Never mind that actress Shin Min-a is one step closer to becoming the girl you sign on to play supernatural heroines, her latest endeavor, MBC’s “Tale of Arang,” bears all the trappings of a great success.
A mash-up of horror, mystery, comedy and romance, this refreshing period piece set in the Joseon period is in good stead to top the Wednesday and Thursday prime time ratings race.
“I play an amnesiac, single, girl ghost,” the 28-year-old actress said at the drama’s press conference in Seoul, Friday, tossing out a statement that would be terribly misleading if taken out of context.
Shin is tackling a classic Korean horror icon ― the single lady ghost (generally depicted as a creature with dangerous anger management issues and long, unkempt hair) ― except that her heroine, Arang, is disarmingly cute.
In short, viewers expecting a traditional horror story will be sorely disappointed.
“Our drama transforms the standard Korean ghost story into a Korean-style fantasy,” said director Kim Sang-ho, who already cut his teeth on the genre with 2009’s dark-and-twisted MBC series “Hon.” Kim is teaming up with scriptwriter Jung Yoon-jung, who honed her police procedural writing expertise on the first and second seasons of the Joseon period cable TV thriller “BSG Police (ByeolSunGeom).”
|“Tale of Arang” stars Shin Min-a (left) and Lee Joon-gi attend the drama’s press conference in Seoul on Friday. (MBC)|
“I think if it isn’t new, then it is a waste of time,” Kim said.
It was precisely this refreshing take on a reinterpretation of a well-known Korean legend that attracted “Tale of Arang” co-star Lee Joon-gi to the project, his first television series since he completed military service.
The 30-year-old actor said, “It caught my attention. It was very different.”
Though Lee, who has seen great success with the period piece genre in SBS’ “Iljimae” and the film, “King and the Clown,” said he had been less concerned about who would star opposite him and more worried about how he would interpret his character, he looked utterly at ease in his new role as a “prickly and chic government official” with a heart of gold in the highlight reel.
While this is Lee’s first time playing a Sherlock Holmes-esque, ghost-seeing role opposite a supernatural leading lady, the same cannot be said for co-star Shin.
Shin has had previous experience with dramas that revamp a classic horror icon into an endearing creature in dire need of rescue by a knight-in-shining armor with SBS’ “My Girlfriend is a Gumiho.”
In the series, Shin portrayed the nine-tailed fox (“gumiho” in Korean) as a sweet, rambunctious creature that bore little resemblance to the standard depiction of the shape-shifting fox as a seductive man-eater.
While Shin admitted the set-up, where a supernatural heroine enlists the help of a human hero, is similar to her previous drama, she assured reporters that the similarities ended there.
“Gumhi was an adorable and lovable infant,” she elaborated. “Arang is wild and rough.”
The highlight reel unveiled at the press event gave reporters a glimpse of a series that, as Shin said, bears little resemblance to her last fusion-fantasy.
Comedic spats between Lee Joon-gi’s spirit-seeing government official Eun-o and Shin’s Arang were artfully spliced into a larger format that hinted at a plotline where Eun-o and Arang join forces to solve cases in a series that promises to fuse the thrill of a police procedural with that of a horror film. Add a healthy dose of romance between the two unlikely protagonists, and that is what one can expect from “Tale of Arang.”
“Tale of Arang” starts airing Aug. 15 on Wednesday and Thursday nights at 9:55 p.m. on MBC.
By Jean Oh (firstname.lastname@example.org)