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Village: Thematic messages, casting, and comic sidebars

SBS’s mystery-thriller Village: Secret of Achiara wrapped this past week, which means we have a slew of interviews from its director and writer to read through for extra insights. The drama never got out of single-digit ratings (most episodes hovered in the 5% to 6% range), but did earn recognition as a “well-made drama” (a term that’s been appropriated to refer to an actual style of drama, rather than merely describing one that’s well-made, which refers to strong story and high production quality).

The drama’s director, PD Lee Yong-seok, promised early on that there would be a conspicuous absence of three main features: unnecessary lovelines, bad actors, and last-minute script deliveries. In fact, 12 scripts had already been completed by the time the drama started. Village wasn’t touted as a fully pre-produced drama, but that amount of preparation helped shoots proceed smoothly, without the usual frantic bustle of live-shot productions.

He also stated before the show began that he wouldn’t tell his cast who the culprit was, and that apparently held true through the entire show’s run. As of shoots for Episode 15, cast members were still in the dark, wondering, “What twist will there be? Who’s the culprit?”

PD Lee did express disappointment that the show never cracked the double digits, but added, “This is the first time that the office sent encouragement even though ratings were low.”

PD Lee had a lot of praise for all of his cast, but the majority had to go to Moon Geun-young, who was technically the lead, and Shin Eun-kyung, who was at the center of the mystery.

Truth be told, Moon Geun-young’s character never felt like a lead, or a compelling character—she was the least interesting character of the bunch, with the more complex stories and emotions being given to the supporting cast. That’s been indicated by the press and fans, and the flipside to having a cast where everyone felt like a leading character is that your actual leading character tends to recede.

But when you look at the drama as a whole, that seems to have been a calculated, deliberate decision on the part of the producers. PD Lee said that he was extra grateful to Moon Geun-young—not for stepping it up as the lead, but for knowing to hold back and not insist on doing the most dramatic work. He explained that in other dramas, the lead is the one getting the most attention, but he wanted So-yoon to be weak, and she understood that.

He said, “So-yoon isn’t magical or particularly special, she’s an ordinary person. She’s just tenacious about finding the truth. Once, I mentioned Silence of the Lambs to Moon Geun-young, that if Jodie Foster’s character Clarice Starling were too strong, there would be no suspense. The suspense was able to exist because a fearful and weak character met a serial killer and faced off against the truth. I told her that So-yoon in this drama is like Clarice Starling. When I said that, Moon Geun-young’s eyes sparkled.”

“I was surprised when Moon Geun-young agreed to take the role,” PD Lee also said. “But she said she likes these kinds of things without lovelines. She found it refreshing that it wasn’t a Cinderella story, and to see things from the perspective of an observer.”

Of course, there was tremendous praise for Shin Eun-kyung, who has always been well-regarded for her acting but drew particularly strong responses for her role in Village as the sometimes-domineering, sometimes-vulnerable Ji-sook. The director said, “She’s an acting god. Her sensitivity, quickness to react, energy—you can’t compare to other actors.”

He called her the actor he was most grateful for, describing how his veteran staff would clap for her after every scene. The lighting director, who had worked on You From Another Star previously, said of Shin, “This scene had acting you might not see in ten years.”

He called it unfortunate to have the performance of Shin’s career overshadowed by personal matters; in recent days, there’s been a lot of talk about a dispute with her former agency and messy gossip about her personal life, in particular a special needs son who’s being raised by his grandmother. Apparently the director was unaware of the media furor, but Shin approached him to apologize for the disturbance; she skipped the post-show gatherings and has said she would make an official statement shortly.

The director called Shin a chameleon and worried briefly that the other actors, including Moon Geun-young and Jang Hee-jin, would seem small by comparison. But he was pleased that they matched her well, and said, “Another of [Shin’s] strengths is that she works well to enable her co-stars to act well. Most actors just try to do a good job themselves, but Shin Eun-kyung makes it so that she and the other actors do a good job. She’s a master.”

I haven’t seen Village-related interviews given by Jang Hee-jin crop up yet, but it’s worth noting that after a decade in the business, she’s being credited with a rediscovery in this role. She did mention what it was like to fight Shin Eun-kyung physically in the drama, saying that it hurt so much that her mind literally went blank. Having seen that scene, I’m not in any way surprised. That looked brutal.

As for the drama itself, PD Lee explained asking his writers for the big themes of the show at the beginning, and writer Do Hyun-jung replied that for Village, it was “If you pass over small injustices, they’ll bring big unhappiness.” He referenced a saying that those who remain silence in the face of injustice become accomplices and spoke of a society and a system where people cling to the powerful and sponge off them—so when that person does something bad, nobody can dare to say anything.

Interviewed about her message for the drama, writer Do said, “Whether individually or as a society, we all have a human instinct to preserve the existing order and peace. As a result, we overlook and cover up crimes both small and large, and through those effects there are people who are sacrificed, who are the weak people of society. I wanted to write a story where people like those of Achiara, whose past silence came back to them like a boomerang.”

As for the other cast members: Yook Sung-jae has generally been received favorably, though I would argue that he didn’t have a lot to do—he had a very So-yoon-like role, pushing along the investigation plot-wise but being distanced from it emotionally.

Kim Min-jae played Yook Sung-jae’s cop sunbae, Sergeant Han, and said his partnership with Yook turned out very well, getting better as they went on. He suspects the writer wrote to their chemistry as well, since all of the increasingly bromantic moments between them were written into the script, and the dialogue got increasingly humorous and affectionate the more the show went on.

Then there’s Choi Jae-woong, who played Agasshi. The director explained hearing a lot of actors tell him afterward that they’d like to have done that role, though at the time that he cast Choi, he didn’t tell him he’d end up being a serial killer. All he said was that it would require cross-dressing, which Choi had done previously; he’s a musical actor who’s performed in Hedwig.

As for a Season 2? The director said, “The actors had such great chemistry with each other that if the writer says she’d do it and an opportunity arose, I’d have no reason to decline, but there are no plans now.”

He added, “Actually, we joke among ourselves and wonder what would happen if we’d change the genre to a sitcom, and Detective Choi and Sergeant Han headed a team to catch a serial killer. Plus, I asked Moon Geun-young what she’d do next and she said, ‘I’ll do a comedy,’ so I joked that we should do it together.”

Village: The Comedy? Erm… I dunno about that. Although okay, if you made that show, I’d probably have to see it.

Via Osen, Sports Chosun, Star News, TV Daily, Sports Chosun

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Watching The Village for me is a test of patience. It's like waiting for that train to come, knowing it will come, but it's taking too long to arrive that one would have to decide whether to wait for it, or just leave and take another means of transpo. Or another route. I did leave halfway, but then, I have to go back coz I needed to see it to the end.

I did like the mystery and realized early on that it's story driven. But then again, it's so hard to watch a drama that feels like it could have worked better in the movies. Not having a character to root for is another issue.

Anyways, I'm just glad it's over.

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Thanks again JB for recapping this drama. I really liked its unique story and after reading writer Do's description of the message she wanted to convey in this story, the more I'm impressed by it...Wow to PD Lee for referencing Jodi Foster's character in the "Silence of the Lambs" as a way to describe So-Yoon's "weak" character. No wonder Moon Geun Young accepted So-Yoon's role. Despite So-Yoon's "weak" character, Moon Geun Young, in my humble opinion, still demonstrated her caliber in acting in this drama...Kudos also to the rest of the cast and staff of the Village.

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...This guy is really reaching with the Silence of the Lambs comparison. Clarice was actually a character, not a personality-less expository tool, and she was kind of a badass. (also, was anybody remotely scared of Agassi? Hannibal Lecter, otoh...). If nothing else, this does show what a professional MGY is. And kudos for trying something different, show, even if patting yourself on the back for it is embarrassing.

It was nice to see Shin Eun-kyung show her stuff after so many meh roles. If anybody wants to see her do the real thing, though, I highly recommend Flames of Ambition. 50 glorious episodes of scheming, manipulating, and fuming perfection.

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It's well made I hope it win best drama award, best writing award and best actress award.

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sorry I think ratings will still win drama awards rather that real acting and writing and so on unless by some chance a good drama gets good ratings, but that very rare it seems in Korea. This drama seems to be SBS version of KBS I Remember You at lest in how quailty of acting and writing was kept to a high standard and not bow to any pressure to change the writers vision with rewrites. At best Village will get award for something but not anything big, as a thank you to the cast and crew.

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I think the post should start with "Spoilers for Village"

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10+ hours of a horror movie

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Wow. Agasshi played Hedwig...

Also I LOL that even MGY still gets starry-eyed about certain roles. But then again SOTL was a great movie, getting a chance to play a Clarice doesn't come easily.

Did she really say that part about not wanting Cinderella roles though? Which, ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ I see what you did there, MGY!

Also thanks for translating these, jb!

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This was pretty much the only drama I was watching, and thought it better than most. And I did NOT miss any of the usual love triangles. Currently watching ... almost nothing.

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Shin Eun Kyung will receive that Daesang in a few weeks. Or at least I'm hoping for it :)
I'm glad this drama is not underrated despite the low ratings, because this PD has certainly grabbed my attention. Never thought would see this kind of drama or even the kind of Yong-pal in a public channel. Thank God I lived in 2015.

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Shin Eun Kyung will receive Daesang IF SBS actually consider acting rather than rating. If not, I can almost guarantee Yongpal will sweep any awards come SBS Drama Awards in few weeks.

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Too bad I have to agree on Yongpal thing. I would give Ji Jin Hee (I have a lover) the award along with Shin Eun Kyung if only acting matters.

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I'm a bit disappointed with Agashi because I thought he was just weird person. And though I'm glad this drama already over but I also hope they 'give' us some story about what happen to Joo Hee, Gayoung & Gun Woo. Also the story behind Chairman Noh fabricated deaths.

Anyway, thank you JB for your recaps. I watch this drama until episode 6 but after that I just continue reading your recaps.

Beside Shin EunKyung, I will look forward for Choi Jae Woong acting! ^_^

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Yes, I want to know about "Also the story behind Chairman Noh fabricated deaths."

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i was watching this series through dramabeans. so, Thank you :D

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This writer always produce underrrated but very well made and unpredictable drama. I remember another 'out of the box' story from his/her hands was the most brutal love story Que Sera Sera.

Hope he' she'll get back to another awesome story soon.

Moon Geun Young and Shin Eun Kyung are the best.

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This drama is a peculiar one.

I finished it in 2 days.. last saturday & sunday, actually.
The story sometimes to convoluted and a bit boring, but the acting is sooooo good it kept me going..

I'm glad that the small details scattered along the way lead to the conclusion in the last episode.
It's a proof that the writer knows exactly where she wants the story goes.

Kudos for all the staff and the actors for a well made drama.

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Well thought drama. Kudos!

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No wonder Moon Geun Young attracted to the role. She always wants to try different roles and Han So Yoon is definitely different than any character she played. She also has no problem being a weak leading character merely served as a tool most of the time.
Even in Sado/The Throne she said she picked the role of Lady Hong (Sado's wife) knowing it's just small supporting role because she wants to play the role really badly.

I always admire her professionalism and to try something different in each project. Now I need to watch you in comedy, MGY-ssi!

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I think that Moon Geun-young’s character worked very well as an audience surrogate. I know a lot of people early on (say first 4) thought she was too passive but I chalked it up to the character being clocked by circumstances and confounded by the disinformation put in front of her. She got a lot more self-composed as she started actively digging in to things. Overall I think the actress was just thrilled she got to do a "character" part instead of a romantic "damsel" part.

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Well-done drama!
I was looking forward to every episode.
Thank you to the staff and crew!
Hope they get the recognition they deserve!

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I'm not a big fan of Moon Geun Young. I think she's a pretty one note actress, this drama is no exception. Her demeanor is always the same. Having said that I rather enjoyed this drama anyway. Maybe it's because as an American the crime drama is a standard here. This drama has a few slow moments and a lot of players to unravel. Otherwise it's a nice break the usual melodrama or rom com.

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I am not a big fan either. The only shows that I liked her in it were Autumn Tale and Painter of the wind. This is one of rare dramas that I have not watched (read recap though) because I don't enjoy scary shows. Still I have no doubt Sin EunKyung did the bang-up job because she is great actress.

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It wasn't scary. Gap Dong was pretty sinister but this wasn't all that scary.

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So happy to see another post about Village! I am still wallowing in the sadness of the ending...T_T

And yes, season 2 please...I need to know what the heck was going on with the shoes and Chairman Noh.

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Thanks JB.

Shin Eun-kyung delivered a gem of a performance.

Disappointed that Carpenter Ahjussi escaped justice.
The Truck of Doom should have squashed him, in slow mo and five different camera angles.

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I want to see MGY taking bithcy cold character, I love her in Cinderella Stepsister and I want to see her acting like that again!

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I totally agree...I want to see her in hardcore negative role.....I have trust tht she can pull this kind of role!

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Thanks JB for the post-drama article for The Village. Truly loved the show eventhough it paled in comparison to mysteries done in Hollywood and UK for sure. For a kdrama which lately have become cookie-cutter, low standard fare.. I laud the production and SBS for pushing through with this drama and kudos to all the actors and staff for not giving up despite the show's low ratings.

Hope Shin Eun Kyung get the well deserved recognition at the year-end awards night..

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Lol..you so funny. I'll watch "Village: The Comedy".. too. ?

Btw, I stick with this drama for my love of MGY. Truth be told, I am not into this type of genre. I basically watch any drama if MGY is in it. No other actors or actresses can make me do this.

I just the love the fact that she is trying everything and doing whatever she likes.

Thanks JB for recapping it. Its a wonderful journey to share thoughts and playing guess whodunnit..

There wasnt a particularly outstanding scene or dialog that makes me want to come back to it but its refreshing to watch a totally new kind of plot.

And I really love that the screen time were almost equal to all of the actors. It gave them opportunity to shine. It made me appreciate the skills and the dedication of those supporting actors. I hope more drama with this kind of emphasis will follow suit.

There goes my 2 cents.

Adios!

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I still want to see Shin Eun-kyung in "Lush Mom & Shaman" a spin-off from Oh My Ghostess. I am picturing a supernatural take on Let's Eat where she and Shaman-Unnie go on a food tour and encounter mystery and supernatural hijinks at every turn. I'd like to see Lee Sang-Yoon as the first ghost they meet who decides to follow them around, possessing a series of different guest star bodies.

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Thanks for the news!!!

Its awesome to see the director and writer's point of view. I realize now that I shouldnt have been expecting So Yoon to be special because Achiara was a different kind of drama. That makes me feel better about how the drama ended and makes me appreciate Shin Eun Kyung even more. Her performance gave this drama a layer of complexity that I rarely see (And I watch a lot of American, Taiwanese, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean dramas and some Bollywood).

I really hope Writer Do considers a sequel...although Im not sure how a comedy would work lol.

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MGY was nothing special.. But Shin Eun Kyung was AWESOME.

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SO TRUE!! MOON GEUN YOUNG JUST PALED IN COMPARISON, SHE PLAYED THE WEAK PART SO "WELL" THAT SHE GOT LOST IN THE BACKGROUND.

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I really enjoyed this drama. I felt that all the characters were fully fleshed out, and that the acting was understated enough that the story became the star.
And yes, Shin Eun-kyung knocked it out of the park!

I understood early on that So-yoon's main trait was persistence, and that she wasn't just being a nosy troublemaker, but that it was about family. If she had played her part in a more flashy manner, it would have seemed like it was about her, and the other characters would have responded to her more like they did Kim Hye Jin. The story could not have believably moved beyond just a repeat of the past.

I also appreciated that the writing moved from showing us what happened and then letting us watch the characters figure it out, to letting us know what happened as the characters find out, and then revealing that we were lied to; many times in fact!

I too immediately thought "Sequel" at the end of the show. The writers have certainly left enough unanswered questions for it. We still don't know what happened with Chairman Noh, who killed the guy in the slaughterhouse, or the Assemblyman's driver, how So-yoon and Kim Hye-jin's parents died (murder or accident), or what happened to Ki-huyn's biological mother. I can see the cops bromance continue, with a new mystery woven in. (No thanks to the comedy idea though. I enjoyed the break from lovelines and forced laughs.)

All in all, a very satisfying watch.

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I am glad that you are sharing what the director had in mind about MGY's role as Soyoon. While Soyoon was not the central character, I think she was the drama character who needed to win our hearts about the need to stick with the mystery of Hye-jin's death until it got resolved. If Clarice (Silence of the Lamb) was the director's reference point then Soyoon's expressions and feelings could have been communicated via subtle actions like breathing pace etc. MGY seem to be somewhat rusty and unprepared for said role. However, I do not want her to go back and stick to the acting she is already good at (One can observe this range in Goddess of Fire). I am glad that she is exploring roles such as Soyoon. May she explore a Clarice-like role again!

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I think MGY became too self-aware with the director's instruction to hold back that she became lackluster in this type of character. That's a shame because I think she has the experience to bring it out. I think she ended up stifling herself and her instincts in order to "fit" the story. While Clarice was a participant in the story, Jodie Foster's acting bought the character to life. I didn't once thought Clarice was boring even though she was a passive character as she was being manipulated by Hannibal.

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this drama was so refreshing,,intersting plot with lot of twist,,,
i wish the rating higher but i'm glad that the people who whatched it is the one that realy understand high quality story & production,,,i hope i can see another drama like this,,,

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