When Kim Soo Hyun finished his mandatory military service in July 2019, we patiently waited for news about his next project. A few months later, he made a cameo on Hotel del Luna. Then, when January this year rolled in, we were all pleasantly surprised to see his special appearance on Crash Landing On You. Little did we know then that it wouldn’t be the last time we’d see him on Netflix.
It’s been five long years since we saw Soo Hyun in a drama. (His last one was The Producers in 2015, and My Love from The Star wrapped up in 2014.) So, yes, it was a *huge* deal when it was confirmed that he was starring in a new Netflix drama alongside Seo Ye Ji in the highly-anticipated project It’s Okay To Not Be Okay.
It’s Okay Not To Be Okay is a story about an “unusual romance between two people who end up healing each other’s emotional and psychological wounds.” Kim Soo Hyun plays the role of Moon Gang Tae, a handsome young man who works in a psychiatric ward. Gang Tae has an older brother, Moon Sang Tae, (played by When The Camellia Blooms’ Oh Jung Se) who has ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder. Seo Ye Ji plays Ko Mun Yeong, a popular children's book writer who has a personality disorder.
We got to know more about It’s Okay To Not Be Okay during a press conference with the show’s leads with additional interviews by Netflix. Here’s everything we learned:
How would you describe your characters?
Seo Ye Ji: “I play the role of Ko Mun Yeong, an antisocial children’s book writer who has a personality disorder, because she lacks the ability to feel empathy towards other people. She’s a very cold character. And as she becomes acquainted with, meets, and develops a relationship with Gang Tae, she begins to heal her inner wounds and therefore goes through significant change.”
Kim Soo Hyun: “I play the role of Moon Gang Tae. My character is somebody who is stronger than anyone else in front of other people, however, when he is left alone to himself, he is weaker than anyone else. I hope you can enjoy the ride of seeing Gang Tae heal his inner wounds.”
Oh Jung Se: “My character Sang Tae is his biological older brother (points at Kim Soo Hyun) and likes her (points at Seo Ye Ji). He is on the autism spectrum, he is Gang Tae’s biological brother, and he’s a huge fan of author Ko Mun Yeong. He is an innocent young man.”
All of your characters are rather unusual. Has your character changed any prenotions you have about anything?
Kim Soo Hyun: “It hasn’t been that long for me, but while acting I used to think that I had to feel sad first in order for viewers and the audience to feel emotionally moved. While filming It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, my thoughts on this changed a bit. I learned that even though I might not feel sad, viewers watching could feel very heart-wrenchingly sad and could cry very sadly.”
Seo Ye Ji: “Usually people will make judgments after seeing one side of a person’s behavior and have prejudice. Ko Mun Yeong doesn’t have prejudice when she views people and since I’m acting like I have this trait, it became a turning point where I’m trying to be like that.”
Oh Jung Se: “I’m very cautious and I studied a lot about portraying the character Sang Tae. I try to deepen my approach to the character, but I think I’m still lacking a lot. Actually, even now some things...When I had an interview during the early half of the project, I said he is a character suffering from autism. I learned that this was a wrong expression. Saying that you’re suffering from something means you have an illness. However, autism isn’t an illness, but something you’re born with. I learned it’s correct to say he’s a character who was born with autism. Even though I studied intensely, I’m more careful and I think there’s more that I need to know. I am carefully doing my best to prepare well.”
How was it like working with each other on set?
Seo Ye Ji: “I would say that from my very first day, he has been very considerate of me so I feel like our chemistry started off and continues to be quite good, and I would think that I would even go as far as to say that he is probably the best partner that I’ve had.”
Kim Soo Hyun: “At the very beginning, as one tends to be around people you meet for the first time, there was a sense of awkwardness and difficulty between the two of us. But as we began to really transform ourselves into Gang Tae and Mun Yeong, we had to spend a lot of time together, and I feel like we have quite a comfortable chemistry between us now, so I hope you can enjoy our chemistry as well.”
What was your first impression of the script?
Seo Ye Ji: “When I first read the script, the first thing that came to mind was it was truly intriguing. I think that I can almost say that I’ve never seen a character like the character I play in any Korean drama before. I also felt heartache about the fact that my character was unable to feel empathy toward other people, therefore she’s very selfish, she only knew of herself, and the sense of obsession that she has...it hurts both herself and other people around her. I was really drawn to the character, I felt like she had a lot to offer. And I also believe that if I were able to truly express all of the things that were hidden inside her, and harbored in her internally, then it could create a truly wonderful story.”
Kim Soo Hyun: “When I first saw the script and read it, I felt heartache. I think you’ll be able to agree once you see the show there are a variety of characters and all of them have different stories and there’s also a lot of love. So I think whatever angle you see our show from, I think there’s something in it for everybody, so I hope you all enjoy it.”
What made you decide to work on this project?
Seo Ye Ji: “First of all, director Park Shin Woo is extremely talented, and the talent is irresistable, so I had no choice but to join the project. That also goes for the writers as well. It was truly an intriguing story, so well-written, and of course, last but not least, the partner. I think any actress would be extremely happy to have Kim Soo Hyun as a partner. I had no reason not to do it.”
Kim Soo Hyun: “With that heartache I had after reading the script, I really felt like it was something I wanted to challenge myself to do. I wanted to be able to express that heartache into this form of art. And in that process, I think I also wanted to see how I would change as a human being outside of the story, as just me, Kim Soo Hyun as a person, so it was something I really wanted to challenge myself to do.”
For Seo Ye Ji, Mun Yeong is a very strong character, described as anti-social. How does it feel to portray a character who is refreshingly different from typical female drama characters?
Seo Ye Ji: “The character that I play if you go in-depth and really look at her, I have to channel this image of a witch to express the character in the most adequate way. Also, my low voice and witch-like aura helped me channel my inner Ko Mun Yeoung. I personally think that by acting as this particular character, I have gone through experiences of truly healing some of the things I had inside me, and also I was able to learn some new things about myself through the eyes of other people.”
For Kim Soo Hyun, how did you prepare for portraying your character, Gang Tae?
Kim Soo Hyun: “This is my first piece of work after finishing my military service. Because of that, I’ve been extremely nervous and I think I still am. While serving in the military, I really had this thirst to be on screen again and to act. And I’m really grateful It’s Okay To Not Be Okay has become my first one after finishing my military service and as thirsty have I been for acting, I will do my very best to make sure this is worth all of it.”
What would you like the audience to take away after watching this show?
Seo Ye Ji: “I think that everyone has their own wounds and they’re hurt in different ways and of course the depth is all different. However, what I do hope is that all of the viewers through our drama series will experience some sort of healing. One of the keywords of our drama series is 'healing of the hurt' so I hope that as you watch our story together, you will be angry together, you’ll be healed together, you’ll laugh, and feel happiness together.”
Kim Soo Hyun: “I think that despite all the differences culturally or physically, what’s universal is the way we are worried and concerned about our loved ones. The way we think of the people who are important in our lives. And the way we feel love toward other people. I think all of that is universal. Despite the cultural differences, I hope that is a point that all of us would be able to relate to and that’s what I expect all our viewers to see throughout our drama series.”
Catch two new It’s Okay To Not Be Okay episodes weekly—one on Saturdays and one Sundays—at 9:30 p.m. on Netflix.
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