Kim Woo-bin makes K-drama comeback in star-studded Our Blues
Even the cast of upcoming K-drama series Our Blues could not quite believe the A-list line-up assembled for the Jeju-set omnibus drama series.
It features 14 characters over various storylines and the stars include Lee Byung-hun, Shin Min-a, Cha Seung-won, Lee Jung-eun, Uhm Jung-hwa and Han Ji-min. And it is Kim Woo-bin's first drama series since his recovery from nasopharyngeal cancer.
Here are five things to know about the series, which is streaming on Netflix.
Our Blues, by acclaimed screenwriter Noh Hee-kyung (Live, 2018), is about a group of ordinary people living in Jeju and all the key roles are played by household names.
Veteran actor Cha (A Korean Odyssey, 2017 to 2018) was taken aback when he found out about the cast. The 51-year-old says at an online press conference: "I was like, 'Are you sure? Are you sure it's Lee Byung-hun?'"
He adds: "The one time all of us got together in the series was to film a scene for the village's track and field day. Everyone was there and I was blown away. That moment remains like a photograph in my head."
Even popular singer-actress Uhm (A Witch's Love, 2014) had a fangirl moment. The 52-year-old says: "I didn't have any scenes filmed in the fish market until the very end. And when I finally had one, the unrealistically handsome Kim Woo-bin was there carrying boxes and spraying water over fish. I just sat there and watched him until the filming crew told me to move."
In a rare public outing, real-life couple Shin (Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, 2021) and Kim (The Heirs, 2013) appear in Our Blues.
While Shin, 38 and Kim, 32, went public with their romance in 2015, they do not play a couple in the series. Shin's plot line involves Lee Byung-hun while Kim's scenes are primarily opposite actress Han.
While the stars refrained from addressing their relationship, screenwriter Noh says: "I knew they wouldn't sign on to the project if they were playing a couple. When I was casting them, I told them that they would each have a romantic arc with someone else in the series."
Lee Byung-hun (Squid Game, 2021) initially mistook Cha's role for his own. He says the first main male character he encountered while reading the script was Han-soo, a man who returns to his home town of Jeju.
Lee, 51, says, to the laughter of the cast: "Because I'm so used to playing the leading role, I was like, 'Oh, I must be Han-soo.' So I read through two volumes of the script and I was like, 'I love this character, this is going to be so much fun. This is how I should feel when I am acting in this scene.'
"And then I got to the end of volume two, and it says Han-soo is extremely good at basketball because he is really tall. He even dunks and was the tallest of his class back in high school."
Cha, who stands at 1.88m, is more than 10cm taller than Lee.
Filming in Jeju posed some challenges.
Shin says: "It was really windy. The crew joked that every time I appear, the wind starts blowing too."
Her beau, Kim, had to battle the island's waters. Kim took a break from acting to seek treatment after he was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer in 2017. Our Blues is his first drama series in six years.
He plays a boat captain, but in real life, he got seasick.
He says: "I had to focus on the horizon, look at the ocean and concentrate on breathing. If I let my guard down for just a minute, the nausea would come to me. Once I got the hang of it, it was actually very calming, just as if I were meditating."
Han stars opposite Kim as a rookie haenyo (Korean for a female who dives for molluscs or seaweed) and her diving suit required two to three people to put on and take off. The Rooftop Prince (2012) actress, 39, says: "Because we needed to shoot on the boat, I couldn't even have a cup of water because going to the bathroom was such a hassle."
Parasite (2019) actress Lee Jung-eun, who stars as a Jeju fishmonger who bumps into her first love after many years apart, says filming on the island gave her a chance to rub shoulders with the locals.
The 52-year-old says: "As we were filming in Jeju, we didn't have professional extras as we would in Seoul. Residents of Jeju from areas like Gonae-ri, Aewol and Seogwipo acted as extras.
"In the scenes set in the fish market, they sometimes actually purchased fish to bring home. Some spoke the Jeju dialect, which I didn't understand, so there were times when I didn't know how to react."