Han So-hee says goodbye to pretty and hello to blood, sweat and tears
After witnessing the murder of her own father right before her eyes, a teenage girl decides to enter the drug cartel that he belonged to, and goes undercover as a police detective to find the culprit and avenge her father’s killing.
A lone fighter whose sole life purpose lies in taking vengeance is a tale as old as the noir genre itself, but the tale is a little different when it comes to the protagonist portrayed by actor Han So-hee in the Netflix original series “My Name,” released by the streaming service on Oct. 15.
In the two days since its release, “My Name” has shot to No. 4 on the Top 10 TV Shows on Netflix in the World according to streaming analytics company FlixPatrol, while “Squid Game” still remains firmly rooted as No. 1 on the chart. Ever since the global success of “Squid Game,” attention on Korean content is higher than ever, and “My Name” seems to be sharing the spotlight, with viewers praising Han’s top-notch acting and action performance.
Han, who rose to stardom as the mistress in JTBC’s drama series “The World of the Married” in 2020, immediately caught the public’s attention for her beauty as well as acting. She took on her first lead role as a pretty college student named Na-bi who finds herself in a complicated romantic relationship in JTBC series “Nevertheless” earlier this year which also saw success due to her natural chemistry with her love interest, portrayed by actor Song Kang.
But for “My Name,” Han leaves that pretty image behind, bulking up 10 kilograms during the training she received in action school to pull off convincing scenes, almost all of which see her character Ji-woo soaked in blood, sweat and tears.
“If I were to say that I had absolutely no worries or pressures at all in showing a new side of myself in which I had to abandon everything that the public had initially liked about me, that would be a lie,” Han said during an online press interview on Wednesday. “But I realized I needed to get rid of the prior image I had, to show the raw, naked side of myself in order to accept Ji-woo.”
One similarity that the actor found with her character was their unwavering determination to achieve their goals.
“I’m also very emotional like Ji-woo,” she said. “Once I set myself a goal, I tend to cast away other details and just have my eyes set on that one goal until I achieve it.
“I think that’s what differentiates Ji-woo from other characters [with similar storylines]. She is reckless, and nothing can get in her way or shake her. One way or another, a moment comes when you tend to forget, or lose your life goal if it has been staying with you for too long. You become lost at one point and think ‘why am I doing this and who am I doing this for?’ But Ji-woo doesn’t lose her way. Her emotions and determination stays exactly the same as how they were when she first felt them, and I tried to keep it that way for her all throughout filming.”
It was the actor’s first attempt at action. According to Han, all of her action sequences shown in the series were done by herself without a stunt double, an impressive feat that came as a result of training every day for nearly four months prior to shooting.
“I wasn’t that familiar with physical training, so I knew that the results would pay off only when I practiced hard, and really devoted my time,” Han said. “As I went into shooting, I learned that I needed to make my actions bigger and wider in order for them to really show on the screen, so it was definitely important to make the sequences familiar to my body. So I increased my time at practice. Everyone in the cast was really devoted to the rehearsals for the action scenes. When I watched the final scenes [through Netflix after the release], I thought more about the emotions and behind-the-scene moments when we filmed it rather than concentrating on the action itself, and as the narrative carried on I could see how tired everyone was, including me. So I felt like we really put in a lot of hard work.”
The highlight of the series comes in the final episode when Ji-woo finally gets to the bottom of who murdered her father.
“If emotions came first, when Ji-woo realized that Mu-jin [her father's best friend] was the murderer, then I don’t think she would have been able to kill him,” Han said. “She scrapped off her identity, abandoned her whole life with the single purpose of killing the culprit with her own hands, so her emotions would have been kept at bay, with her ultimately becoming the monster. When we filmed the scene when she finally kills Mu-jin, director Kim Jin-min specifically instructed me to not to let myself cry, so that’s how that scene came to be.”
Han shared what kind of life Ji-woo would lead after the series’ ending.
“Seeing the change in Ji-woo’s hair and her overall style, I thought [the creators] wanted to depict Ji-woo as someone who was more free from the exhausted state of mind,” she said. “She may never lead a normal life, but I wonder can she now have a chance to become less isolated — to love, to have friends like others her age. If another season comes out, since Ki-ho [police chief] is still alive, I reckon that she can now be someone that fights for good.”
Although she was primarily recognized for her looks, the actor feels that “My Name” has opened up the gateway for her to try more diverse roles and genres.
“To be recognized for anything, whether it’s due to my external or internal charms, I’m grateful for it all,” Han said. “But, I don’t want to be just considered pretty. I do not believe that glamor should only lie in physicality, which is why I want to try a greater variety of characters and genres, to show a different kind of beauty and style. I’ve always had the ambition to become an irreplaceable actor, to have my own distinctness that lies only in myself. To hear from people that no one can pull off this role like I can, that’s what I would like to hear from others, and that’s the mindset that I will carry forward as an actor in the future.”
BY LEE JAE-LIM [email@example.com]