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Hong Gil Dong: Behind-the-scenes special

Well, Hong Gil Dong is officially over. A “special” broadcast Thursday wrapped things up with the cast and director on the set of the series and ran through the usual dog and pony show — behind-the-scenes snippets, some outtakes, hosts asking the cast a bunch of soft questions about the experience.

As a source of information, the special was pretty thin on material, but as a wrap-up to the series, it may be a soothing balm for those who were gravely offended by the finale. I still maintain that the finale was a cut above the rest of the series (for me, the series had a tendency to wander), but whether or not you liked it, the special showed everyone in full goofball mode, all jokey and light-hearted, so therat was nice to see.

Oh, and speaking of the finale — I’ve changed my mind about what the opening sequence of Episode 1 means. I’m pretty sure now that the slick first action scene was really the story of Gil Dong as retold by Eun Hye in her written version of his life. I remember noting that Eun Hye had wondered if her feelings for Gil Dong may have enhanced her telling of the story, and made Gil Dong seem extra-cool. That goes a long way in explaining why the opening sequence resembles the Gil Dong and Hwal Bin Dang we’re familiar with, yet they all look more polished and put-together than we’ve seen them. Their personalities remain intact despite the exaggerated quality (the flying through the air, their clothing) because Eun Hye is acquainted with them and knows their personalities.

Anyway. Just thought I’d put that out there.

(Not to be repetitive, but I’ll reiterate anyway — these are my opinions, so you may disagree.)


Hong Gil Dong OST – “작은 배” (Small Boat) by Girls Generation [ Download ]

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The entire series spanned eight months of filming. In the director’s words, they started in relatively warm weather, suffered through bitterly cold filming conditions through the winter, and now are coming back round to a warmer season.

The cast gathered after filming concluded on the last episode, all still dressed in their standard costumes. Because of the way the stories divided up the cast members, some actors were just meeting for the first time — Jang Geun Seok and the actor playing Merchant Wang, for instance, as well as Merchant Wang and Jo Hee Bong (playing Kwang Whe).

Jang Geun Seok took the camera behind the scenes for a bit, looking through his costumes and delivering pizza to the actors on set. The special (seeing him in streetwear, for instance) only heightened the real-life age differences that are completely different from their drama ages — Jang Geun Seok is the youngest main cast member (20), Sung Yuri is 27, and Kang Ji Hwan is 31 (Korean age 32). In real life, Jang Geun Seok’s much more playful and immature (and I don’t mean that negatively — just that he’s got some growing up to do still, since he’s barely out of adolescence) than his character, while Sung Yuri seems rather self-aware and coy. Kang Ji Hwan speaks extremely well and strikes me as a very savvy sort of guy — he knows how to present himself confidently and comfortably. He conveys sincerity but I feel like we’re definitely not getting the whole picture, which is what I mean by savvy. It’s a mature-actor (or is it serious-actor?) trait, I think.

When asked about her character’s personality, Sung Yuri explained that she’d considered Enok her opposite, while others surprised her by saying she was just like the character. Apparently there was no consensus on what her “real” personality was — the actor playing Su Geun thought she was like Enok in that they both had a tough and “low-brow” quality to them (i.e., a salty sense of humor).


Notable was the extreme cold, made worse by wind. Kang Ji Hwan’s muscles were hidden, as a fan noted on the online message boards, by layers and layers of clothing — sometimes up to four layers of underclothes. It was just that cold (see Su Geun hiding behind Mal Nyeo; Kang Ji Hwan comes and takes cover behind both of them in a moment):


There were lots of action sequences, and wire work in particular for the more fantastical, comic-book elements. Kang Ji Hwan accidentally hit an actor for real and sent him to the hospital, and had his own troubles staying on his feet for his wire sequences.


There’s always time for the Tell Me dance:


The rapport between the actors seemed pretty friendly, more for some actors like Gom and Yeon. Jang Geun Seok joked that his “Yuri noona” would always come sit by him, no matter where he chose to sit (she answered that it was to steal his youthful energy).

When asked what the series Hong Gil Dong meant to them, Kang Ji Hwan answered that it was like bibimbap — that rice dish mixed with a hodgepodge of seasoned vegetables, sesame oil, hot bean paste, and whatever else you want to throw in. He explained the analogy by saying that he was reminded of bibimbap in the way that a lot of things were mixed in together — parody, sageuk, fusion elements. Sung Yuri answered that to her, it was like birthday cake — something you only get on select occasions and not very frequently, which gives a feeling of specialness. (That answer prompted the hosts to ask whether she’d prepared her answer in advance.)

The actor playing Su Geun said “Hong Gil Dong was crazy,” but in a good way — in the way that one can put all one’s energy and passion into something. When the director was asked to react to that, he smiled and said, “It was crazy.” The actor playing Yeon said it was like a gag (comedian) contest — everyone had practiced hard on their own and brought their own talents and preparation to the table.


A few NG scenes — Kang Ji Hwan bursting into laughter when Sung Yuri feels him up, and repeatedly losing a hold on his weapon in a fight scene, and Jang Geun Seok delivering a convincingly serious line on “horseback” —


When asked if any of the actors had been particularly enamored with Jang Geun Seok at first (for being so pretty), Kim Jae Seung (In Hyung) immediately raised his hand and related a story about playing soccer together and being struck with his good-looking features. He tried to add that he didn’t mean it in a sexy sort of way, merely in appreciation of his looks, but naturally the rest of the cast teased him for the rest of the special.

Kim Rina (Eun Hye) seemed quite humble and well-spoken — she’d been quoted as being afraid of the director. The way she spoke, it seemed she was one of the least experienced actors and was very self-deprecating about her abilities (and lack of experience), but very praiseworthy to Kang Ji Hwan for taking time to teach her and guide her through.

Jo Hee Bong (Kwang Whe) seemed the most different of the others — the serious eccentric — and was teased for being long-winded. When the director commented on his ability to endure through the cold in his thin king’s costume (often open-chested), he admitted that he’d learned an important lesson: Always fasten the top button well. By which he meant, at first it wasn’t so bad, but the longer he had to act in that garment, the more painful the cold became. It was his mistake for leaving the front of the robe open in the first place, because then he was stuck for the rest of the series with that look. I don’t think he’s comfortable in these kinds of loud, jokey settings, and for whatever reason he had a separate one-on-one segment with one of the hosts.

Kang Ji Hwan was asked about the rumor that he’d agreed to do the series immediately upon hearing Sung Yuri was cast as his love interest. He clarified that he’d actually been the one to be cast first, but had mentioned at one point that if he had it his way, he’d like for Sung Yuri to be selected. Knowing that filming would cover months, he figured he might as well shoot for someone he always wanted to work with (sounds like he was a FinKL fan).

He was also teased for blushing in his kiss scene with Sung Yuri (in the final episode), suggesting that he’d enjoyed it overly. Kang Ji Hwan explained that he’d actually reddened from being angry — that the kiss was over too quickly, just when he’d been prepared to launch into a longer one.

And there you go.

By no means was this everything — there were some more questions and a five-clip collection of “best scenes” reshown, hosted by Tae Yeon (the Girls Generation member who sang the “If” song on the OST and who frankly comes off a bit like a happy idiot) — but I hope you enjoyed hearing some of the highlights of the special.


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