Imagine a drama starring seven girl idols. Visually, I’m sure it’s stunning. But then what about their acting skills? And viewer ratings? Recently, the Korean broadcasting industry has been attempting something different. From a show that picks out idols who’d make great actors to a web drama series directed by idols, new programs involving “idols” and “acting” are popping up continually.
KBS’s Idol Drama Operation Team is a drama written by and starring seven girls from different girl groups: Red Velvet’s Seulgi, IOI’s Jeon Somi, Mamamoo’s Moonbyul, Lovelyz’s Ryu Sujeong, Oh My Girl’s YooA, Sonamoo’s D.ana, and IBI’s Kim So Hee. It will be released early on Naver TV Cast and Youtube on May 29 and then air on KBS Joy and KBS World.
△ A teaser for Idol Drama Operation Team starring Red Velvet’s Seulgi.
Starting on April 10, Idol Drama Operation Team has been releasing teasers featuring each of its seven members on Naver TV Cast. The first one starred Red Velvet’s Seulgi. And the entertainment community is buzzing with excitement as there have been rumors about Kim Chung-ha making a cameo appearance. Kim has starred in Mnet’s Produce 101 alongside Jeon Somi, is one of the 11 members of IOI, and has recently announced her solo debut.
The Idol Drama Operation Team stars will also be collaborating with a writer on the script. The goal is a “real idol drama” that portrays the troubles, joys and suffering that lie behind all the glamour. The show’s various stories will cover difficulties that are common to girl groups and the ups and downs between training years and debuts.
In K Star’s I Am an Actor, which began airing on April 11, eight idols compete for a chance to star in a drama series produced by Sidus HQ. Entertainers Tak Jaehoon and Jo Woo-jong are hosting the show, which features Madtown’s Jota, KNK’s Park Seungjun, Victon’s Jung Subin, Myteen’s Song Yubin, AOA’s Chanmi, Nine Muses’s Keumjo, April’s Naeun, and Momoland’s Nancy. An Hyeok-mo, a well-known acting coach and the director of iHQ acting school, is in charge of teaching acting skills. The aim of the program is to discover the next generation of “actor idols” who will rock the world of drama and film at a time when the boundaries between singers and actors are being blurred. The eight idols carry out missions while showing off their talents and skills in hopes of a role in the drama.
At the open press conference held on April 10 at the Bitmaru Broadcasting Center, located in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, the hosts said, “Of the eight of them, there are two or three idols who have potential.” Chanmi and Park Seungjun even showed off their acting skills on the spot. Since all eight of them were “novice actors”, they seemed both worried and anxious. AOA’s Chanmi talked about the difficulties of acting. “It was difficult to act with people I’d never seen before,” she said. “There are also a lot of lines to memorize.” Madtown’s Jota explained his reason for starring in the show, saying, “Robert De Niro is my role model. I’d never learned to act, so I’d like to learn more and to develop myself through this program.” Keumjo from Nine Muses said, “I’ve been a member of a team as a singer, but I feel a lot of pressure because this is a survival program where I have to do everything alone and also compete with other people.”
In Korea, whenever idols are cast in dramas there are controversies regarding their “bad acting”. Some idols do break free from these prejudices through constant hard work. People had worried about the quality of tvN’s Reply 1997 and Reply 1988 when Apink Jeong Eun-ji and Girl’s Day’s Hyeri, respectively, were cast in the lead roles. But the singers received credit for their impressive acting. Although they are not quite “great actors”, they’ve grown enough to melt into the dramas without standing out like sore thumbs.
There are also boy-idols-turned-actors who make people exclaim “He’s an idol?” with their impressive acting. 2PM’s Junho (Good Manager, KBS), EXO’s D.O. (It’s Okay, That’s Love, SBS), and Lee Joon (various dramas and films) have each grown into actors the industry is pursuing. Park Hyung-sik, who is currently starring in JTBC’s Strong Woman Do Bong-soon and Im Siwan, who appeared in tvN’s Misaeng and the film The Attorney, are members of the boy group ZE:A, and they received more recognition as actors than as singers. BTOB’s Yook Sung-jae who played a role in the popular tvN drama series Goblin has also demonstrated solid acting in a number of works.
△ Im Siwan received favorable reviews from critics for his role as Jang Geu-ra, a non-regular worker in tvN’s Misaeng.
More people are entering the world of idols in order to become actors. The public also knows their intentions. Thanks to the positive image surrounding idols who became actors, people seem okay with the idea as long as the idols can actually act. This means there is a bigger opportunity for idols who dream of becoming actors. In a meeting with the producers of tvN’s Reply 1988, Girl’s Day’s Hyeri admitted that she wanted to “act rather than sing”, and Shinee’s Minho also said his “dream was to become an actor, not a singer” in an interview before the release of his film Derailed. Lee Joo-yeon, who pursued an acting career after leaving the girl group After School, shared the same dream. IOI’s Kim Sohye was originally training to become an actor when she participated in Mnet’s Produce 101, an audition program for a girl group, and became one of the 11 finalists. She has since put her acting career ahead of her singing.
Will Idol Drama Operation Team and I Am an Actor produce another Jeong Eun-ji or Im Siwan? It would be great if they could. We’re always hungry for new actors, and what kind of producers would turn down great actors? It doesn’t matter if they are idols or not. As long as they come on the stage with the right skills, no one would throw stones at them.