Here’s the latest in IS Plus’s series of “drinking interviews,” where the reporter has drinks with a star while the interview progresses. This one is with Chuno‘s much-beleaguered actress, Lee Da-hae:
I met with Lee Da-hae of the drama Chuno, who suffers alone despite its explosive popularity as “Un-nyun.” The drama has exceeded a 30% viewership rating and the drama’s so-called “brutish men” played by Jang Hyuk, Oh Ji-ho, Han Jung-soo and Kim Ji-suk have been showered in praise for their action-filled acting. However, playing the drama’s slave Un-nyun, who has elevated her status to the noblewoman Kim Hye-won, is Lee Da-hae who, as before, continues to be viewed in a negative light.
Counter to reality, unlike a slave she has white skin and pure-white underclothes, and she has been in revealing scenes one after another that have been blurred for modesty. In order to resolve all this curiosity, I requested a drinking interview with Lee Da-hae, who is at the core of all this criticism. An interview explaining and defending herself might give rise to even more critical responses, so Lee Da-hae had declined interview requests, but after meeting with her, she was a simple and pleasant actor.
It started with the choice to drink makgulli (rice wine). She ordered makgulli, pork feet, assorted pancakes, and acorn jelly, saying, “This is what I usually eat when I drink.” We began by toasting with the white rice wine in black ceramic cups. Black and white, and also the brownish hat with the red of her scarf — they produced a lovely ensemble. The cover to the script of Chuno‘s Episode 16 was also an orange color.
Chuno is popular these days, but there’s a lot of fuss over Un-nyun.
“The fans like the drama so much that it gives us support. But it seemed that Hye-won [Lee Da-hae uses the name Hye-won more than Un-nyun] was the only one being criticized, which was a bit upsetting. I felt a little wronged, too. [Laughs]”
I’ll be straightforward. Did you really shoot the drama with a full manicure?
“There are some people who point that out, but I feel that’s really unfair. What actor would wear a manicure in a sageuk drama? It doesn’t make sense. If I said that I didn’t wear anything, they’d say that I wore clear polish, but the nails really are bare. If it’s a problem that the lighting is so bright that fingernails shine, then that’s a problem.”
There’s also complaints about you wearing a wrist watch.
“That’s even more ridiculous. How can I wear a watch in a sageuk? That isn’t common sense.”
There was a lot of talk about the near-rape scene and the blurring of your exposed skin.
“That’s not something I can control. As an actor, that’s an issue that goes beyond my limitations. I’m sad about that. When the blurring went out on air and the complaints grew, I complained to Jang Hyuk over the phone for about forty minutes. I thought, why do these things keep happening only to me? He advised me, ‘When it’s all over, everything will help you.’”
You looked more glamorous than expected.
(Note: “glamorous” is often used as a euphemism for voluptuous.)
“The hanbok was tied really tightly. That’s why it looked like that. But I’m not entirely flat, either. [Laughs]”
Things must have been really bad for a list to come out that names everyone Un-nyun has harmed.
“I understand that too. I took a look once, and I remember entries like ‘It’s Un-nyun’s fault Dae-gil’s family was destroyed’ and ‘It’s because of Un-nyun’s blurry scenes that viewers are losing enthusiasm.’ [Laughs] It says that every bad thing that happens in the drama is Un-nyun’s fault.”
There are approximately 24 items on this list that has been circulating on the Internet. It’s a collection of characters who have died or been harmed because of Un-nyun. It starts with ‘It’s Un-nyun’s fault that Dae-gin’s family was destroyed, and that Dae-gil and Song Tae-ha both suffer sword injuries.” It continues, “It’s because of Un-nyun that the Buddhist monk cannot attain nirvana,” and hits its peak and draws laughs with “It’s Un-nyun’s fault that the viewers are about to burst with frustration.” Two opinions clash, one that says the list is fun, and another that says it’s too hard on Lee Da-hae.
Why are you the only one attracting such blame?
“Hye-won stands out. In such a masculine drama, Hye-won’s existence is noticeable in comparison. I think the viewers don’t like me because the main characters with amazing muscles whom I look up to are monopolizing their love. I want to think that it’s because there are a lot of people who have fallen for the drama.”
It seems like the general public opinion is that they “don’t like seeing someone acting pretty” in an insincere way.
“But I don’t do that… There must be a problem with the way I approach fans. There are certain things I acknowledge. Even if that was the intention of the writer or director, as an actor I had to pay more attention to my makeup and costuming.”
Mention of “Un-nyun’s list” made Lee Da-hae laugh, but she tilted back her glass frequently. It seemed like she was thirsty, and the makgulli was quite sweet. She drank often, saying, “It’s delicious.”
You must have gone through a tough time.
“I can’t even tell you. Now I can laugh a little, but in the beginning it was so hard that I could barely manage to control my facial expressions. These days, I deliberately soil my hands with dirt when I film. Even though my hands are chapped because of the cold weather, I don’t use hand lotion.”
What do the people around you say?
“Jang Hyuk advises me that if I stick it out through the end, everything will resolve itself. Oh Ji-ho has taken on the role of Lee Da-hae spokesman, going around saying that Lee Da-hae isn’t like that.”
Even writer Chun Sung-il expressed his apologies.
Writer Chun Sung-il recently gave an interview where he apologized to Lee Da-hae. He said, “I felt extremely sorry toward Lee Da-hae after seeing her called a public menace and being criticized. However, if you watch the drama through the end, you’ll be able to understand Un-nyun.”
Criticism has grown louder from audiences because of Hye-won’s extremely passive character. Compared to female leads in Iron Empress and Queen Seon-deok who controlled their own fates, she has constantly retreated.
Writer Chun explained, “Editing has left out scenes where Un-nyun worries over a situation, and although it wasn’t our intention, dissatisfaction has grown with Un-nyun’s character and she has been blamed for her makeup, which I was sorry to see. Un-nyun may have been frustrating till now, but if you continue watching, things will change.”
What will happen to Hye-won in the future?
“Her character has started to change from Episode 10, and she will become more three-dimensional. There will be more emotional scenes with her, and more psychological description of her character. That should reduce the number of complaints, won’t it? [Laughs]”
- Chuno writer apologizes to Lee Da-hae
- Oh Ji-ho: “I’m extremely satisfied with this masculine role”
- Jang Hyuk: “My family is my strength”
- Chuno fends off continued criticism
- Lee Da-hae: “I dated one of my co-stars”
- Chuno breaks 30% in its second week
- Chuno: Episodes 1-2