Watching Lee Dong Wook tearing it up right now as the hotheaded Park Mu Yeol in Wild Romance makes me remember one of his first starring roles – Seol Gong Chan in the superb and super fun 2005 SBS drama My Girl (Ma-i Geol) from the wonderful Hong Sisters writing team. Co-starring one of the more polarizing Korean actresses Lee Da Hae (Chuno, Miss Ripley) as the con artist with a heart of gold, Joo Yoo Rin, this drama was a hit when it first aired and made the main cast super popular. It’s one of my all-time favoritest dramas, and that was due in large part to the immensely likable Lee Dong Wook.
The basic storyline of this 16 episode drama follows the clever Yoo Rin as she gets hired by the rich and good-natured Gong Chan to impersonate his long-lost cousin for the sake of his “dying” grandfather (Byun Hee Bong – you might recognize him as the legendary loan shark Mr. Hwang in Glory Jane, or maybe in billions of other K-Dramas and movies), at least until Gong Chan can find his real cousin who was lost in Japan (or something). She smells money and agrees, moving in with him and totally acting the part. But what are they going to do when they start to fall in love?
There would be no real (k)drama without a good love triangle, so the drama gives us Gong Chan’s playboy best friend, Seo Jung Woo (Lee Jun Ki – Iljimae, Hero), who falls for Yoo Rin, and Gong Chan’s ex-girlfriend, Kim Seo Hyun (Park Si Yeon – When Spring Comes, The Slingshot), also knowns as the “Korean Maria Sharapova,” who gives Yoo Rin “indigestion” (heartbreak, really) when she tries to get back together with Gong Chan. There are also the Hong Sisters’ vets, Ahn Suk Hwan and Choi Ran (recently seen as the evil nurse-boss in Glory Jane), as another, more mature couple in love. There was so much love to go around in this drama!
This drama, one of the first that I ever watched, was so fun and funny, even with the angst towards the end which is a hallmark of the Hong Sisters. I listened to the OST too many times to count, but I still don’t think I’m sick of it since it always conjures up wonderful memories of the drama. One of my favorite scenes is when Gong Chan is worried that Yoo Rin sees him as a sleazy predator – I knew since then that Lee Dong Wook could be the funny one (as opposed to the straight man) and play the sleaze to perfection. I loved how, unlike in other dramas, he was never mean or cruel to Yoo Rin – who wouldn’t like such a nice, affable guy? It’s hard to believe that earlier in his career he played the evil second guy, like in Loving You. I haven’t seen him play the villain, and I’m afraid that I wouldn’t be able to take him seriously. I hope he sticks to the mild-mannered, but never boring lead role in rom-coms. But I have to admit that seeing his hair again in this drama had me doing a double take. Suddenly Eun Jae’s hair doesn’t seem too bad, right?
Lee Jun Ki was probably technically more popular from this drama than Lee Dong Wook, though not with me. I guess it was the one-two punch of being in the hit movie The King and the Clown (also starring Jung Jin Young who is currently playing another crazy person in Brain) and then the Casanova character in this hit drama. I really like Lee Jun Ki, just not in this drama. He was excellent in the movie, and really good in the fusion saeguk, Iljimae, which is one of my favorite dramas ever (even more than My Girl). Now that he’s just been released from the army, he’s already signed up for a new MBC horror saeguk, The Chronicle of Arang and the Magistrate, about the beautiful ghost Arang (Shin Min Ah – the 2010 Hong Sisters drama My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho) and the noble magistrate Lee Sang Sa who tries to help her. That’s so on my list.
I think Lee Da Hae was funny and engaging and totally carried the drama, though her emotional scenes weren’t as intense as I would have liked. I may not be her biggest fan, but I don’t hate her like others do. She hasn’t been in anything else that I’ve liked since this drama (I wasn’t into Chuno and I didn’t even bother with Miss Ripley), but I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up liking her again in something fun and lighthearted. I like Park Si Yeon (though I wish she would lay off the off-putting plastic surgery) and I think she’s fun to watch on-screen, but she’s not one of my favorite actresses. She might be in the upcoming melo The Equator Man alongside Uhm Tae Woong (Lucifer, Cyrano Dating Agency), Lee Joon Hyuk (City Hall, City Hunter), and Lee Bo Young (Becoming a Billionaire, Hooray for Love), which is set to follow Wild Romance.
I love the Hong Sisters (Hong Jung Eun and Hong Mi Ran), and I’ve seen all of their dramas (except their latest, The Greatest Love, but that is at the top of my list). Their dramas are usually lighthearted and fun bits of marshmallow fluff that you never really regret watching since even if they’re not your favorites, they’re always enjoyable. I think early Hong Sisters (Sassy Girl Chun Hyang, My Girl) is a little better since they relied less on gimmicks, but the duo is still one of the few screenwriters whose dramas I would watch automatically. My Girl is my favorite, followed closely by Sassy Girl Chun Hyang (I love Han Chae Young), Hong Gil Dong, Couple or Trouble, My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho, and You’re Beautiful – I recommend all of them. I’ve read that their next drama will air on KBS, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. But until then, I’ll always have My Girl.