Park Seo Joon dishes on the action and romance in Gyeongseong Creature

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Park Seo Joon dishes on the action and romance in Gyeongseong Creature
Set in 1945 against the backdrop of a Japanese-occupied South Korea, the 10-episode Gyeongseong Creature stars Park Seo Joon as Jang Tae Sang, a self-made man who became the richest person in Gyeongseong and the master of the House of Golden Treasure.

MANILA, Philippines — From Day 1 on the set of Gyeongseong Creature, Park Seo Joon was immediately immersed in his latest lead role, thanks to his gripping torture scene in the first episode of Netflix’s new monster-themed period series.

Set in 1945 against the backdrop of a Japanese-occupied South Korea, the drama unfolds with Seo Joon portraying Jang Tae Sang, a self-made man who became the richest person in Gyeongseong and the master of the House of Golden Treasure.

As the city’s most reliable source of insider information, anyone seeking money, goods, or people must pass through him. However, his life takes a tumultuous turn when seized by the Japanese police and brought before Police Commissioner Ishikawa.

Threatened with the loss of everything he possesses, Tae Sang must locate Ishikawa’s missing mistress, Myeong-ja, before the cherry blossoms fall. This sets the stage for the10-episode drama that blends horror, suspense, sci-fi, historical fiction and romance. Gyeongseong Creature, which has two parts, is now streaming at the No. 2 spot on Netflix Philippines.

“From the first scene, I was actually being tortured and it was extremely cold, too. And I was getting splashed with water. I was drenching wet. I almost felt like why am I being tortured, is this the way you welcome me onto the set?” Seo Joon recalled with amusement during his virtual press interview that The STAR attended.

“It was quite a struggle, it was quite tough. But shooting those first scenes, I felt like I became a little bit anticipating if this is the beginning, what is it going to be when we get to the end?

“In a way, I was like, wait, did I come to the wrong set? I was thinking, is this the right project for me? But because I was shooting that scene from the beginning, that really allowed me to immediately immerse myself into the role.”

What also helped him get into the role was his fascination with Tae Sang’s strong-willed character — someone who lives by his own rules, yet skilled enough to adapt to the complex social dynamics of his time. Seo Joon’s dedication to his portrayal included a detailed focus on period-appropriate fashion.

In the series, Seo Joon’s character Tae Sang meets Han So Hee’s Chae Ok, a sleuth looking for her missing mother. They team up in what will become a fight for survival. In building his onscreen romance with his co-star, Seo Joon stresses the importance of trust and collaboration.

“Before he became the master of the House of Golden Treasure, he went through many struggles and he grew with those experiences. One day, he becomes entangled in an event and the people he comes across… So, I tried to really focus on telling this backstory,” he said.

“When it came to the wardrobe and everything, we did a lot of research to make him come across that way. I’m sure you will be focusing on the performance, but also the overall look. And really the first impression of when you meet a character is also very important. So, we put a lot of effort into creating that.”

Asked about any similarities with his character in real life, Seo Joon admitted, “These questions really make me think about myself and what kind of person I am. To some extent I am similar to (my character), but then some elements are just very different.”

According to him, in his personal life, he needs a little bit more time to think before doing anything. “But I think, at least when it comes to my job, when I’m acting, I’m definitely action first and action forward.”

The Itaewon Class and What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim star got to display this side of him in the show that required him to engage in more hard action.

Seo Joon admitted being concerned at first, especially executing scenes that employed VFX (visual effects). What reassured him were the preparations put in place by the production.

He said, “When I was shooting those particular scenes, I did have some concerns about how I’m going to do it. But thankfully, the director and all the crew were so well-prepared. We have what’s called the pre-visuals where the VFX team will let you know what the VFX is going to look like in the final cut. It’s almost like a guide. And those were shown to me prior to getting into the scene, so it really helped me concentrate on my character.

The K-drama star’s dedication to his portrayal extended to how he presented himself in terms of fashion.
Photos courtesy of Netflix

“And we say it’s tough, we say it’s challenging, but you can change your own stress levels. That’s great stress, you know, it’s conducive to creating something better. And so, you would go through all of the process and also because a lot of it was the first time for many of us. It was a battle against time. We spent so much time creating a genre show. We really poured our hearts into it.

“And while I was concerned when I saw the final cut, I thought it all came out beautifully. So, to all of the audiences who choose to watch Gyeongseong Creature, I feel like you will be pleasantly surprised.”

But beyond the show’s promise of action, it was more essential for Seo Joon to convey the right emotions in each scene.

“I’d like to think that action scenes are very much like doing choreography. But within a choreographed line of movements and a sequence of movements, you have to bring emotional expressions into it,” he said.

“Through those many rehearsals you go through, we go through multiple takes until we get just the right cut. While there is the action element of it, what’s more important is the emotions of the characters that you can see through those action scenes. Because when it comes to the physical actions, that can be made after multiple cuts.

“However, when it comes to emotions, it has to be delivered at that particular moment. And it’s fleeting, too. And so while it can come across as if the action element is the bigger part of (the series), I think that the emotional element that is put onto the action is even greater.”

Seo Joon shares that he immediately immersed in his role after filming the ‘torture’ scene in the first episode of Netflix’s new monster-themed period drama.

These emotions and feelings come into play in many of Seo Joon’s scenes with co-star Han So Hee, who portrays Yoon Chae Ok, a detective looking for her missing mom. Tae Sang and Chae Ok end up teaming up to break into the mysterious Ongseong Hospital, where all the speculations, sleuthing and searching point to. That’s where they meet a creature borne out of people’s greed, and they have to fight to stay alive.

During the virtual press junket, Seo Joon and So Hee’s onscreen romance was described as “reserved” and expressions of love deemed as “restrained.” This presented a different experience compared to their past works, as pointed out, something Seo Joon agreed with.

“When it comes to acting and when it comes to performances, thinking about which degree, how much you want to express certain emotions, that’s always a big challenge. And because it has to be convincing, that is what we do as actors. And so making sure that I dial it to just the right degree, that was one of the things I prioritized this time around,” he explained.

“And there’s a certain mood or vibe that comes with the period piece or the history. So, I think because of the context, all I had to do was just look at (So Hee) and the rest of it was created organically, and also because So Hee is just a great actress. Rather than really being deliberate in trying to discuss what we were going to create, it was almost as if we had the context built already and we would come together and just go with it. It could be said as a reserved romance, but I think it has more to do with the context that makes people’s hearts ache.”

Talking more about developing onscreen chemistry with So Hee, the actor said that the time between their first meeting and filming proved important.

“I met with her for the first time and then we didn’t get to meet until later into the shoot. And that was very helpful. Because I wanted to see her, I missed her. So when I did get to see her, I went and said, ‘Well, I missed you, So Hee.’ Because we hadn’t been in a scene together for so long. I think those circumstances helped me out. And I thought long and hard about all the scenes, and as we were shooting them together, there were emotions that sucked up,” Seo Joon shared.

“Then there were things brought up by the circumstances. Those were helpful in building our romance. I just wanted to express that well because it was all there already. Like the ambiance was there already. I just had to do a good job of it myself. I just focused on the different moments in time.

“And you just have to trust your counterpart. I trusted So Hee. I really relied on her a lot, and she helped me out a lot.”

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