The epic battle for Joseon in tvN’s Mr. Sunshine
We’re just a little under two weeks away from the premiere of Kim Eun-sook’s new drama Mr. Sunshine, so I’m excited to learn more about the main characters that will undoubtedly ignite a whole range of emotions from me for the next three months or so. The show has been steadily releasing character stills and posters for the main five players in this story, and my first impression is how gorgeous the period costumes are. Not that I expected anything else from PD Lee Eung-bok, but I’m excited to see how visually stunning this show is going to be.
First up in our list of characters is Eugene Choi, played by Lee Byung-heon (Keys to the Heart), an American Marine captain who gets posted to Joseon. Born a slave, Eugene ran away from his master’s house when he was 9 years old and boarded an American battleship during the 1871 Shinmiyangyo incident. He considers himself an American and is uninterested in the fate of the country of his birth, even as he witnesses the violent change that Joseon is undergoing. The caption on his poster reads, “I thought I had finally arrived, but I might have to go further. Into the flames. One more step.”
It will be interesting to see how he clashes ideologically with his love interest Go Ae-shin (Kim Tae-ri, 1987), whose life has pretty much the opposite trajectory as Eugene’s. Ae-shin was born into privilege as a member of one of the most powerful aristocratic families in Joseon, but she isn’t content to let others die on the front lines for her. Unbeknownst to her grandfather, Ae-shin regularly reads newspapers and other publications calling for Joseon’s independence, and learns to shoot with a rifle. On her poster, she says, “If this flower is destined to bloom and fade, I want it to be the hottest flame.” (In Korean, the word “flame” literally translates to “fire flower.”) Maybe it’s this kind of strength that draws not just one but three admirers, including Eugene.
Yoo Yeon-seok (Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim) will be playing the second love interest, and quite possibly the antagonist simultaneously. His character, Gu Dong-mae, starts out life in similar circumstances to Eugene, born to a butcher, which means he was part of the lowest rung on the Confucian social hierarchy. But whereas Eugene escapes to another country and grows indifferent to Joseon, Dong-mae becomes part of what is threatening Joseon’s existence. He is a cold-blooded member of the Black Dragon Society, which was a real-life ultranationalist right wing group in Japan that promoted imperialist expansion, and rises within its ranks to become the head of the Hansung (the Joseon-era moniker for Seoul) chapter of the organization. His poster caption ominously reads, “I shot a black bird. To make sure it never flies again.” His character should provide some intense conflict, both external and internal, especially since he seems to harbor an old one-sided love for Go Ae-shin.
Gu Dong-mae isn’t the only man to return to Joseon for Ae-shin, though: Byun Yo-han’s (Six Flying Dragons) character Kim Hee-sung makes his return from studying abroad in Japan for the last 10 years to marry Ae-shin. The two have been betrothed for years in order to strategically unify their two powerful families, but I think there’s some affection involved, at least on Hee-sung’s part, even if the match was engineered for political purposes. His character seems like he has it all on the outside, with a gentlemanly manner to match his wealth and good looks, but his sunny disposition turns on a dime as soon as anyone mentions his brutal grandfather and his cowardly father. You couldn’t tell from his character poster, though, which depicts him at a cards table, jovially smoking a pipe. He says, “If you are in danger, come to me for shelter. If that is the reason I’ve come to Joseon, then it would be my honor.”
And last, but certainly not least, is another strong female character (♥) in Kudo Hina, portrayed by Kim Min-jung (Man to Man). Her father was a pro-Japanese collaborator who essentially sold her off to get married to a very wealthy Japanese man. When her much older husband died, Hina was left with a substantial fortune and the hotel Glory as her inheritance. She becomes the subject of much interest among the Joseon elite because of her wealth and beauty, and she knows exactly how to play them. Muahaha, I can’t wait to see her run those powerful men for a loop. I’m totally girl-crushing already over her costumes and her fierce, sword-wielding poster, where she says, “There are things a sword cannot cut down. Like a righteous and warm heart.”
Judging by the reports, it looks like Mr. Sunshine will feature interesting characters with compelling conflicts, and I can’t wait to see it all play out on my screen, especially since it’s set in an era that we haven’t seen that often on the small screen (right before the Japanese occupation). Mr. Sunshine will take over tvN’s Saturday-Sunday timeslot from Lawless Attorney on July 7 and run for 24 episodes.
- Lee Byung-heon’s period drama Mr. Sunshine gets delayed
- Period drama Mr. Sunshine secures slot on tvN’s early 2018 schedule
- Byun Yo-han added to Mr. Sunshine’s star lineup
- Yoo Yeon-seok joins Mr. Sunshine as tragic second lead
- Film ingenue Kim Tae-ri cast opposite Lee Byung-heon for Mr. Sunshine
- Lee Byung-heon makes drama comeback with Goblin writer’s Mr. Sunshine
- Goblin writer Kim Eun-sook returns with period drama Mr. Sunshine