Interview with Pasta’s scriptwriter
Here’s an interview with Seo Sook-hyang, who is the scriptwriter behind MBC’s drama Pasta. (The interview came out before last week’s two episodes aired.)
With Pasta, Seo is now in her third miniseries, having previously written 2006’s Mr. Goodbye and 2008’s Lawyers of Korea, and has earned the designation of being “a writer of well-made dramas.” Pasta is performing well despite a noted lack of birth secrets, uber-evil villains, or other makjang elements. In fact, the article calls it an “ordinary story,” but one buoyed by word of mouth that has helped keep the ratings rising, slowly but surely.
(Usually I like people more after interviews, but for some odd reason I’m not really responding to writer Seo in this one. Anyone else get the sense that her words don’t quite reflect what we see onscreen? In any case, I like hearing from writers and directors, since we get to hear more about a story’s intent and purpose than with actor interviews.)
How did Pasta get made?
“In order to tell the story about a restaurant and kitchen, I went around to Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Italian restaurants. I was surprised to find that Italian restaurants were battlegrounds. Japanese restaurants were quiet, perhaps because they have so many cold dishes, and Chinese restaurants prepare their sauces for jajang noodles ahead of time. Italian restaurants are pretty dynamic places, because it’s when the orders come in that the kitchen gets busy and goes crazy with the shouting. Taking these Italian restaurants as a microcosm of the workplace, the story developed with a boss (Chef Hyun-wook) who won’t work with women and the most junior cook (Yoo-kyung) who wants to be recognized for her skills.”
The character of Seo Yoo-kyung is realistic and adorable.
“In trendy dramas and romantic comedies, you have a lot of female characters who are either Cinderellas or brash like Sam-soon, and strong working women as well. I wrote it thinking most women fall in the middle, but it wasn’t easy. Cinderella has to meet a good man, while educated, spirited and passionate working women are rare.”
How did you make the character of Hyun-wook, who is strict about work but warm in love?
“I can write men characters pretty well, and I become possessed by them. This is the first time a female lead has been so engaging. These days, in almost all areas like politics, economics, culture and so on, men can’t really shout and have to show weakness. In a female-oriented era there has to be a softness to the drama, but Hyun-wook’s character thinks that men can find that confidence in work, too. In the past, men shouted.”
Hyun-wook and Yoo-kyung’s popularity as a couple is pretty strong.
“That’s thanks to the directing of Kwon Seok-jang and the acting of the actors. The most crucial part of a trendy drama is the chemistry of the leads, and it was difficult to guess how well the leads would get along. But the two of them are so good together. Thanks to the director and actors, the dramatic parts unfold fluidly. I spoke with Gong Hyo-jin after finishing Episode 2, and told her, ‘The character of Seo Yoo-kyung isn’t mine but yours, so do whatever you want.’ I think Gong Hyo-jin is so cute and acts very naturally. Lee Seon-kyun said that he would have fun playing around with Choi Hyun-wook.”
Looking at episodes like the one about the ginseng pasta, there were a lot of topics about the kitchen.
“I didn’t know much about cooking. I don’t cook. However, my writing office is in Yeouido, and I’ve been to about 50 Italian restaurants. The topic became more appealing. Recently when we had the heavy snows, there were snowmen built in front of the restaurants, and every restaurant’s snowman showed its own style. Cooks are always using their hands, so they show a lot of feeling in their work.
” In any restaurant, there’s conflict in the kitchen. It’s a little disappointing that the conflict wasn’t built up more because the people in the hall were lacking. And ginseng pasta isn’t a real dish, it’s something I made up to suit the character. The same goes for the three-flavor pasta.”
Did you anticipate the popularity of Pasta?
“Everyone told me that it wouldn’t be easy to make a hit. We don’t think of it as a trendy drama or a romantic comedy, we just think of it as ‘a genuine story of two people in a kitchen.’ That’s why the director said that we wouldn’t just breeze over things merely because it’s a romantic comedy. For instance, we used a different style than previously used in the scene when Yoo-kyung gets locked in the refrigerator. We go dry rather than comic, and we’re treating things realistically.”
What about the third and fourth characters, and the supporting characters?
“I tend to focus on the main characters, so I feel a bit sorry toward Alex and Honey Lee. They’re not characters who harass the leads or backstab, so they’ll find parts difficult to act. Even so, Alex acts well, I was really surprised. In the beginning, Honey Lee’s Se-young was a small character, but as she was featured more, she got more into the character.
“I didn’t know that Lee Sung-min, who acts the part of Seol Jun-seok, would be that good. The drama could have become boring because the narrative doesn’t have a troublemaker, but President Seol injected energy in to the drama.
“In Episode 4, he fought with Hyun-wook about the elimination of pickles, and in the latter half he was strong in the scene where Yoo-kyung and Hyun-wook’s love is exposed.”
Have you written the rest of the scripts?
“On February 26, I handed in the Episode 18 script, and now I have 19 and 20 left. If I planned out all 20 episodes from the beginning, I was afraid I’d get stuck in convention and cliches, so my writing style is to finish one episode, then have empty space to work with blank paper. So even I can’t fully predict what will happen in the next episode. That’s why writing it isn’t easy.”
Via Herald Biz