By Han Sang-hee
Korea has already seen numerous historical television dramas of prosperous kingdoms and memorable heroes and heroines, and SBS is bringing another, but with a slightly different background.
The new 50-episode series "Princess Ja Myung Go
" ("The Drum", working title) is based on the folk tale "Prince Ho-dong and the Princess of Nakrang", which touches the story of the failed Nakrang Kingdom (1 B.C. - A.D. 32) for the first time in 45 years.
According to the tale, there was a famous drum called the "jamyeonggo", literally "the drum that beats by itself", that would beat itself whenever enemies would invade its kingdom. The drama, however, gives a new twist in that the drum is in fact a person, the hidden sister of the Nakrang Kingdom's princess.
"It's a historical drama, but something that we are not familiar with. (Nakrang) is different from the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C.-A.D. 668). Instead of focusing on the historical facts and the verified translations of our past, we filled the drama with our imagination, as no one really knows what happened", Lee Myeong-woo
, the producer, told reporters at the drama's press conference in downtown Seoul.
Writer Jeong Seong-hee
explained that Nakrang being a rather failed country caught her attention.
"There's been a `Goguryeo wave' among television epics today, with many of them set during the period. But then I came to wonder if it was fair to think that the successful and strong countries were considered the most righteous. There should have been a strong, heroic story regarding the weaker countries. I wanted to bring back the heroes of the lost world", Jeong said.
The series boasts a colorful cast, with young stars like Jung Ryeo-won
, Jung Kyung-ho
and Park Min-young
as the three main characters, Ja-myeong, prince Ho-dong and princess Ra-hee, respectively, along with veteran actors like Moon Sung-keun
, Lee Mi-sook
and Hong Yo-seob
. Growing up as the princess of Nakrang, Ra-hee is adored by her people, while Ja-myeong survives a murder attempt and lives a private life. Prince Ho-dong, from Nakrang's enemy, the Goguryeo Kingdom, is torn between two worlds, not to mention women, and must make a choice between love and responsibility.
Perhaps because the drama is not based on the actual historical setting, the music used in the drama was rather mysterious and dark, as opposed to an overall grand and symphonic atmosphere. The colorful costumes also complimented the overall historical element, with the characters performing martial arts in their flowing attire.
"The Drum" is actually the first historical drama for Lee and Jeong, and the former admitted that it was a burden, but still exciting.
"When I worked on more `modern' dramas, I didn't really have to talk much with the actors. They had their own wardrobe and acting style, but historical dramas are different. The characters have to wear certain outfits and we have to discuss everything, from the way the character talks and moves to even the slightest habits. I guess I'm becoming a busybody", Lee told The Korea Times during a separate interview.
"Because it's based on a folk tale, I have to communicate with the actors a lot. We get together and question, `would King Daemushin of the Goguryeo Kingdom behave like this at this scene during that time?' This is actually the ideal way to shoot a drama", he added.
Compared to other young writers, Jeong has a strong sense of narrative and with Lee being a producer who stresses detail, the outcome looks bright.
"With her excellent narrative skills and myself adding in the details and imagination, I think we make a pretty good team. So I think (the drama) will do well", Lee smiled.
"Princess Ja Myung Go
" airs at 9:55 p.m. on March 9 on SBS.