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Interview: Jung Yu-mi and Nam Joo-hyuk talk about their chemistry

Interview: Jung Yu-mi and Nam Joo-hyuk talk about their chemistry
Jung Yu-mi and Nam Joo-hyuk in The School Nurse Files.
PHOTO: Netflix

When you watch the trailer of The School Nurse Files, a new Netflix original Korean drama starring Jung Yu-mi and Nam Joo-hyuk, you might be baffled by the plot.

Jellies? BB gun? Aura?

But don’t be too quick to dismiss it. The drama, which is based on a famous South Korean novel, may not be your typical rom-com, but it is the quirkiness and freshness that are appealing.

For instance, some of the jellies that are supposedly monsters in the drama, were inspired by real-life jellies that are believed to threaten mankind?

We sat during for a virtual press conference with the Yu-mi, Joo-hyuk, director Lee Kyoug-mi and writer Chung Se-rang to find out more.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about the series?

Director Lee: This is a story about a woman with an ordinary name – the school nurse and Ahn Eun-young and this school nurse has a unique ability that other people do not have. She is able to see these floating jellies, and she also has the power to defeat them.

She starts working at a new school and she finds a mysterious story behind the school and along with teacher Hong In-pyo, she set on an adventure to find the truth behind the story.

2. Eun-young has the unique ability to see and fight away the jellies. What are these jellies?

Writer Chung: What I first thought of was the slime that is left behind when a snail travels. I felt that there must be something that is left from all living things. And I thought how would it be like to live in such a world? That’s where it all began.

3. Tell us more about the jellies and how you translated them on screen.

Director Lee: In the novel, they are called jellies. When I was bringing them onto the screen. I had a lot of thoughts about how to make them convincing. While I was looking into the jellies, I could understand that they have been, in fact, a part of our culture for from long time ago.

So I looked at many novels and movies that dealt with jellies and we had a lot of jelly type creatures there and you are also quite familiar with many jelly type creatures from different cultural content.

So I thought that I am joining the genealogy of all the jelly type monsters and I wanted to make them more fun for the audience, so I actually added on some characters to the jellies. And I also learnt that there is the SCP Foundation is there in the world.

I don’t even know whether this is real or not. But this SCP Foundation is about the new wild creatures that are, in fact, threatening the human lives. This is a private organisation, as far as I know. They have categorised different monsters or the creatures in the wildlife and then created a huge database on them.

So I got some hints from it seen them.

4. Can you introduce your character to us?

Yu-mi: Eun-young has a very ordinary name, but she has an extraordinary ability to these jellies and these things that other people cannot see. She’s a school nurse and she starts working at this school and she feels that there’s something mysterious there.

She always carries a BB gun and a plastic sword with which she can defeat these jellies. She is in constant battle with the jellies and also because she was born into a destiny of having to see things that other people cannot see, she has to fight them.

Joo-hyuk: He is the grandson of the founder of the school and he actually has this unique aura that surrounds him. He’s a Chinese character teacher and with that special protective aura, he “charges” Eun-young’s power.

He will be facing amazing and incredible events that happen at the school. And my character does something that unleashes a huge amount of jellies at the school and so he partners with Ahn Eun-young – he is like a helper to her – to fight this event at the school.

5. I'm sure you felt that the script was very something that you've never seen before. How did it feel?

Yu-mi: When I first approached the story itself, it indeed seemed, in a way, very strange. But I love the way that it was so bubbly and quirky, and there were many subjects being dealt with in the story and I think I felt a lot of warmth in the story.

When I was told that it will be made into a live-action, I really wanted to see how it was. I was very honoured and thankful that they offered me the role and I wanted to make sure that the story it was created in a way which it would touch the hearts of the audience has as much as the novel did its to its readers.

Joo-hyuk: I think the subject matter itself was extremely new and fresh. And also when I looked at the character, Hong In Pyo, I wanted to take on that challenge of really bringing that interesting character to life.

I also wanted to take up take that opportunity of being able to work with Director Lee and I really was curious as to what kind of amazing story will be brought on to screen through these creators.

6. What was it like working with Director Lee?

Yu-mi: I felt so supported on site. I could rely on her. I mean, there is the original novel, of course, but Director Lee took part in the screenplay writing process as well.

And when we are doing the shoot on site, the directions that Director Lee gave were really subtle and delicate and I was really enthusiastic about following all of her direction and I wanted to portray that on screen as much as possible.

I think I could have done a little better but still, thanks to her effort and support, I was able to complete my own character.

7.Yu-mi, you had BB gun and a rainbow sword as weapons to fight the jellies. How did you feel about that?

Yu-mi:To be honest, when I first saw the weapons or the tools, I was a little bit baffled. But I didn’t really feel uncomfortable following through the story on the novel, so I felt like I could do this. At first it felt a bit unfamiliar but once we got started, I felt like this is for me. And then afterwards, I had full trust of those tools.

8. You had to act without actually seeing the jellies or holding them. How did it feel working without actually having the jellies in front of you?

Yu-mi:It wasn’t that difficult because Director Lee told me quite clearly what will be on the screen when I was acting, so I was actually able to have a good understanding of what would be in front of me in the real drama series about them.

Joo-hyuk, your character couldn’t see the jellies, so it must have been quite comfortable for you.

Joo-hyuk: Yes, I say so because relatively my character is ordinary so to speak, so for me it was quite comfortable.

9. Yu-mi, you always wanted to do action and in a way, it came true through this. What kind of preparations did you go through?

Yu-mi: To be frank, it was not what I dreamed of. When I was a child, I was thinking of different movies such as Crouching Tiger, you know these movies that you see as a child growing up that makes you want to do action on film. I met the character Eun-young and it was a completely new kind of action that I got to experience.

She taught me that this could also be an action and I think it’s just my destiny to start my action role with Eun-young and I decided to accept it. I think that’s that could also be a dream of many others. It was it was not something I could imagine easily even though it’s written on the script and in the novel.

When I was actually doing it. It was a little different from what I had dreamed of but once I got more comfortable and I got into the role, it could have seemed like it was a little awkward to other people, but for me, it just felt very meaningful and natural.

And again, it’s amazing. It’s a great opportunity and I’m very happy to be able to start my very first action with Ahn Eun-young.

10. Joo-hyuk, in the show, you have an aura that is like a human powerbank. How does it feel to play such a special character?

Joo-hyuk: I think using your special ability abilities and being able to help others, that’s really fulfilling and on a normal day, the character spends his day like any other person but when he gets to step up and be able to help someone, I think that’s where I feel the most satisfied playing this character.

My energy is recognised by a someone else, and then that energy can be transferred to the other person, so that that will help that person. I think this is a really powerful experience. I mean, I can help the other person and the other person can, in fact, take another step thanks to me.

That is a really special experience. This character Hong In-pyo doesn’t know much about himself, but then after he realises that he can actually be the power for the other person, he is developing into another kind of person and this is a special kind of a development of a character and I think it’s a really unique and special thing that you can be the power for someone else.

11. When you first heard that the readers of the novel wanted you to play the role of Ahn Eun-young, how did you feel?

Yu-mi: I felt really amazing. I was very happy. As the novel was created into a drama series, the fact that I was cast as the main role and was able to bring her to life. I was just very grateful for the experience.

There were scenes where Eun-young fought the jellies in the trailer and the first episode. How long did it take for you to shoot those?

Yu-mi: I don’t clearly remember off the top of my head how long it took for each scene because it was a while a go. I was imagining a lot while acting but then after the computer graphics work came in, I was wondering about how it’ll turn out after the CGI came in. … It was very exciting and fun.

We have staff members on set the other and I have to pull it off in the same space and then whenever I got the OK sign, I wasn’t sure what I did but then I felt really rewarded and satisfied. It was really fun.

It’s a kind of experience that you can never have on other sets and I had such an experience quite often onset of the School Nurse Files and I think it gave me the power to you know move forward and go on.

12. You said that the character comforted you in a way. Can you explain in what ways did Eun-young comfort you?

Yu-mi: As I was shooting the series and bringing the character Ahn Eun-young to life, while there were many things that I enjoyed, on the physical side, I think there were many challenges for me personally and when I try to stand in her shoes try to understand her I felt empathy for her because she had to see and all of these things that are unseen to other people and I don’t think all of that was always happy for her.

I felt her loneliness but despite all that, Ahn Eun-young accepts her destiny and takes bold and bubbly steps to meet her destiny. Of course, what I experience in my personal life is very different from what she has experienced, but I think it just helped me in my life when I was faced with challenges.

I thought Eun-young and how she fought through her destiny. I felt like as if she was a friend that I had in my life that comforted me.

13. How was the chemistry between you on set and how did you feel about working with each other?

Yu-mi: The chemistry was amazing, right?

Joo-hyuk: Yes we had amazing chemistry. Even when we were in the waiting room or we were waiting to go into the scenes, we had many many conversations. So when we started the shoot, we felt extremely comfortable with each other and I really think the chemistry was very special.

14. You got to know a lot about each other through these many conversations. How did you feel about each other? What actor what kind of actor do you think the other person is?

Yu-mi: I didn’t think that I would be able to work with Joo Hyuk a series and I was very happy to have him as my partner. While working together what I learned from him was that he’s very quick-witted.

Every time he was very quick in these creative aspects that brings me to be very quick with my reactions as an actor. And I think that kind of chemistry really brought our characters together and we created a lot of synergy.

Joo-hyuk: I thought it was the other way around because I was able to create a lot more synergy because of her. All I did was really follow her lead and at the end of following her lead, I think we were able to create amazing synergy. So, you know, it was almost as if she really carried me on her back.

15.In real life, what recharges you like a powerbank?

Yu-mi: May be healthy food that is very important and people that I love very much. So these are the things and the people who would recharge me. (What exactly is your favorite food?) Is this really OK to say? It could actually be a brand promotion.

Joo-hyuk: People that I love, of course. And healthy food. And delicious food. And relaxing and doing nothing. (What is your favorite food?) Kimchi stew.

16. Joo-hyuk, you are playing the role of the Chinese characters teacher. Were there any challenges playing the role?

Joo-hyuk: He is the Chinese character teacher but… can I actually say this? He’s not teaching much in class after he meets Eun-young. He is, in fact, spending a lot more time outside of the classroom to fight the jellies and help Eun-young. So I didn’t really have much difficulty preparing for the role of a Chinese character teacher.

17. You’ve been in a lot of dramas in the past few years and this is your first time working with the Netflix original series. How is it different working on Netflix series compared to other projects?

Joo-hyuk: I have been watching Netflix original series, but now I am cast in the original series and that was in fact the newest element to me. The overall environment on set was quite comfortable and happy.

Yu-mi: I have watched the Netflix original series myself and then I’m part of it now. And our story is based off of a novel. The whole novel couldn’t be compressed into the series… Despite such challenges, I was able to see that the story was built in a more delicate and subtle manner compared to other projects and that was a really good experience to have.

This article was first published in Her World Online.

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