By Kwon Mee-yoo
Liars are dominating the small screen in the Monday/Tuesday time slot. Gong A-jeong of “True Romance” on SBS is faking a marriage to defend her pride, while Lee So-yeong of “Baby-Faced Beauty” on KBS lies about her age to get a job.
Another impostor is joining the race for fake lives — actress Lee Da-hae stars as Jang Mi-ri in MBC’s new soap “Miss Ripley,” and this heroine is a woman of large caliber compared to other leading ladies.
Jang grew up in an orphanage and was adopted by a family in Japan. However, she had to survive on the streets before escaping to Korea. Life in Korea proves to be tough as well, as she finds employment difficult with just a high school degree, and she even gets sexually molested by an executive during a job interview.
Her breakthrough comes when she is hired at a top-class hotel after fabricating her academic record, making herself a graduate of the University of Tokyo. On her way up the social ladder, she takes advantage of two men in the hospitality business that fall for her.
As the title indicates, the drama is inspired by the Hollywood movie “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” a story of an underachiever who uses his talents to forge someone else’s life.
“I always thought it’d be better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody,” Ripley said in the movie and so does Jang in the drama.
Makers of the TV show vacillated between “Goodbye Miss Ripley” and “Ripley” in choosing the title but ruled out using the word “goodbye.” The director said there is a superstition about the word hindering the success of dramas.
Lee’s character is said to be have been inspired by Shin Jeong-ah, a former curator convicted for fabricating her academic credentials and embezzling funds. Lee said the role is a turning point in her acting career.
“I know she is a villain and unforgivable under common standards. However, I sympathized with her and want the viewers to understand why she made such extreme choices,” Lee said during a press event in Seoul on May 17.
“However, the motif is just a motif and Jang is not an onscreen version of Shin.”
The four principal actors of the drama are display distinct individualities.
“It is as if we’re at different points and finally meet at a crossroads. We are so dissimilar, but we create great harmony,” Lee said.
The two men that fall in love with Jang are played by veteran actor Kim Seung-woo and singer-turned-actor Park Yu-chun of JYJ.
Kim said he wanted to portray deep, profound love and was attracted to the drama for this reason. His character Jang Myeong-hun is the general manager of the hotel where Mi-ri works.
“He suddenly falls in love for the first time in his 40s. I think actors in my age would express such emotions well,” Kim said.
He also revealed that he sees a psychiatrist after filming a movie or drama.
“Actors are psychologically affected after playing someone else’s life. I’ve been going through counseling for about two-and-a-half years now and I think it is not something to hide,” Kim said. “I might go see my shrink after shooting this drama, as Jang will be wounded by this love.”
Park, who successfully transformed into an actor from a pop idol through “Sungkyunkwan Scandal” last year, plays the role of Song Yu-hyeon, the heir of a famed resort company.
He said he related to his character’s personality. “Song is very gentle and has good manners. He is not arrogant like other rich people,” Park said. “This is first time for me to act in a drama set in modern times and it feels great to work with such great actors and actresses.”
Despite the burden of a sophomore complex, Park showed confidence in his character and the soap, emphasizing the classic, serious aspect of the drama.
Actress Kang Hae-jung takes the role of Na Hui-ju, a friend of Mi-ri from the orphanage. Her character work at the same hotel as Mi-ri, and risks danger if she reveals the truth about this Miss Ripley.
She has returned to the small screen after four years. “Na was not a big character at first, but she is growing up throughout the drama,” Kang said.
The drama kicks off next Monday at 9:55 p.m. on MBC.