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The 'Extracurricular' Cast Talk About Landing Their First Lead Roles And The Impact They Want To Leave The Youth

Never have we seen a Korean teen drama so gripping.
PHOTO: Netflix
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Rising Hallyu actor Kim Dong Hee is currently starring in his biggest role yet, as not-so-good-boy Jisoo in Netflix's Extracurricular. In recent years, we've seen the 20-year-old actor grow from his supporting roles in hit dramas Sky Castle and Itaewon Class and into a more mature artist in his latest series.

The Netflix Original is unlike most Korean dramas we're accustomed toit's intense, gritty, and jarring at timeswhich makes it all the more compelling. The story revolves around model student Jisoo who holds a huge and disturbing secret: *SPOILER WARNING* In order to support himself, he runs a very illegal sex trafficking business. His three other high school classmates (yep, they're all still students) somehow get caught up in his operations which basically spells a recipe for disaster.

With such mature themes, director Kim Jin Min says that he "had to be stricter to myself in the process" and made sure he paid "meticulous attention to safety on set," especially for the young actors he was working with. He further explains: "Netflix gave me a medium with no limits, and precisely because of that, I had more to choose from. So the expressions that finally came out from the interaction that I had with the actors as a director, and the choices that I made called for more sensitivity on my side in many different aspectsbe it how to portray violence, feelings, or anything."

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There definitely is a lot to unload about the drama, and the four lead starsKim Dong Hee, Jung Da Bin, Park Ju Hyun, and Nam Yoon Suopen up to Cosmopolitan about taking on their most challenging roles to date, their first impressions of the script, and what they ultimately want their young viewers to take away from the series.

Kim Dong Hee as Jisoo

Netflix
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Tell us about your role and why you decided to join the project.

My character Jisoo commits a serious crime to make money, but at school, he is a model student who is quiet and unsociable. In a way, he is a very alone and lonely person, but he goes on to commit an unthinkable crime beyond any of his peers' imagination—this, I believe, is at the core of understanding Jisoo.

When I first read about Jisoo in the script, I did doubt whether I could do this, but first and foremost, I wanted to try expressing such intense feelings. I didn't have much chance to express my feelings to such extreme, so I wanted to give it a try in this show. I found the emotions that burst out of the reserved character when pushed into a corner very fascinating.

What was your first impression of the script? How do you feel about playing your first leading role in a Netflix Original series?

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The first time I read the script, I don't think I read it through from beginning to end. In fact, it was quite challenging to read. I was able to picture everything the writer put into words in my head, and I felt like reading a difficult novel; I was very curious to see how the writings would translate on screen. I went through a lot of difficulties, but when I finally pulled off those difficult parts, I felt particularly proud. The script was such a fresh and sensational one.

I feel honored to have played the first leading role in Netflix Original series. Just the fact that I took part in a Netflix show as an actor is an honor and it means a lot to me. I feel proud of myself.

What statement do you think Extracurricular is making about youth at risk, and what impact do you hope it will have on viewers?

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I thought, from the moment I read the script for the first time, that these characters would not feel tied to their student status. When I look back on my student days, for example, I considered myself as a grown-up. I think that would apply the same to the main characters, and even more so for Jisoo. But when I became an adult, I was able to feel that I have a lot of responsibilities in life. And teenagers are those who still need protection and more attention from adults. So, if they have issues, adults should give them more attention. Juvenile crime is a really serious issue, so this may be a sensitive thing to say, but I think teens need more attention from adults and need to be protected more because they still lack judgment.

Jung Da Bin as Minhee

Netflix
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Tell us about your role and why you decided to join the project.

I play the role of Seo Minhee, a popular "mean girl" at school. She wants to continue to draw attention from her friends, so she goes out to make money and is led down the wrong path. She is at the center of criminal activities, and she ends up paying the price for her deeds along with Jisoo.

I decided to take on the role because I thought this is the kind of story that needs to be told, and the fact that I am part of telling this story made me feel a sense of responsibility and joy. I hope this story will lead people to be more interested in social issues and the darker side of adolescence.

What was your first impression of the script? How do you feel about playing your first leading role in a Netflix Original series?

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My first impression of the script was that it was pretty intense and shocking, and it gave me a lot of food for thought. It wasn't until I read it through several times that I finally started to understand what it aimed to say bit by bit, by which point I was captivated by the story. I am so glad that my first leading role as an adult is in Extracurricular, and it is very special that the show will be on Netflix as an Original series.

What statement do you think Extracurricular is making about youth at risk, and what impact do you hope it will have on viewers?

I hope this Netflix series will remind viewers once again of the youth at risk in our society, and serve as a medium to resolve many of the issues.

Park Ju Hyun as Gyuri

Netflix
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Tell us about your role and why you decided to join the project.

I play the role of Bae Gyuri in Extracurricular. Gyuri is super smart, upbeat, and born richshe seems to have everything, but she really wants to break away from the pressure and suppression from her parents. She finds out about Jisoo's criminal activities, in which she gets engaged solely to rebel against her parents, and ends up scaling them up.

I decided to play Gyuri because I wanted to portray the true reality of society through this character. I hoped that I could do a good job of depicting such a reality so that many people can see the message of this show.

What was your first impression of the script? How do you feel about playing your first leading role in a Netflix Original series?

When I read the script, I thought it was very candid and true to reality. The characters were vivid, and how events unfolded felt very much alive. I was strongly attracted to the charm of every single character that seemed so plausible and so realistic.

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This Netflix Original series is my debut work as a leading actress. I am so grateful for the opportunity, and this still feels so unreal. I made the utmost efforts to the best of my abilities, so I hope many viewers will enjoy the show.

What statement do you think Extracurricular is making about youth at risk, and what impact do you hope it will have on viewers?

Extracurricular is a story about choice and responsibility. You make many choices in life, and some of them may turn out to be mistakes. You cannot always make the right choice. If this were a story about adults in their right minds, then it should be about them taking responsibility for their actions, taking full responsibility for their choices. But this is a story about immature teens who cannot take full responsibility for their actions yet. In that sense, I hope this show provides an opportunity for us to think about what we, adults, can do for them, and how we should lead them in a certain direction.

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Nam Yoon Su as Kitae

Netflix

Tell us about your role and why you decided to join the project.

I played Kitae, a character who cannot bear to see anything being taken from him. He is the school's undefeated bully and Minhee's boyfriend. Being at the top of the food chain, he is unafraid and laid-back with no signs of fear. He will make sure he gets whatever he wants, and he certainly knows how to bully others. When Jisoo, who was almost invisible at school, seems to get close to his girlfriend Minhee, he starts to bully Jisoo.

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Kitae is the kind of role that I have never tried before, so I wanted to take on the challenge. I decided to join the project because I thought this could happen to real teenagers and wanted everyone to share the concern over or interest in potential issues.

What was your first impression of the script? How do you feel about playing your first leading role in a Netflix Original series?

I thought the script was so new the moment I read it, but some people might think that the story is unrealistic. I view it as something that could happen around us, and something that could also happen far away.

Extracurricular is special to me on a personal level. Kitae is the first character that I took on as the actor Nam Yoon Su, so I felt some weight on my shoulders. To be honest, I still cannot believe that the show will be streamed worldwide. I just can't believe foreign fans will see me act. I hope I can get feedback that I seem to have grown as an actor through Extracurricular.

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What statement do you think Extracurricular is making about youth at risk, and what impact do you hope it will have on viewers?

I hope the series gives a rude awakening of juvenile crime. I hope everyone who watches Extracurricular can think back to their past misdeeds from their teenage years.

Extracurricular is currently streaming on Netflix.

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