be­cause we’re shoot­ing this over­seas, there are a lot of time lim­i­ta­tions for film­ing, and dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments we had to ad­just to,” said Park. “But over­all we had great time work­ing to­gether, sit­ting around dis­cussing the char­ac­ters and re­hears­ing be­tween all of the ac­tors. So the time we spent to­gether in Granada re­ally helped us im­merse more into our roles.”

Apart from the ro­man­tic sto­ry­line be­tween the two main char­ac­ters, Mem­o­ries Of The Al­ham­bra also has Hyun Bin per­form a num­ber of ac­tion stunts, from the Jedi-ish sword fight­ing to shoot­ing two guns from both hands like a pro. The story’s vir­tual re­al­ity set-up is a lim­it­less op­por­tu­nity for the se­ries to turn into a fan­tasy.

“Be­cause all the fight­ing was only tak­ing place in the game, I had to use a lot of my imag­i­na­tion while film­ing those scenes pre­tend fight­ing some­one in front of me,” the ac­tor said.

“In the story, when I’m fight­ing a cer­tain vir­tual char­ac­ter with cer­tain weapons that can only be seen through the lens I was wear­ing at the time, peo­ple who aren’t ac­cess­ing it via the lens won’t see what’s go­ing on in the game. Al­though it was quite chal­leng­ing while film­ing the scenes, I couldn’t wait to see how it would ac­tu­ally come out af­ter all the post pro­duc­tion and CGI had gone into it.”

Hyun has be­come hot prop­erty from his time in fea­ture films, the lat­est be­ing the pe­riod zom­bie flick Ram­pant (which opened in Thai­land last month). He also starred in the thriller The Ne­go­ti­a­tion, while his turn in Late Au­tumn, back in 2010, sent South­east Asian fans into a fit of reverie.

Park Shin-hye, too, has ap­peared in film, TV se­ries and re­leased mu­sic al­bums.

“We have never worked to­gether be­fore and I ac­tu­ally met him for the first time in Spain,” said Park Shin-hye. “But af­ter spend­ing time hang­ing out to­gether, we have be­come good friends and the film­ing be­came more com­fort­able than I ex­pected. Hyun Bin was a great se­nior to me and helped me get through all the scenes.”

Hyun Bin also has noth­ing but good things to say about his co-star.

“I think be­cause Park Shin-hye has been act­ing since she was very young, she’s al­ready had a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in the busi­ness. I also think she is a bright and kind per­son in gen­eral, and I re­ceived such pos­i­tive en­ergy from her, and that re­ally bright­ened up the mood of the set for me and oth­ers in the crew.”

In Thai­land, Mem­o­ries Of the Al­ham­bra can be watched via Net­flix. The show will con­tinue air­ing two new episodes ev­ery Satur­day and Sun­day around 11.30pm lo­cal time.


Park Shin-hye in a scene from Mem­o­ries Of The Al­ham­bra.


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