The cast of the new drama ``Iris'' pose for the cameras at a press conference held May 12 in southern Seoul. From left, Lee Byung-hun, Kim Tae-hee, Jung Jun-ho, Kim Seung-woo, Kim So-yeon and T.O.P. / Yonhap
By Han Sang-hee
``Iris'' is gearing up for a new genre of drama ¡ª espionage action. The new series, expected to air in September, has fans anticipating where it will refuel the passion for hallyu.
``Iris'' is not only based on the hit movie ``Swiri'' (1998), but also stars some of Korea's best-known actors.
Lee Byung-hun, Kim Tae-hee, Jung Jun-ho, Kim Seung-woo, Kim So-yeon and Big Bang member T.O.P. will appear in the ``blockbuster action melodrama,'' and even the actors said they were worried how the drama makers will pull out all the charms from the colorful actors.
``We approached `Iris' like it was a spy film, so viewers will get to watch movie-like scenes along with the emotional details that have made Korean drama so popular over the years at the same time,'' Kim Kyu-tae, the director, said.
``One of the most interesting issues here is the division of South and North Korea. It's something that the world is interested in, but we tend to avoid mentioning the issue. `Iris' takes place in the middle of all this, so I believe that's one of the reasons why we are receiving international recognition,'' fellow director Yang Yun-ho added.
The story takes place in South Korea where Kim Hyun-jun (Lee) and Jin Sa-woo (Jung) are National Security System (NSS) agents and best friends. The two fall for the same girl, fellow agent Choi Seung-hee (Kim) but Hyun-jun ignores his feelings and hopes for his friend's happiness. Things take a drastic turn when Hyun-jun is sent for a secret solo mission and he loses everything, including his friendship with Sa-woo and Seung-hee, and discovers a secret society called ``Iris.''
A short documentary showed scenes of the cast and the crew shooting in Japan, one showing Lee screeching down a dam with Kim in his arms, and this was one that Lee personally thought as one of the most memorable and terrifying.
``It was perfectly safe, but the height of the dam was about 130 meters, and it apparently did make me nervous,'' said Lee, who is waiting for the releases of the Hollywood movies he appeared in, ``G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra'' and ``I Come With Rain."
The series was filmed around the world, including places where Korean dramas were never filmed before, such as Hungary, and the crew said that they were welcomed with open arms.
``I don't know how they knew, but fans were everywhere and I have never felt more grateful for their interest,'' Lee added.
The support was extra special, particularly in Japan, where Lee is a huge hallyu star. The Akita Prefecture supported the actors and crewmembers with free lodging throughout the shoots.
Kim Tae-hee, a top female star who returns to the small screen after four years, appeared in black mini-dress and said that she tried hard to depict the image of the smart and strong agent Choi.
``I lost some weight and trained at action stunt schools with fellow actors. I actually went through many injuries during rehearsals, so I am waiting for a perfect recovery now,'' she said.
For the usually comical Kim Seung-woo, who plays a North Korean agent, reporters asked him how it felt to act a North Korean, and the oldest and only married actor answered with humor.
``North Korean agents are very different from what people may imagine. They don't use different dialects of the Korean language, and are very handsome like me. When I saw the DVD set of the popular television series `24' at one of my friends' house, I felt a bit disappointed and sad. I want this drama to become like `24,' something that you would like to keep and watch every now and then,'' he said.
Boasting a budget of more than 20 billion won and produced by one of Korea's top production companies, Taewon Entertainment, ``Iris'' is aiming for a new chapter in Korean dramas, hoping to attract not only local but also foreign fans as well.
``We feel great responsibility and excitement at bringing such a genre based on the world's last divided country. While men will be attracted to the action scenes, along with the friendship and revenge between fellow agents and enemies, women can connect with the emotional details between the lovely and handsome characters, torn between love and their duties,'' director Kim said.
``Iris'' will be aired in September on KBS2.