During the first few months of 2021, actor Song Kang starred in three very different Korean dramas. He plays a shy student, who bravely battles monsters in the horror drama Sweet Home, a disappointed lover in the second season of Love Alarm, and a talented but disheartened ballet dancer in the currently airing Navillera. Each character has some qualities the actor can identify with.
“I think my characteristics are reflected in all of the roles I played,” said Song. “In Sweet Home’s Hyun-su, you can see my introverted personality—sometimes I’m timid, and I like to stay home. Love Alarm’s Sun-oh shows a side of me that tries to express myself sincerely even though I’m awkward at it. I felt Chae-rok of Navillera was similar to me in that he works passionately toward his dream. I imagine and ponder the emotions and situations of the character before I portray it, so it seems that my actual characteristics permeate each work.”
It’s a lot of characters to embody in a short time, but saying goodbye to one and moving on to another has so far not been a problem.
“During the filming period, I’m often immersed in the emotions and situations of the character I play almost all day long,” said Song. “But when the filming is over, I am quick to return to my daily life. I think the best way to let the character go without regrets is to do your best in every work, rather than saying goodbye in a specific way. After finishing a series, I return to the position as a viewer and watch what I worked on almost every day, meeting the character that I played.”
Some characters do linger longer than others.
“All the characters I’ve played so far mean a lot to me, but I think Sun-oh of Love Alarm and Hyun-su of Sweet Home have stayed with me longer than other characters. I had great chemistry with the actors of my age on the Love Alarm set. Sweet Home was the first horror genre I tried, so I was very nervous, but I was able to do a good job thanks to director Lee Eung-bok and the wonderful actors who helped me out a lot. I experienced a lot of emotions, and I grew in many ways while filming the two series. As I have grown attached to Sun-oh and Hyun-su, I am still rooting for them, hoping they would be living well somewhere.”
The second season of Love Alarm aired almost a year and a half after the first season, but the characters experienced an even longer time gap. In the first season, the characters were high school students using a new technology that rings an alarm to indicate that someone who loves them is nearby. The second season featured the characters four years later. Song credits the series’ return to the enthusiasm of its fans.
“Thanks to all the love you’ve given us in Love Alarm Season 1, we were able to come back with the second season,” said Song. “Above all, I was really grateful. Love Alarm Season 2 takes place about four years after Season 1. On set, I actually felt that the characters have grown up, so I remember being fascinated and excited about it. It’s been a while since I last played Sun-oh, and he has matured and grown stronger in the meantime. I thought more about how to portray that part well.”
Song is currently filming Navillera, also known as Like A Butterfly, which he said provides valuable experience working with senior actors that he greatly admires. In Navillera, Song plays a ballet student who struggles to support himself while learning his craft. He works long hours and his teacher advises him to stop working part time jobs, because he needs to practice more.
However, his 23-year-old character, Chae-rok, must support himself. He really wants to dance but it’s so difficult to juggle it all—along with unresolved issues about his father—that he becomes disheartened. Chae-rok meets and must tutor Deok-chul, a 70-year-old who has long dreamt of studying dance, but had other demands in his time. Deok-chul is also assigned to be his manager and follows Chae-rok around, making sure he eats well and does not work too hard. At first Chae-rok is annoyed, but since he has no family to nurture or support him, he eventually feels touched. They have a lot to teach each other.
“I also learned a lot playing Chae-rok, who grows up after meeting Deok-chul, and I believe this character will stay with me for a long time.”
To play a ballet dancer in the drama, Song had to learn ballet. That’s not easy since most dancers start training at age seven and training can take eight to 10 years. Despite Song’s modesty about his progress, the actor moves gracefully and plausibly demonstrates just how athletic ballerinos need to be.
“I tried ballet for the first time in my life in Navillera,” said Song. “Since I’ve never learned to dance before, I was worried and felt burdened about playing a ballerino in the beginning. So I took ballet lessons for five to six months before I started filming. I tried not to look awkward by focusing on improving the lines, feelings of my moves and gaze rather than executing difficult movements. Of course, it was my first time doing ballet, so I was very clumsy and tired, but I started to have more fun as I improved over time. Then I studied and worked harder to prepare for the role.”
Although the actor had no previous experience as a dancer, he found it easy to relate to the struggles dancers can face.
“As I played Chae-rok, who was lost between chasing his dream and settling with reality, I empathized with him in many ways,” said Song. “No matter how talented you are and how much you like ballet, it’d be difficult to go after your dream if you run into the problem of making a living. If I were him, I wouldn’t have felt excited to continue doing ballet either. However, since Chae-rok has Deok-chul by his side, he finds passion and desire for ballet again. As the viewers watch the show, they will be moved and be comforted by Chae-rok and Deok-chul’s story as I was.”
His co-star in the drama is Park In-hwan, a talented actor who has starred in dozens of films and dramas. Song admits it was a little intimidating.
“To be honest, until the first day of filming, I was very concerned about acting with Park In-hwan, a great senior actor,” said Song. “Because I worried so much about things like ‘Maybe I’ll be a nuisance,’ and ‘What if I mess up my lines?’ I couldn’t sleep well. I even rehearsed my lines in my dreams. But contrary to my worries, I was able to act comfortably thanks to the senior actors who greeted me so warmly and showed me great consideration. I learned and experienced a lot while filming Navillera. Park In-hwan was great in bringing out the perfect chemistry between Deok-chul and Chae-rok. You won’t be disappointed.”
Song made his drama debut in 2017 in The Liar and His Lover and made his film debut in 2018 in the fantasy film Beautiful Vampire. He is already preparing for his next drama.
This story was originally published on forbes.com.
Photo via Studio Dragon