From left, SBS TV series "Coffee House" director Pyo Min-soo and cast members Kang Ji-hwan, Park Si-yeon, Ham Eun-jung and Jung Woong-in pose during a press conference on the set of the show in the city of Paju in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea on May 31, 2010. [Lee Jin-hyuk/10Asia]
A collaboration of director Pyo Min-soo and scenarist Song Jae-jung. Even at first glance, SBS TV series "Coffee House" seems like a hybrid drama. And the show, which Pyo himself had said would be "between a sitcom and drama", revealed it contains characters who cannot be classified as being simply funny or serious -- Lee Jin-soo (played by Kang Ji-hwan) hides his fussy personality behind his gentle smile and Han Ji-won (Jung Woong-in) believes he stands alone in the center of the world. That is why "Coffee House", now into its fifth episode, may be sort of a challenge that its crew and actors are taking on. They revealed what that challenge means for them and how they hope to be perceived during a press conference held at its set in the city of Paju in the Gyeonggi Province on Monday
Q: I think imaging scenarist Song Jae-jeong's script must have been different from what you have done in the past since he used to do sitcoms.
Pyo Min-soo: I believe that every form of visual media has something in common so I had tried incorporating both animation and plays into my dramas before. And with this drama, I wanted to try using comic book-like expressions. Cuts of a comic containing print. That's why I made scenes where they reminisce look like cuts from a comic book.
Q: The characters are also very comic book-like. For example, Jin-soo is someone you are unlikely to run into in reality so were you able to apply any of your own characteristics to your character?
Kang Ji-hwan: Being meticulous? I think we're similar in that we're both particular about organizing and putting things in order. When you look behind here [Kang walks toward Jin-soo's table] there's a pencil case. I searched through websites to see what kind of pencil case would suit Jin-soo's character but I failed to find the right one. And the one I had in mind was the type military officers might use so I ran this idea through the director and we were able to get this finished product by the help of the props team. So I think my personality in how I pay such careful attention to the props may be similar to that of Jin-soo's.
Q: Since you mention pencils, I heard that director Pyo Min-soo sharpens the pencils himself.
Pyo: Since young, I've used pencils which I've always sharpened myself. And when they become blunt, a member of the crew would sharpen it for me but I'll always re-sharpen it myself. I don't consider myself picky -- everyone just has their oddities. I wanted to try expressing that through the drama.
Q: I think those details and unique factors show through how the characters act. The scene where Jin-soo held spit out coffee was an ad-lib which depicted his character very well.
Kang: It was. From the very beginning, the director had told us to act as freely as we want to as long as we don't damage the script. The act of drinking is plain so I decided to spit it back out after wondering how I could leave the script as it is but show my character with impact. When I look at the script, there's a tickling sort of excitement in trying to figure out how to spice up my character. So I really enjoy those kind of scenes.
Jeong: I think he's very meticulous. He has become a very elaborate actor after doing a few movies.
Q: What about everyone else? Do you all do many ad-libs?
Park Si-yeon: In my case, I tend to try out things which pop into my head on the spot rather than deciding beforehand. I'll try putting on a pair of glasses I had in my bag or pull up my hair with a colored pencil. Some people don't let you but I can try these comfortably because both the director and actors have flexible attitudes.
Ham Eun-jung: I have to stay loyal to the script to accomplish the mission I've been given. To go into more detail, from my home I'll bring the doll that Seung-yeon will hold in her arms when she's going to bed as well as the props used to decorate her room but I'll let go of the props that I don't need. I'm starting by learning from my senior actors. I have to do what they tell me to do for now. (laugh)
Q: Park Si-yeon, you're playing a character which is very different from your past roles but the response has been pretty good.
Park: I think Eun-young is an interesting character. I've never played a character like her before. That's why I wanted to try a lot of things [with the character] and talk a lot with the director about this and that. It's comfortable and good being able to act the way I want to on set. And I think the viewers are enjoying watching it.
Q: Isn't it difficult having to use three languages?
Park: I don't know any Japanese so I actually received a few lessons from my friend but that too was fun. Speaking a language that isn't Korean. And as for English, I had thought I'd be good at it because I went to school in the U.S. but... (laugh) I wish I was a bit better at it.
Q: Ham Eun-jung, like you said yourself, you're still at a learning stage. How do you feel about people's response?
Ham: I know everybody else probably thinks this but I have many weaknesses. I try to correct myself after seeing what I've done wrong or right after I watch every episode. I guess I can't help having been more awkward in the beginning. As for the response, I'm not paying too much attention to it. I'm just focusing on the shoots.
Q: Are you satisfied with viewer's response for the show so far including its ratings?
Kang: I don't know if I should use the word 'adventure' but going into it, it was an adventure for me because I thought of this drama as something between a sitcom and a mini series. That's why I was even more curious about how viewers would respond. And I was hoping to take off where former drama "Oh! My Lady" left off, with ratings in the early 10 percent range, but that didn't quite work out. I am a bit disappointed that we weren't able to get off to a better start being up against the nine o'clock news of two public networks which were reporting on several important issues such as the sinking of the Cheonan naval ship. But I am confident about out story and I'm satisfied about us making a new attempt. While the beginning has been a bit like a sitcom, the latter half will become more like a mini series which I'm confident about.
Q: In that sense, I'm a bit curious about what will happen in the fifth and sixth episodes which take place on the island of Jeju.
Park: There's a scene where, while I'm acting haughty, I fall over while in my room taking a shower. I ask an employee to hurry and come help me but Jin-soo comes up and I end up having to show him a flaw of mine.
Ham: I want to see it. Her body.
Park: You won't get to see it. (laugh) I don't know how the edited version will look but we ourselves had fun shooting it. But he bumped his head into the ceiling while carrying me. I guess he had a hard time staying in the proper position because I was very heavy.
Jung Woong-in: I've tried carrying her before so I know. (laugh)
Q: How will the romance develop?
Pyo: While the story has developed in a comedic way in the first two episodes, through today's shower scene, a dramaturgy will form between Jin-soo and Eun-young. Then the show will go back to giving off a happy vibe. I'm someone who hopes people love in order to become happy. You love to be happy, not to fight. So I'm fine with how it's shown, whether it be through dramaturgy or humor, as long as that's what it is aiming for. Just like human beings use both their left and right hand, I want to try using everything that's possible.
Q: The romantic plot revolves around Ji-won's (played by Jung Woong-in) affection for Eun-young. How do you hope it will develop in the episodes to come?
Jeong: They say little strokes fell great oaks but I myself don't think Ji-won is a who approaches a girl the right way. And I think Eun-young would feel the same way about him too but I think he will take a different approach in wooing her. He'll act more like the person he is, trying to reach out to her by helping her with work. He is someone who is sure of himself so I think he'll make Eun-young fall in love with him by using his brains and personal connections.
Q: He has sung for her and done events too.
Jeong: I don't know what you'd think of me if I say this but it was very difficult to do. Kim Dong-ryul is a great singer. (laugh)
Q: Will there be a change after the fifth and sixth episode to how Jin-soo and Eun-young are in a relationship where they keep squabbling?
Kang: Well, Eun-young is like a blessing, a soulmate to Jin-soo. So I think a romantic plot will slowly start to emerge between them too but that's all I've heard from the scenarist and I don't know what will happen after so it's hard for me to say more. I just think that there'll be much development in their situation.
Q: Then like you said, that may lead to how the vibe of the show changes to that of a mini series.
Pyo: Starting from around the 12th episode, the change will be so big that you'll wonder whether you're still watching the same drama. What myself, the scenarists and actors are set to do are not to create something that has already solidified but a show that self develops.
Reporter : Wee Geun-woo eight@
Photographer : Lee Jin-hyuk eleven@
Editor : Jessica Kim jesskim@, Lee Ji-Hye seven@
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"Kang Ji-hwan says "Coffee House" is adventure"
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