'If I get the best newcomer award I'll be very happy': Jokes abound as Parasite star Song Kang-ho does 1st drama series in 30 years

 'If I get the best newcomer award I'll be very happy': Jokes abound as Parasite star Song Kang-ho does 1st drama series in 30 years
Song Kang-ho (left) and Bun Yo-han act in Uncle Samsik.
PHOTO: Disney+

A veteran actor of nearly 30 years became a rookie on set as he went from movies to doing his first drama series.

Song Kang-ho, who has acted in critically-acclaimed films such as Memories of Murder (2023), Parasite (2019) and A Taxi Driver (2017), is acting in the Disney+ drama series Uncle Samsik, which premieres tomorrow (May 15).

In a recent regional press conference, jokes were abound as Kang-ho, 57, was asked about his experience as a "rookie" in the drama.

"We had senior actors who are much more experienced than I am, and I would look at them, try to learn from what they do," he said.

When asked by the press if he would like to win the rookie award for drama at the Baeksang Arts Awards next year, a category he was originally nominated in for film in 1998, Kang-ho said: "If I get the best newcomer award I'll be very happy" before adding in all seriousness that there were many deserving actual rookies.

Kang-ho acts as the titular Uncle Samsik, a businessman in the early 1960s who wants a society where people can eat three meals a day, or "samsik" as it's known in Korean. After hearing soldier-turned-economist Kim San (Byun Yo-han) share similar aspirations in a political rally, Samsik sets his sights on working with the younger man.

Lee Kyu-hyun plays the manipulative businessman Kang Seong-min, Jin Ki-joo plays Choo Yeon-jin, Kim San's partner and a journalist, and Tiffany Young (of Girls' Generation) plays Rachel Jung, the founder of a scholarship programme Kim San was a part of.

Ki-joo, 35, shared that the "up-and-coming" actor Kang-ho would ask her for advice after monitoring their shoots, and she "didn't know what to say" despite him being a "rookie".

"There's a difference between cinematic expressions and those in a drama series, so I honestly didn't quite know if it was okay to express that much," Kang-ho added. "At times, I would feel like it was a little too much for the small screen.

"So I constantly went to Ki-joo and asked her, 'Am I doing okay?'"


Kang-ho shared that Ki-joo was "kind" in the beginning but he felt that she was getting annoyed by the question as time went on, so he ceased asking it.

When the emcee suggested that it was likely because there wasn't much input Ki-joo could have given the veteran actor, she agreed.

"It was the most difficult thing I had to do," Ki-joo replied.

In a following interview with AsiaOne, the junior cast members were more serious as they shared what they learnt from Kang-ho.

Yo-han, 38, said: "The way he has such a cumulative and rich experience, his know-hows, his wisdom, leadership and insight - as someone who follows his path, I was really able to feel that on set."

"I learnt so much on the set from Kang-ho, I learnt the way he's able to be a leader on set based on his rich experience and the way he has years of cumulative experience within the industry," Ki-joo said.

Tiffany, 34, added that, rather than the cast actively wanting to get along on set, the "1,000 per cent" that everyone put into the script and embodying what their characters should "stand for" created "a harmony" among themselves.


Kang-ho said that the cast's varying backgrounds in showbiz was the "strength that we carry as an ensemble".

"We are able to share differences and there's a certain energy that comes from that difference, and I think encompassing and really encapsulating this kind of energy is, at the end of the day, what creative content like this is all about," he said.

His biggest lesson learnt was being able to "accept, respect and be considerate" of the varying "thoughts, backgrounds and visions" among the cast members.


'Nervous' to act alongside Song Kang-ho

While the cast joked around during the press conference, some of them also shared their admiration for Kang-ho.

Seo Hyeon-woo, who plays elite soldier Jung Han-min, joked: "A rookie actor not being nervous was really cool, because he's an up-and-coming new actor, but he was just so not nervous."

The 40-year-old added that he had always wanted to work with Kang-ho on a project and, before shooting his first scene with the latter, Hyeon-woo couldn't sleep because he had butterflies in his stomach.

"I was meeting a newbie, but I was so nervous somehow," he joked.

Ju Jin-mo, 49, who plays An Yo-seob, was more serious as he shared that he initially met Kang-ho 35 years ago as a theatre actor, where the latter was his "biggest mentor".

"It was such an honour to have him on this project and to work alongside him," he added. "It was very meaningful to me."


Uncle Samsik airs with its first five episodes May 15 on Disney+.



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