It seems that MBC’s new Wednesday and Thursday drama “Class of the Queen” [translated title], set to premiere on Wednesday, may be a bit different from previous classroom dramas. The show will depict on the struggles between the heartless and charismatic teacher Mah Yeon-jin (Ko Hyun-jung) and a class led by representative Shim Ha-na (Kim Hyang-gi). And the drama will aim to ask what the true values of teaching, learning and happiness are through the various incidents they experience. Producer Lee Dong-yoon said the series will “contain no romance nor the common ‘secret to one’s birth’,” elements that are so often included in dramas, so this probably means he is that confident. But this too was probably because he believes in the solidness of Japanese drama “Queen’s Class,” which the new show is based on, the strong child actors, and top actress Ko who is returning to the small screen for the first time in three years. Below is an excerpt from a press event last week, regarding the issues the show must resolve to touch viewers’ hearts.
Q. I think you may feel some pressure over the fact that there is an original show.
Producer Lee Dong-yoon: When I first saw the original show, I thought, ‘What is this?’ Because its story was refreshing but was different from the usual classroom dramas. So I focused more on delivering the message from the original show than reenacting it perfectly. I wanted to make it into a show that is a reflection of Korea’s education system and society today in particular.
Q. Then how exactly did you differentiate your show from the original?
Writer Kim Won-seok: As mentioned just now, we worked on showing the reality of Korea. And there was deep enough of a message in the original show so we worked at adding in other elements that would be fun.
Producer Lee: And I think we also differentiate ourselves with the acting skills of our cast. I know this will sound like self-praise but we have an amazing cast. Ko Hyun-jung, who will play the teacher Mah Yeon-jin, had been our first choice for the role, and we worked hard to cast the child actors as well. We took many things into consideration because they are children we’d need to spend three to four months together in real life, and a year in the drama.
Q. Did you refer to the original drama to prepare playing your character?
Lee Ki-young: A principle I stick to when it comes to acting is that I won’t watch its original work if there is one. And it’s because if I watched the original work, I may not be able to separate myself from the character within that, and then feel uncomfortable when I do acting that seems different from the original. I think it’s better to make a space of my own that I can act in with freedom.
Ko Hyun-jung: I didn’t watch the original drama. I realized while preparing to play my character that it’ll be better not to. And based on my experience, the outcome is better when I just trust in the producer and go with what the writer has written.
Q. It must’ve been quite difficult to act with so many child actors.
Choi Yoon-young: I was almost always the youngest member of the cast in the past. But there are a lot of child actors in this drama and I’m also playing a teacher, so there a lot of things I have to pay attention to. However, I’ve been surprised many times by the children because they act so well even though they’re young. I’ve been learning a lot from them.
Lee: What is key on set is keeping the children quiet. There are times when it’s just difficult to do so. For example, there was a scene where we got together 400 children but there weren’t just the child actors but also extras that were six or seven years old. So it really wasn’t easy doing something with all of them. We’ve been trying out a lot of ways (to keep them quiet) including telling them they’ll get presents if they do a good job.
Ko: In a way, I feel more at ease because I’m working mostly with children. But producer Lee Dong-yoon has been the main reason we’ve been doing well with the child actors. And personally, it’s my first time working with 24 students so it’s not easy, but physically, it’s probably the child actors that have the hardest time. When the shoots take longer, some of the child actors, that aren’t the main characters, have to sit in the chair of the classroom for hours without saying anything.
Q. This is your first drama in three years. Do you not feel a lot of pressure because of this?
Ko: Not too much. The more we shoot, the more I remember from my past MBC drama, and I think I’m getting used to things.
Q. It couldn’t have been easy to play your character because the character in the original drama had such a distinct personality.
Ko: I have difficulties for every acting role. But what I focused on most this time around was on making this drama one that could be watched not only by the younger generation but also by their parents. There were times I had difficulties because my character Mah Yeon-jin speaks to the children in a very strong and cruel way, but I hope viewers will focus more on the message she is trying to deliver.
Q. Did producer Lee Dong-yoon not have any particular requests in regards to you playing the teacher?
Ko: What he requested in the beginning was that I make her seem a bit sexy. That’s why I decided that I should lose some weight. I thought a fat witch-like teacher who bothers her students all the time would make her look too easy [Laughs]. I wanted to make sure that her sharp personality would be expressed not only through her lines and gaze but also through the swiftness of her movements.
Q. Well the drama won’t be an entirely new kind of drama but not one that’s been seen often. This means the show might be more risky so you must feel pressured over the ratings as well.
Ko: I do but not over the ratings. I think what’s important is what is shot and how our story unfolds because in a way, ratings are decided by luck. We’re going to try to focus more on how to deliver our story persuasively.
Reporter. Kim Gwang Kuk firstname.lastname@example.org
Translator. Jessica Kim
Editor. Hong Ji You email@example.com
Courtesy of MBC