Drama Casting & News
She’s too young to play your mom: Age gaps in casting
by | July 31, 2010 | 49 Comments

There’s an interesting phenomenon these days where actresses are being cast in the role of Mom younger and younger. Not only that, but sometimes the age gap between Mom and Child is quite ridiculous, if you think about it. Jung Hye-young is no stranger to playing a mom, as she knocked it out of the park playing Iljimae’s heartbroken mother in Return of Iljimae, barely 14 years older than Jung Il-woo. In Playful Kiss, she’s now set to play opposite Kim Hyun-joong in a similar capacity, who is only 13 years her junior.

What’s crazier is the age gap on the set of SBS’s Giant, where Kim Suh-hyung (34) plays mother to Park Jin-hee (32). Now THAT’s a little nuts.

Kim Suh-hyung said, “This is the first time I’m playing the mother of an adult character, so it feels a little strange, but I knew it would be a great acting opportunity.” It’s pretty gracious of her, considering they’re the age of friends or sisters, certainly not mother-daughter.

Their characters have yet to cross paths on the show, so as of now they aren’t sharing the same screen, but they will in due time, and the meeting should be epic, on many levels.

In Playful Kiss, Jung Hye-young (37) will be playing Mom to Kim Hyun-joong (24), and she worries about portraying the relationship realistically. She’s a young mom herself, besides being a standout actress, so I don’t think she’ll be lacking any believability, regardless of the age gap.

The producers said of Jung, “Her character is a lovely, loving mom who believes in the power of affirmation. Jung Hye-young will be a cute mom who makes us forget about her age gap with Kim Hyun-joong.”

Funny, but that statement makes it sound like she’ll play even younger, like a friend-mom, which I’m fine with. I love a Gilmore-girls-esque rapport. Although you need a Rory to hold her own in that sort of dynamic. Ahem. No comment.

Over on the set of MBC’s Kim Suro, Bae Jong-ok (46) plays Queen Mother to Ji Sung (33), another 13-year age gap. But that’s not even the half of it. In 2005’s Beating Heart, they played a ROMANTIC COUPLE. From lover to mother? That’s pretty mind-blowing, if you ask me.

Bae Jong-ok said, “Playing Ji Sung’s girlfriend, to playing his mother, made me feel my age.” But Bae does undergo a strong makeup transformation for the role, and she, again, is an amazing actress. So while it must feel weird for her, I have no doubt she conveys both quite convincingly.

On SBS’s morning drama Plucky Girl, Lee Yuri (28) plays Mom to Hong In-young (25)! Somehow their 3-year age gap is even more unbelievable, because both actresses are in their twenties. I, for one, can’t tell who in the picture below is supposed to be the mom and who’s the daughter.

Granted, Lee’s character remarries and thus Hong In-young becomes her step-daughter, but she still calls her “Mom” on the show. Hong said, “In the drama our characters are four years apart. But in reality that’s ridiculous. I know they say age is just a number, but if it were my real life, that would be really strange.”

Well, at least this age gap is a plot point, and an intentional dramatic twist on the stepmother-daughter relationship. Otherwise who’d believe it?

This growing trend has some audiences doubting the believability of such casting choices, and wondering if there’s such a dearth of actresses out there. Personally, I don’t think the general trend is that crazy, given that the 30-something single girl is only lately becoming a viable option, in the last few years. Before, actresses had to go straight from twenty-something maiden to 30-something ajumma. Now there’s more of a range, and it isn’t a new thing for actors to be cast off-age. Although playing a guy’s mom after playing his girlfriend is…a little squicky. I don’t envy her.

Eyes are turned towards Kim Suh-hyung (Giant) and Jung Hye-young (Playful Kiss) to see how they meet the “Mom Challenge.” My guess? They’ll score home runs. You don’t get to be a seasoned actress for nothing.

Via Sports Khan

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49 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Gloria

    lol so true about holding your own.
    im looking forward to giving KHJ another chance because Playful Kiss seems promising so far. :D (not bashing on him.. but he definitely has room for improvement!) hope he does well in this new drama.

    and the mom-daughter for Giant is kinda.. o w o; good luck to them though!

  2. Chriser

    You know in modern day that maybe so but in the old days it is not a long stretch. Because the life expectancy of women was 20 something due to most died during child birth. Many are married off as soon as they had their monthlys. In scientifically if a girl can have a menstrual cycle she can have a baby. In the States, there are so many kids nowadays having babies in middle school. For Korea it maybe so but not so here. But then again Asians do not usually look their age anyway. You never know.

  3. Aleutia

    Well I doubt they want an old hag as the mom because she gave birth to a guy that looks like KHJ…

    Besides that, she’s technically supposed to be a beautiful old hag so I dernoooo haha. Korean actresses keep themselves lookin’ younngg!

  4. Cephas7

    Another example is Song Il-Gook and Oh Yeon-Soo when they played mother/son in Jumong. They’re around the same age in real life!

    • 4.1 hanhan

      and actually, SIG is older than her. ouch

  5. Sobia

    Thank you, Girl Friday! While I am very impressed by these actresses’ versatility, atrophied (sometimes non-existent) age gaps can make things kinda confusing for the poor viewer, though. I have to admit, when I saw the first picture above, I thought to myself, “That’s a gorgeous couple!” Now I realize they are supposed to be mother and son, and my thought was so wrong, on so many levels. They are both still gorgeous, though. Seriously. Just not together, in a coupley way. (Ugh, I am just making this worse.)

  6. theedie

    In Yi San, one of the ministers was the adopted son of Yi San’s aunt. I don’t know what the age difference was, but she was clearly not old enough to be his mother regardless of adoption. It was so strange to see him calling her mother when I felt like he was more like her brother. If that.

    With Playful Kiss, I don’t think there will be much of an issue. The mom character from the adaptions I’ve seen is quite plucky and really into cutesy stuff. She’s actually quite adorable in fact. She was one of my favorite characters in the Taiwanese verison.

  7. imogene_af

    Funny, do you see ACTORS do the same? If that was the case… someone like LBH would play Lee Yeon Hee’s dad.

  8. supah

    About the mother-daughter duo in Giant:
    It’s actually amazing how well Kim Suh-hyung is pulling off her character, and she’s only 34?
    I never expected to like her, but I’m totally under her spell. Not only does she have a voice to rival Nancy Sinatra’s when it comes to her lounge-singing but she has a kind of noble and majestic air (she’s not sleazy in the least), a commanding presence (that is required since she is often playing alongside a lot of veteran actors) and as the sole woman amongst many powerful and influential men I’m often gunning for her. It’s a role I could imagine a veteran actress like Bae Jong-ok playing, but then can BJO sing, too?
    Yes, she looks young but I think they’re playing her up as a character who looks more and more youthful and beautiful the more you clap eyes on her, the ‘never-aging’ sort, and yet she has a kinda hoarse voice and a wisdom in her thinking that gives her the illusion of her being ‘older’. Ehh, you’ll have to see it to believe it.
    She’s fleetingly met PJH’s character whilst she was being played by Nam Ji-hyun so that worked.

    Also, I’m kind of giddy with happiness seeing some Giant coverage on Dramabeans. First Kim Soo-hyun and now this and I’ll whatever I can get. Are you by any chance watching the show, girlfriday?

  9. Carinne

    That’s nothing. Now if you put both mama and papa together then you might hear me squeal. The things some people do to get into character… Oy vey!

    Thanks girlfriday for officially announcing her as Seung-jo’s mom. She looks different here and there | http://www.dramabeans.com/2010/07/many-more-cast-additions-to-playful-kiss/.

  10. 10 Autumn

    oh, Gloria and Claire in Modern family has a pretty small age gap between them too, but i can’t remember exactly which one is suppose to be older…

    the 3/4 year age gap is pretty accepted now in a stepmother-stepchild relationship, surely it wasn’t years back, i personally think it’s still kinda iffy, but it’s believable and there’s no doubt this type relationship is becoming more common, well at least in some western societies.

    now, if the actual age gap between the actors playing in a mother-child relationship is 3/4 years, i would find it hard to believe, or even slightly confused, but it depends how the actress pulls it off, and of course, it depends on good make-up too…

  11. 11 Angela

    I’m not too worried about the mother role in Playful Kiss, since the character in the manga really does come off young and immature . . . that is, of course, assuming the writer honors the original story, and doesn’t go all BOF over it. So at least in this case, I think it’s an acceptable choice in casting.

    All the other instances, however, are just weird. But I guess, as long as the actresses can pull them off, it’s something I can usually look past quite easily, that’s never really bothered me before. . .

  12. 12 janna

    Like Supah noted, the Kim Suh-hyung / Park Jin-hee duo isn’t very distracting at all. In fact, I didn’t even know of their small age gap until you pointed it out.

    It helps that the mother character was first introduced with the child actors around, and that she’s written to be more elegant, with a commanding personality than Jin-hees daughter character who is a spitfire. Their makeup is done very differently as well. We can just say her mother just aged really, really, really gracefully.

  13. 13 Leonardswench

    GF just wrote something positive about PK?? I’m all agog! LOL, thanks for it!

  14. 14 nicovante

    xD loved the gilmore reference! n yes a rory is needed! altho i’ll nv par KHJ to alexis bledel but i just wish he were a shade of her a tiny sliver if possible.tt’d be an awesome improvement.

  15. 15 All American Korean Girl

    Aw, I remember watching ISWAK and loving the mom because she was so eager to set the two up!

    I firmly believe in if the actor is talented enough, they should be able to pull it off. It’s their job. ;]

  16. 16 lynx

    love the anime. the question is whether KHJ can emote enough onscreen – because the character appears cold, but there are underlying layers of emotion that he has but seldom show. What a challenge for him. And us I guess…

  17. 17 Mel

    Yey, I love her…. ‘can’t wait for this… Fighting!!!!

  18. 18 Lemon

    Woah….this is an interesting article.

    Can’t wait to see how the Giant mother-daughter meet up!

  19. 19 JiHwan

    Ugh.. from lovers to mother-son… I know it’s just a show but talk about awkward

  20. 20 Diamondback

    Aside from the believability question, my main issue is what about the age appropriate actors who could be cast in these roles? It’s ridiculous how ageism and sexism intersect in the entertainment industry (not just Korean, but I get the impresion it’s more drastic perhaps). It’s as though only younger actresses are worthy of the screen. Nobody wants to watch women older than 35?

  21. 21 Hannah

    lol i so don’t see a girlmore-girls-esque rapport happening for playful kiss. for one thing, it would be so weird and unsuited to KHJ’s character . i guess i still think she would just play that overbearing-but-loving character rather than become her son’s bestie. not that they can’t be friends but… yeah.

    which makes me think of what daughter-son relationships in television ever have that dynamic anyway. or maybe i’m just being unimaginative.

    interesting post, girlfriday~!

  22. 22 yoyo

    wow she looks young so its kinda ridiculous.

  23. 23 ohemgee

    this was a FASCINATING article!

    ageism is no laughing matter. but these ladies are doing it RIGHT.

  24. 24 pohonphee

    If a funny article comes up, I bet it must be GF behind it…
    LOL to this one too…

  25. 25 Orion

    The explanation is simple. These series are directed at younger audiences. With this obsession koreans have about being plastic perfect, squeaky clean and looking young and hot, they prefer a young “mom” they can also watch pleasantly than an older woman who, oh my, might actually have a wrinkle! She might actually be a real person and not a perfect avatar of deities on Earth!

    The same thing with younger men playing more and more characters that are either too young or too old for their real age. Who cares if the character is 30! Let’s get a hot 19 year-old to make the fangirls go wild.

    The problem with Korea is its netizens and fangirls. Shallow, demanding, spoiled people who expect every romantic series/movie to have devine creatures in it and a usually shallow and repetetive story.

    Why are all kdramas basically the same story over and over? Like a parody I saw in youtube said “First they’re in love and then they’re sad, love comes back and then they’re mad and then somebody dies”. Ok, maybe the last part is out when it’s rom-com, but that’s basically it. Starts off light and near the end, we have the melodrama and the martyr-like characters and sobbing and woes. That’s just fine, and I do love many such kdrama, but once in a while, variety would be good.

    And why kdramas are like this? Cause it sells. Apparently, young moms who still look like they could be the character’s girlfriends or same-age sisters, sell too.

    P.S: The Gilmore reference doesn’t compare to this. The daughter was still in her teens and the mother looked old enough. Also, the daughter was a girl so the “eww, she could be his girlfriend” thought never crosses ones mind.

    Sorry, but I’d even go as far as saying that Kim Hyun Joong looks older than her. At least in these pictures. Unless they do some amazing make-up work on her, it’s just going to look freaky.

    Another nail on this series’ coffin, for me. Small one, compare to Kim Hyun Joong being in it, but still a nail.

  26. 26 Camille

    hi,in the Philippines, it is the same..sometimes the age gap is only 5 years. It is quite classy though as it shows that Asians stay young looking. Asians – Far East and South East Asia. It is very much true that Asians look young compared to other nationalities so it is believable and it really looks cute. This has been a trend in the Philippines since 2000. A drama called Pangako Sayo – the characters who played the mother roles were only 10-15 years older in real life.

  27. 27 refresh_daemon

    In a saguk, I’m perfectly willing to buy a 13 year age difference between mother and son because in pre-modern times, both women and men married young and had children young. But, I will admit it’s distracting when it happens in a modern drama, except in the case where it’s supposed to be a teenage pregnancy.

    I just wonder where all our 40/50-something actresses are that we can’t have them playing mothers of twenty-somethings, because there are lots of good actresses of previous screen generations who I’d love to see still working.

  28. 28 Yenna

    you forgot queen seonduck!
    Dukman and her “mom” are the same age i believe :)

  29. 29 meteorflower

    i think Kim Hyun Joong and his onscreen will just do fine, I am really excited for this drama

  30. 30 meteorflower

    i do not know how to edit in this site but what I want to say in my previous post is

    i think Kim Hyun Joong and his onscreen mother will just do fine, I am really excited for this drama

    I think the casting is done well and the production is doing their best to meet the expectation of the viewers

  31. 31 aceyyy

    Actually Bae Jong-ok didn’t exactly play Ji Sung’s love interest in Beating Heart… I mean, they were lovers in their youth, so Bae Jong-ok at that age was portrayed by Bae Doo-na, and Ji Sung reappears later when Bae Jong-ok was in her middle age

  32. 32 Purpleclouds

    It’s nice to have a pretty, funny, young mom…but there aren’t that many around so they have to pick younger female leads to fill those roles. Just like in real life, how many 50 yr old moms are pretty/fun?

  33. 33 Alixana

    To most gracious thing to do with actresses over the age of 30 would be to take them to the backyard and shoot them like dogs. Because industry will kill them anyway, and in much crueler way.
    This effin sucks.

  34. 34 sallynally

    You also have to take into consideration that in many of these dramas, especially sageuks or longer “epic” dramas like Giant, they cover the childhood period of the main character pretty extensively. For instance, Nam Ji Hyun, the child actress portrayed Queen Seonduk for 10+ episodes. The mother characters usually play their age at first, but if they are to continue using the same actor for after the time jump when the main character becomes an adult, that’s when the discrepancy happens. Either the drama needs to use another actor mid way through the drama, or they to need to cast an older actor to portray the younger parent character in the beginning of the drama.

    I remember for one drama they had Ha Hee Ra (30+ y/o) play a high school girl to cover her childhood period. It looked the most awkward thing ever. Of course, once the drama progressed on and she started playing the same adult character, it looked fine.

  35. 35 asianromance

    Wow, i didn’t know that there were quite that many dramas with the short age gaps between parent and child. Reading this post sort of makes me feel sorry for all the 40 and 50 year old actresses who could have gotten those roles. Anyways, I agree with some of the posters that in a sageuks and dramas with time jumps, it can make sense. I can sort of buy the Playful Kiss scenario because the mom in the manga is pretty young at heart. She is silly like the main female character but can actually cook and do housekeeping!

  36. 36 Lilian

    Wow! The age gap is really seriously small for some. I guess I could take the 13/14 years one though as they may want to make the mum more attractive…..

  37. 37 Dara

    JI Sung, Awwww looking good.

  38. 38 ohyehbb

    Remember “Jumong”? Mom & son were the same age in real life!

  39. 39 HollyS

    hahaha. it’s okay on my ob/gyn rotation I see 13/14 year old mothers ALL the time. maybe korean wants to trend to that LMAO.

  40. 40 belleza

    Erm . . . this is actually the norm in sageuks and it’s much ado about nothing. It’s common to see a main parent-child relationship in a daeha/sageuk where the age difference is not closely reflected in the actors. It’s not gender specific.

    Jumong: Jumong and his mom were about the same age.
    Queen Seon Duk: Seon Duk’s mom was actually younger.
    Queen Seon Duk: Bidam and his mom were only about 10 years apart.
    East of Eden: Only a 14-year gap between Dong Chul and his mom.
    Merchant Kim Man Deok: Man Deok’s father is only 7 years older.
    Kingdom of the Wind: Muhyul’s dad is only 7 years older.

  41. 41 belleza

    “Although playing a guy’s mom after playing his girlfriend is…a little squicky. I don’t envy her.”

    Yeah, but can you imagine the opposite. Actor playing a father, and then in a later role, playing . . . daddy

  42. 42 BabyV

    I just hope she’s like the mom in the TW version because that mom was FUNNY !

  43. 43 Eva

    From wat I remember, in the original manga, the mum is supposed to be quite pretty and looks young… so probably that’s why

  44. 44 Bebo

    in drama Jumong, Jumong is almost a year older than his mom.

  45. 45 chacha-chan

    I think its a very difficult feat to be a female actress in S Korea. Wrinkled hideous men stay “young” forever while a glowy beautiful actress just beginning 30s or ending 20s are cast as “Ahjumma”-s. The age thing is like a repeated overdrawn clanging of bells for the fairer sex in this industry.

  46. 46 sanmex

    What about jumong SIG and his mom (in the movie) are of the same age. SIG is even a month older.

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