By Han Sang-hee
The poster says it all: black suits, edgy, stern and somewhat mysterious gazes, and guns in hand. "ATHENA", the new spinoff of the previous hit drama "IRIS" (KBS) is creating a buzz, and viewers can finally check out if all the hype is worthwhile Dec. 13.
While the poster shouts out "stylish action", the trailer screams out "IRIS" with a bit of flash from the 007 series, the intensity of the Bourne series and the love triangle from any other Korean drama.
"IRIS" may have made headlines with its start-studded cast including Lee Byung-hun and Kim Tae-hee, but "ATHENA" has its own group of steamy heartthrobs. To start off, Lee has been replaced by the sleek Jung Woo-sung, while Kim switched places with the elegant Soo Ae. Additional cast members include actors Cha Seung-won, Lee Ji-ah, Kim Min-jong and Super Junior member Choi Si-won.
Jung Woo-sung is returning to the small screen the first time in 15 years and for female fans, his presence on television will be a delight in itself.
"Because it's been so long, I wanted to do more and better. As the final airing date comes closer, I am starting to feel the pressure. I feel like I have to go out and do something even on my days off", Jeong said during a press conference for the drama at a hotel in northern Seoul, Tuesday.
"I have been thinking of returning to the small screen to move closer to viewers for quite some time, and so I've been thinking about my options when I heard about plans making a spin-off from "IRIS". I was more than happy to jump into the project", Jeong added.
Along with Jeong, Cha has also become a favorite among movie and drama makers, thanks to his unique charisma and impeccable acting. Cha plays the bad guy with grand plans, and although he's known for his ruthless yet stylish characters, he said such a project made him nervous — he's still learning everyday from the "handsome and gorgeous co-actors".
As for the ladies, this type of action thriller can never be easy. Thanks to a change of wind in local drama genres, innocent and sweet female characters have transformed into the strong, tough yet gentle kind. Kim So-yeon and Kim Tae-hee have done it through "IRIS" and hopefully, Soo Ae and Lee will follow suit, bringing something new to the stereotype of typical fragile roles local female actors pursue.
"I have been working out regularly for the past several years, but the action scenes did push me to my limits", said Lee, who showed off her tough side throughout the preview including martial arts, jumping off buildings and shooting.
"I always wanted to try out the action genre, and I'm so happy that I have finally gotten the chance. It feels cathartic when I see myself on camera, completely different from my previous fragile and sweet roles", Soo Ae added.
The plot is simple: the handsome and talented secret service agent Lee Jeong-woo (Jeong) struggles to figure out the truth about his agency, the National anti-Terrorist Service (NTS), a terrorist group called Athena, and his fellow NIS agents and enemies.
In the middle of all this confusion, he gets emotionally attached to the beautiful and mysterious NTS agent Yun Hae-in (Soo Ae), arousing the jealousy of yet another agent Han Jae-hee (Lee).
In a nutshell: a handsome agent fights his way to unmask the ultimate truth while struggling to win the heart of the leading lady at the same time.
But the makers of the upcoming spin-off drama explain that it's much more than the pretty actors and the plot that easily reminds of the original "IRIS".
The drama has been filmed in four different locations abroad, including New Zealand, Japan, Hawaii and Italy, offering a wider spectrum of interesting scenes and backdrops. The preview indeed showed glimpse of the exotic locations, from the ancient streets of Italy to the romantic beaches of Hawaii.
The actions scenes were also impressive, a bit more up-scale than "IRIS" and choreographed in a more sophisticated, movie-like touch, like the scene where Son Hyeok, East Asian manager of the United States Department of Homeland Security, fought with a secret agent played by UFC fighter Choo Sung-hoon in the bathroom that reminded one of a similar scene from the 007 film "Casino Royale".
Another treat for viewers would be the cameos, which range from fellow actors, singers and even sports stars. Choo will appear as the ruthless secret agent, while singer BoA will appear as herself. Actors Lee Bo-young, Jin Goo and Kim So-yeon from "IRIS" will also make special appearances to add more star power to the series.
Like Kim Min-jong told reporters at the press event, it takes more than stylish action scenes or flashy characters.
"It all comes down to the plot, the drama, the story. I think we have it and I hope viewers will realize that as they watch the show".
"ATHENA" starts airing Dec. 13 at 9:55 on SBS.
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