Cha Seung-won courted for Hong sisters fantasy romance on tvN
This would be an interesting reunion: Cha Seung-won (Hwajeong) has met with the Hong sisters writing team (Hong Jung-eun, Hong Mi-ran) and is in talks to headline their new fantasy-romance drama, which is being considered for a Friday-Saturday slot on cable station tvN. The drama is based on the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West (Seoyugi in Korean) and reimagined as a modern story, and will be titled Hwayugi. (No explanation has been given on the title; it’s a pun on Journey to the West but I’m not sure in what sense without more explanation.)
My knowledge of Journey to the West is limited, but it seems like the Hong sisters will be taking a sideways spin at the tale rather than going at it head-on. The classic Journey to the West is centered around five main characters, with a monk on a pilgrimage to India accompanied by disciples/companions, each of whom is atoning for sins committed in past lives. The mischievous Monkey King, Sun Wukong, wears a gold ring around his head that can control him; the Pig is the fighter with a big appetite; Sandy is a water demon who has a quieter role; and Yulong is the son of the dragon king who appears as a horse.
In this 2017 modernized version, the monkey character is depraved and the monk full of snobbery and materialism (perhaps in lovable ways? The Hongs do love to play with lovably flawed leads). The story is described as “finding the light in a dark world overrun with evil spirits.” It’ll have both horror-thriller elements and comedic romantic ones, which makes me think of the Hongs’ drama Master’s Sun, which is one of the better associations to have with their past works.
In Hwayugi, Cha Seung-won is up to play a character named Woo Hwi-chul, who is based on the Bull Demon King character, Sun Wuokong’s sworn brother. Woo Hwi-chul is a successful businessman who is the object of others’ envy, and the image of an utter gentleman.
On the one hand, I really loved Cha Seung-won when he worked with the writers before on their hilarious rom-com Best Love, back in 2011. While Cha had plenty of star power before that drama, the show did revitalize his image as a comedic leading man, and I think that was the Hong sisters near the top of their writing game, which had a long list of hits: Delightful Girl Chun-hyang, My Girl, You’re Beautiful, My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho. But then came Big and Warm and Cozy, and now I find myself pretty uncertain what to expect from the pair. Will the last two years have given them time to find their mojo? Or will we get another lackluster rom-com with nonsensical plots and character logic? I really hope the writers have found that lovin’ feelin’ again and will be back strong.
PD Park Hong-kyun of Best Love and Queen Seon-deok is attached to direct. Hwayugi is looking at a December premiere on tvN.
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