It would come as a major shock if SBS’ latest weekend installment, “A Gentleman’s Dignity,” failed to make a strong showing this Saturday.
When one of South Korea’s most beloved actors returns to the small screen after a 12-year hiatus, the public is bound to tune in.
Especially if over the past decade he has starred in a major international action flick and married an equally popular South Korean actress, Ko So-young.
The question, then, on the tip of everyone’s tongue is: why now? Why this project?
“I am going to be frank and admit that I have wanted to star in a drama for many years now,” said actor Jang Dong-gun, 40, at the drama’s press conference in Nonhyeon-dong, Seoul, on Wednesday. “I just didn’t come across the right one.”
The husband-father-thespian revealed that he was drawn to this romantic comedy tale of 40-something-year-old men struggling to grow up and mend and forge lasting relationships.
“After doing uber-serious roles in films, I wanted to do something lighter,” he said. “Plus, it is a Shin Woo-chul and Kim Eun-sook collaboration.”
In the world of television, director Shin and scriptwriter Kim are revered as drama-making royalty.
The duo behind hit SBS dramas “Lovers in Paris” (2004), “Lovers in Praha” (2005), “Lovers” (2006), “On Air” (2008), and “Secret Garden” (2010-2011), Shin and Kim seem to have the Midas touch.
That given, it is easy to see why Jang says the famed director and scriptwriter influenced his decision to jump on board, despite the fact that the rom-com genre is not oft-trod territory for him.
Did he balk at the idea of chipping into his hitherto charismatic and macho-type persona to fully realize his newfound flawed and hilarious hero?
“It was awkward at first,” he admitted of playing architecture firm head-and-bachelor Kim Do-jin. “Now I approach my character with open arms and an open mind. I am getting mangled in a good way, because director Shin holds the reins and is in control.”
“He is surprisingly good at comedy,” Shin praised Jang. “Since he has that charismatic force, when his veneer suffers a small dent it has an enormous effect on the viewer.”
Audiences will have to wait to see Jang in full comedic stride, as well as witness what scriptwriter Kim dubs Jang’s first “proper” onscreen kiss.
“Casting for ‘A Gentleman’s Dignity’ was completely borne of ulterior motives,” Kim confessed with great mischief. “I have repeatedly alluded to Jang Dong-gun, for instance in ‘On Air.’ I really wanted to work on a drama with him.”
The opportunity came along, and, according to Kim, she and the crew were so determined to cast him in the lead that not only was the airdate moved back from March to late May, but Kim also told a little white lie in the hopes of getting him to agree to take the role.
“I was very curious about how Ko So-young would respond to the script,” she said, referring to Jang’s spouse.
“Apparently Ko said my scripts were known for their intense kiss scenes, so I lied and said there would be none. But while Jang has played a lot of charming and masculine roles, he hasn’t really had a proper kiss scene before, so the minute the deal was sealed I wrote him one.”
Kissing is just a prelude to what Kim promises to be a racy and sexy series.
“‘A Gentleman’s Dignity’ wouldn’t be much of a romp if it was bright and innocent,” she elaborated. “I think this is a drama where smooches and physical contact will be frequent because the characters are in their 40s.”
“I am going to take it as far as I can, as far as television will allow,” she added, promising to deliver.
Of the drama’s focus on four male protagonists (the other three roles are played by actors Lee Jong-hyeok, Kim Min-jong and Kim Su-ro), Kim revealed that she was not so much angling for the boys and that she was looking to satisfy women’s interest in the male psyche.
“I think women are curious about what actually goes on inside men’s heads,” she explained.
Director Shin, however, stated that almost 80 percent of the drama will be centered on actor Jang and co-star Kim Ha-neul, who worked with director Shin and scriptwriter Kim in “On Air” and will be playing the male lead’s love interest.
Actress Kim, 34, said of co-star Jang, “He is a like a close, older brother. I think it’s gotten to the point when we can just tell when it would be appropriate for us to amp up the comedy in the scene without having to say it out loud.”
“A Gentleman’s Dignity” is Jang’s first television drama since “All About Eve” (2000). The first episode airs May 26 at 9:50 p.m. on SBS.