Squid Game star Wi Ha-joon says his The Worst Of Evil villain is ‘the worst kind of sexy’
Hot on the heels of its hit South Korean superhero series Moving, Disney+ has unveiled gritty new K-drama The Worst Of Evil, and says it plans to increase its investment in original South Korean programming.
Now showing on the streaming platform, the much-anticipated 12-episode crime thriller is set in the Gangnam district of Seoul in the 1990s and follows Joon-mo (Ji Chang-wook), a police officer who goes undercover to infiltrate the gang behind a dangerous new party drug.
He poses as the cousin of a murdered gangster to earn the trust of the gang’s leader, up-and-coming crime boss Jung Gi-cheul, played by newly minted sex symbol and Squid Game (2021) star Wi Ha-joon.
But things get dicey when Joon-mo’s wife and fellow officer Eui-jung (Im Se-mi) joins the operation and Gi-cheul recognises her from his past.
At a recent press conference live-streamed from Seoul, director Han Dong-wook, 41, admits he is nervous unveiling The Worst Of Evil so soon after Moving, which premiered in August and quickly topped Disney+’s global chart, becoming its most-watched series in the Asia-Pacific region.
According to a report in The Korea Times, Moving is viewed as a “critical turning point” for the streaming platform, and a Disney spokesman says it now plans to increase its investment in original South Korean content.
Many K-drama fans are predicting The Worst Of Evil will do well too, but Han – who directed the romantic drama Man In Love (2014) – says: “I know Disney+ had a huge hit with Moving, and I’m thankful for that but also a little worried. But I want to tell you that The Worst Of Evil is also a good show.”
The actors felt the weight of expectations as well.
Says Ji, who headlined the 2011 historical action drama Warrior Baek Dong-soo: “For me, there was greater pressure while shooting the series because I wanted to make it a better show.”
The 36-year-old was initially hesitant about playing an undercover officer because “the undercover story has been done a lot”.
“But I’ve watched a lot of noir content, and the way emotions are woven into this story is very different.”
Wi, 32 – best known for portraying a cop who sneaks into a game to find his missing brother in the survival drama Squid Game and the mysterious male lead in the thriller Little Women (2022) – agrees.
“I think The Worst Of Evil is something that has not been seen before. It is a type of film noir genre for the younger generation, and not something you can watch with all members of the family.”
He is asked how his bad-guy role adds to his growing status as a sex symbol following the breakout success of Squid Game, which landed him on People magazine’s 2021 list of the 25 sexiest men on television.
Gi-cheul is more of an “evil (kind of) sexy”, the heart-throb says. “I think he is a villain and the worst kind of sexy.”
But in picking Wi, the point was to cast against type.
Explains Han: “When I got the script, I felt like Ha-joon would go well (with the character) because when a nice-looking person becomes a villain, I like that duality.”
The new series also features many violent, protracted fight scenes, for which Wi says he and the cast members trained extensively.
“All the actors really immersed themselves in the characters and worked so hard on the action sequences. I really felt proud.”
But the action here serves a bigger purpose, says Ji.
“We wanted it to go deeper into why they’re fighting. So the style of action is not really about the choreography. We focused more on how to portray emotions.”
And Wi was observing his co-star and taking notes, raving: “Chang-wook is so good at action. He’s a veteran.
“Watching him do these scenes, it’s not just about the movement and technique, but also the emotions and narrative. I learnt so much from him, and if I have action scenes in my next projects, I’m going to do what he did.”
The Worst Of Evil premieres on Disney+ on Wednesday.