[Actor Spotlight] IU
Singer-songwriter-actor IU is in the spotlight this week. She’s currently starring in the Hong sisters’ latest drama, Hotel del Luna. It might not be the blockbuster some were expecting, but the drama is pulling in some pretty nice ratings for tvN. And it’s so pretttty!
IU (born Lee Ji-eun) is no stranger to the limelight — she debuted as a solo artist in 2008 at the early age of fifteen. Since that time, she has carved quite a unique space for herself in her ten-years-and-still-going-strong career. While first and foremost a singer, IU also became interested in acting. Rather than dabble in acting to gain experience, like many other singers and idols are often seen doing, IU’s first acting gig was a main role in 2011’s teen music drama Dream High. Many leading roles, and much success, have followed, but I’ve always been impressed with the careful balance IU keeps between her music and acting careers.
Here are some dramaland moments from IU, followed by her full filmography.
Pretty Man (2013)
Yes, I know this drama was terrible. But anyone that has been reading these spotlights for a while knows I love talking about the duds more than the hits sometimes! Some dramas are bad enough to make you stop watching, some dramas are bad enough to make you keep watching — and some dramas are just bad enough to keep you locked in a drama-watching holding pattern. You can’t stop watching, but you’re not enjoying it either. Such was the case with Pretty Man, the Jang Geun-seok vehicle with a boring and predictable plot, a love line you couldn’t get behind, and second lead worth wringing your hands over. IU was adorable here as the crazy, colorful 20-year-old bag lady, but sadly her performance (nor anyone else’s) wasn’t enough to save the drama. Every actor has been better elsewhere. However, the vision of IU’s character swimming gleefully in Jang Geun-seok’s “sexy” collar bone hollow will never leave me, so it’s not a total loss.
My Ajusshi (2018)
If there’s a drama from last year that I most regret missing live, it’s My Ajusshi. Dark, emotional, and different from your typical mainstream K-drama fare, this drama told the story of a heroine’s hardships and her unique relationship/friendship with the “ajusshi” played by Lee Seon-kyun. IU seems to have an interesting pattern going for her acting projects, where her casting and/or roles are first met with a sprinkle of skepticism — only to be later tossed to the wind, after a great performance. It might have met some struggles along the way, but the drama performed well and was considered a critical and commercial success. I love that there is space for dramas like this one in dramaland, just as much as I love having it tucked away for a rainy day marathon.
Hotel del Luna (2019)
So, I’m not currently watching Hotel del Luna… *dodges tomatoes* but it’s not because I’m not interested in the story, and what the Hong Sisters will do with another ghostly drama/rom-com. It might not be the roaring success that was Master’s Sun from some years back, but it’s nice to see them having fun with the story (at least, it looks that way from my lurking in the recaps!). IU opposite the powerhouse that is Yeo Jin-gu sounds awfully good on paper, but at the same time, I’m not sure if they strike me as a Hong Sisters main couple. That being said, this drama is surely a visual treat, as the colors and cinematography look just plain sumptuous, and perfect for the storytelling.
IU’s full filmography:
- Dream High (2011) [Drama]
IU made her acting debut here, alongside the likes of Suzy, Kim Soo-hyun, Taecyeon, and more. TLDR: Successful teen drama goodness that spawned a sequel.
- Welcome to the Show (2011) [Drama/Cameo]
IU cameoed as herself in this idol-centric sit-com drama based on SBS’s real-life Inkigayo and chock full of real-life performers. Yeah, I’m confused too.
- Dream High 2 (2012) [Drama/Cameo]
IU had the requisite cameo as her character from the original Dream High.
- Salamander Guru and The Shadows (2012) [Drama/Cameo]
IU cameoed in Episode 6 of this short drama that I’ve secretly been dying to watch. Not only is the name fabulous (I mean, salamanders), but it’s a trippy-sounding tale of hackers and gurus. And there’s a billion of other great cameos as well.
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin (2013) [Drama]
IU earned her first starring role in this 50-episode drama. Though first met with some skepticism, she quickly won over the crowd and the critics with her performance, and the ratings followed.
- Pretty Man (2013) [Drama]
A sad follow-up to her previous success (see above).
- The Producers (2015) [Drama]
IU starred with Gong Hyo-jin, Cha Tae-hyun, and was reunited with Kim Soo-hyun, in this meta-heavy drama about the team behind a TV variety department.
- Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016) [Drama]
This drama is better known as the sageuk with too many flower boy princes… another case of too much pretty and not enough eyeballs. IU starred here with Lee Jun-ki (and many others), and though the drama didn’t do too great, at least it tried.
- Real (2017) [Film/Cameo]
IU had another cameo in this dark, dystopic-sounding film that again starred Kim Soo-hyun (I’m starting to see a pattern!). Actually, I haven’t heard much about this film before now, but the premise of two personalities and one Kim Soo-hyun, and the fact that it’s a manhwa adaptation have piqued my interest.
- My Ajusshi (2018) [Drama]
Another huge, important, and critically acclaimed role for IU (see above).
- Persona (2019) [Drama]
You know you’ve made it when you’re starring in a film of four vignettes about you, and starring you.
- Hotel del Luna (2019) [Drama]
More Hong Sisters, more ghosts, more squeeing (see above)?
- Shades of the Heart (2019) [Film]
Art film that starred IU and Yeon Woo-jin, and I can see them being awesome on screen together.
- Hotel del Luna: Episode 1
- IU targets Yeo Jin-gu in new teaser for Hotel del Luna
- Netflix reveals IU’s four Personas in short-film anthology
- My Ajusshi: Episode 1
- My Ajusshi cast lineup secured with Lee Seon-kyun, IU headlining
- Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo: Episode 1
- Oh Double Snap! IU regrets laying eyes on Lee Jun-ki
- The Producers: Episode 1
- Pretty Man: Episode 1