Lee Se-young is holding onto The Red Sleeve all the time; the ending on January 1st will be the moment it will come to perfect completion.
A NEW HEART, A FRESH MIND.
Are you having a good sleep these days?
I couldn’t sleep much during the earlier part of the drama. I used to read the script whenever we are on the road or at home, but these days I’m just sleeping.
Even if the drama is a pre-production project, you still have to rush to the filming site.
Half of our drama is pre-produced, so it seems that we will continue filming until the end of the broadcast. Most of the filming location is situated outside the city and there is also the physical distancing requirement. Since I have experienced the four seasons early on, I’m filming diligently at the moment.
It was difficult to have pre-produced or even half pre-produced drama in the past. How do you feel as someone who has experienced a number of changes (in the industry) yourself?
This is my first time experiencing CG filming. It is a scene where a tiger appears. It was my first time staring at empty space while acting.
Do you have to imagine the tiger there as you act?
That’s right. The tiger cannot be there. (laughs) It seems that Hollywood actors are really amazing. There are people who are wearing cute masks and green tights around, right? But the actors still manage to deliver their acting seriously. I would also like to have that kind of experience one day.
Last year, you greeted the viewers through Kairos. The drama was good, but the ratings did not rise that high. Although The Red Sleeve is still in its early parts, the reaction is great so far.
If the viewers like it, of course, I am happy. But then, I am also amazed at that. I would prepare diligently for each and every project, and there are several among those which are really enjoyable, but being an enjoyable project for the actors does not always mean that it will do well. As for me, although I really enjoy reading the script and decide to work hard at it, I think that there is the possibility of recording low ratings. When the ratings are out, I tell myself, ‘Don’t put too much hope on it.’ I might be disappointed if I have too high of an expectation.
Why can’t you just be happy about it? (laughs)
Haha! I am happy about it. Still, only 6 episodes have been aired (at the time of the interview) and the true success is when it can hold up until the end. I asked the MBC President about this on the press conference day. “Sir, If we are able to record 15% in ratings, will you send all of us on a reward trip?” And he said yes. It would be great if it comes true. There are also lots of eyewitnesses as well.
The historical drama is like a familiar place for Lee Se-young. How do you fare these days as Seong Deok-im?
(Sharing) One heart, one mind, one body.
We thought of this while watching the drama: among all the characters Lee Se-young has portrayed so far, Seong Deok-im is the closest to your real self.
Although there are similarities here and there that I share with every character, I think that the early part where she pulls a prank and being her bright, active self is very similar to myself in real life.
Her confidence is similar to yours as well. She would always say, “I’m someone who can rise to the Senior 5th rank of Sanggung,” when someone looks down on her as a trainee court maid.
You’re right. She takes pride in her job. There are not many choices she can make inside the palace, but she is proud of the things she can do. There are just way too many things that a court maid cannot do. There are things she can neither see nor talk about, but she feels responsible for her duties in serving the Crown Prince. She also talks about it in the library. “Even if the Crown Prince does not visit this place because it is old, it still belongs to the Crown Prince and I am the court maid who looks after this library. Are you ignoring me? I am someone who can become the Senior 5th rank of Sanggung.” It was so cute and relatable.
Historical dramas always have a lot of court maids around. It is so good to see the story delving into the life of the court maids. The focus is on different kinds of court maids as well.
There are lots of chambermaids, the King’s maids, and the laundry housemaids. It is realistic.
What was the thing that pulled you towards the drama at first?
There was one time when someone uploaded a post saying that if the novel The Red Sleeve Cuff gets a drama adaptation, I would fit the role of the main character. Another person captured the post and sent it to me. Perhaps, there was a rumour of it being produced at that time. It was back in January and I was already curious. I asked my company if the production has begun, but at that time, there was no news about it. A few months later, a meeting was arranged with the director. Actually, at that time, I wanted to take a break after finishing KAIROS. I met with the director and I was given the script until the 5~6th episode. It was so fun. The director is cheerful and laughs a lot; she is also detailed.
You probably felt even more curious about the script after that.
I really enjoyed reading through the original novel afterward. I read it until 3 or 4 in the morning. I couldn’t cry out loud and kept sighing, “Ah, what to do…” as I continued to read. It is so sad; I can’t even describe the feeling of despair I had at that time; it was upsetting and heartbreaking. I hope that the viewers will also feel the same way.
There are many theories of Deok-im being Jeongjo Yi San’s first love, and she would later become Lady Seong Uibin. There are a lot of records about Jeongjo’s love towards Lady Seong UIbin, yet there are none about Lady Seong’s love towards Jeongjo. What do you think about it? Do you think that Deok-im loved Jeongjo too?
What is the reason for the absence of records? Perhaps, no one was curious about her feelings. If we think about it like that, it is bitter; maybe, there was no one who could tell the world about it. But then, Deok-im seemed to love Jeongjo too. Hence, the reason why she finally accepts the King’s grace. If she hated him from the beginning, then she would be able to refuse until the end. At first, I could not understand why she would not accept him. ‘Why is it so? They both like each other, so it’s okay for them to be together.’ As I continue filming, I came to understand why she turned him down.
What do you think the reason is?
Even if she receives the King’s grace, she can never become the Queen. She probably dislikes the idea of being a concubine after looking from the perspective of the life of someone who becomes one. ‘I should be looking at His Majesty only, yet His Majesty won’t be looking at me only’. It seems that rejecting and pushing him away is the thing she can do as a way to protect her pride.
How did you portray the subtle change in emotions?
During the casting process, I asked about the broad range regarding how the emotions will flow afterward in the story. There is no exact point stated where the love begins. There is also loyalty and sympathy in the mix as well. I think that the feeling seeps in between, without her realizing about it; perhaps, the fondness is already there when she grows close with the person she thought of as ‘Royal Tutor’, not the Crown Prince. But then, the real turning point when it becomes a full-fledged love is when the feelings change into a passionate affection. Hence, it was decided freely that the love is already there from the very beginning.
Was the decision made after discussing together with the team?
There is no way to carry out acting without having a mutual agreement. This is difficult since in the original novel, San’s emotions are not clearly portrayed. But then, San expressed his emotions a lot in the drama, like these kinds of expressions: “I’m indebted to you.” “I missed you.” “I want to hear you.” At the same time, Deok-im has to push him away with her words.
So, since when did you think of liking San and acting with that feeling?
That is the reason why I see the bath scene as a really important one. First, after seeing his body in the bath, she cannot help but see San as a man. ‘Protecting His Highness with my life is no doubt my loyalty’. But then, after the bath incident, I start to view him not purely as my master, but as a man. That is because Deok-im has never seen a bare body of a man in her whole life. It was a shock, so there ought to be something that has changed, right? (laughs)
Still, even if we watch the series smiling, it is sad to think about Lady Seong Uibin’s fate. This is a case of history being a spoiler for the ending. We are curious about how far the drama will show the story.
Yes, she passed away when she was only 34 years old. The drama does not only show the happy parts. Honestly, that is exactly the reason why I joined the drama. Because it is so sad, the earlier parts were made to be brighter. If you watch the 16th episode, you will tear up endlessly.
There are not many dramas like this, where the is a wide variety of possible interpretations. There is a number of different ways to interpret the drama, so acting might be even more enjoyable when you encounter a project like this.
That’s right. Now that you mentioned it, Deok-im receives lots of love. She is favoured by Lady Hyegyeong and of course, Jeongjo as well. Yeongjo also seems to adore her a bit and the Queen even said, “You seem to be a bright child. I want to make use of you as my person.” I like that we got to see those points in the original novel as well. Deok-im is actually just a humble court maid. I made an effort to portray that side of her in the earlier part of the drama. Since this is a story of someone who is a nobody, there is nothing she can do or choose. Even if she is a character who lives cheerfully in midst of that, I portrayed her as a young woman who is a nobody and without any power.
(t/n: The interview is supposed to be longer and I am waiting for my physical copy to arrive to see the rest of the interview, but January is ending very soon and the magazine is nowhere to be seen ^^; (my late order is to be blamed!) Hopefully, I’ll get to update this with the rest of it soon!