Park Shin-hye plays a fierce warrior from the future in the sci-fi drama Sisyphus: The Myth. Her character Gang Seo-hae is a time traveler who lands in present-day Korea, armed and ready to fight. Adept at martial arts and practiced in marksmanship, Seo-hae knows she’s there to save the world and there’s no time to waste.
While the present-day world seems like paradise compared to the harsh future, she can’t afford to relax. Seo-hae must protect engineer Han Tae-sul, played by Cho Seung-woo. Changing his fate may be the key to preventing a nuclear disaster.
“In Sisyphus, the people from the future are those who have returned to the present with a purpose, no matter what the risks,” said Park. “This is true for Gang Seo-hae. She’s a cool character who struggles to change the future. And she has many likable traits. She’s honest and bold. She faces her situation head-on. Others might view her as someone naive and clueless about worldly matters, but in truth her innocence comes from the fact that she has lived in a bunker for a long time since childhood. And, in contrast to that innocent side of her, she’s a person who can adapt to changing situations and put up a fight when necessary.”
Park tackles the drama’s action scenes with enthusiasm and agility. The confidence with which she defies gravity, leaping gracefully into the air and decimating villains, makes it obvious she relishes the physicality.
“Seo-hae’s an action-oriented character,” said Park. “The best thing for me was being involved in the action scenes.”
Sisyphus gave her ample opportunities to demonstrate her natural talent for action scenes, which she fine tuned with several weeks of training.
“I enrolled in an action school a month and a half before filming began,” said Park. “I enjoyed my time there because I usually have no qualms about getting physical and roughing it. From holding a gun, to every other element in the staging of an action scene. I practiced until it became a natural part of my body movement. The filming of the scene at Sun’s house, for example, took place much after I had practiced it at the school. But because I had practiced the whole sequence, I was able to apply it quickly on set. Sometimes I was required to perform impromptu action on set during filming. That was possible because the action team and I had put in the time piecing together and practicing sequences. I was able to learn new moves quickly and perform them on the spot.”
Park, who made her debut playing the younger version of Choi Ji-woo’s character in the 2003 drama Stairway to Heaven, has long wanted to try the kind of action scenes that propel Sisyphus and hopes there will be more opportunities in the future.
“I had so much fun,” said Park. “But it’s not like I was 100 percent happy with my action performance, so I’d love to take on other films or drama series involving action. Performing an action scene is never easy, because you can’t let yourself go, even for a moment. If you do, someone could get hurt. But I had so much fun learning and performing these scenes.”
Park admits that as a child, she briefly considered becoming a police officer. Or maybe even a kindergarten teacher, she adds with a laugh. But early and consistent success confirmed that acting was a good career choice. Since her debut, she’s played multiple professions in films and on the small screen—a singer, a doctor, a lawyer, a judo coach and even a lonely queen.
Although Park’s international following may owe a lot to her roles in popular dramas, such as You’re Beautiful with Jang Geun Suk, The Heirs with Lee Min Ho, Pinocchio with Lee Jong Suk, Flower Boy Next Door with Yoon Shi-hoon and Memories of Alhambra with Hyun Bin, her film resume is also noteworthy. Park starred in the historical film The Royal Tailor, the zombie film #Alive, the horror film The Call and the comedy/drama Miracle in Cell No. 7, which became one of the highest grossing Korean films of all time.
Since her debut Park has worked consistently, whether she was acting, hosting, modeling, or serving as an ambassador for various causes. It’s an intense schedule, but she derives motivation from what she does and those around her.
“The driving forces are my fans, family, friends and my colleagues,” said Park. “Acting provides such fun and rare opportunities to express things and to encounter interesting characters. It is such a blessing to share the emotional experiences with people who have seen my performances. I can’t think of anything more fun and meaningful than that. It’s those moments accrued over time that sustains me and my work.”
When her character travels to the past in Sisyphus: The Myth, Seo-hae does not rush to see the family she lost. If time travel really existed and Park could travel back, family would be a priority.
“I haven’t really thought about turning back time to return to any one period, but if I could, I’d like to visit the time when my maternal grandmother was healthy,” said Park. “She passed away when I was very little.”
When it comes to destinations she can actually travel to, Park has preferences that will hopefully translate into plans once pandemic restrictions phase out. There are some places she would return to and some she would like to visit for the first time.
“It’s hard to narrow it down to one place,” she said. “I have so many wonderful memories of every destination, with cities and vacation places each having their own charm. So it’s hard to choose. For my next trip, I’d love to go somewhere like Hawaii.”
After demonstrating a talent for action skills in Sisyphus, the very next role she chooses might require fewer somersaults.
“Some of my recent works had distinct genre characteristics,” she said. “These days I’m thinking I’d like to be involved in a pleasant and laid back human drama type of a show that deals with the subtleties of day-to-day life.”