Cover Here are some of the thrilling facts that you should know about My Name (Photo: Netflix)

My Name is the newest K-drama offering from Netflix but the noir series is unlike anything we’ve seen. We break down some of the most thrilling facts and details you should know straight from the cast and director

My Name is one of the highly-anticipated K-dramas from Netflix, especially when Han So-hee was announced as its main lead shortly after she wrapped up The World of the Married. There was even more buzz when Han completely transformed herself for the role, trading her girly image for a revenge-driven storyline that’s filled with emotions, hot blood and passion. It’s a complete reversal from her youthful side in Nevertheless.

The new noir drama follows Ji-woo (Han) who witnesses her father die right before her eyes when she was just 17 years old. Unsatisfied with how quickly the police closed the investigation, she looks for the murderer on her own. Eventually, she crosses paths with Mu-jin (Park Hee-soon), her father’s friend and the leader of a drug cartel. She joins the ring and learns to survive in a dog-eat-dog world. Still hellbent on revenge, Mu-jin prods her to join the police force as a mole to find out the truth about her father’s death. During her revenge-driven escapade, she comes face-to-face with brutal truths.

Ahead of the drama’s launch on Netflix Hong Kong and its premiere at the Busan International Film Festival, we give you exclusive behind-the-scenes facts straight from the cast and director that you should know about.

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A new type of action noir with a female lead

Action noirs and stories of espionage have long been dominated by men, particularly in South Korea and in Korean dramas. There are a few instances of female leads tackling the noir genre like Kim Ok-bin in the Villianness, but it’s refreshing for a Korean series where romantic stories still dominate or crime stories are normally lead by male characters by default.

My Name introduces a new female lead to the classic revenge theme. It also offers a refreshing mix of deftly carried out elements within the genre.

“When you think of dark noir, it’s very macho. It’s very much a man’s world. When I read it, I felt that it was very original because the lead is a woman and she has a lot of those complex emotions that unfold in her story,” says actor Park Hee-soon who plays Mu-jin in the series.

In choosing to helm My Name, director Kim said, “I was most drawn to the fact that this project had a female lead. The revenge theme and the emotions that go with it are often a male dominant territory. Some films have had female leads, but I’d yet to come across a drama script in Korea with a strong female lead. This was kind of refreshing, fun even. I felt I could approach this project in a fresh new way.”

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The godly hand of director Kim Jin-min

You may easily recognise director Kim Jin-min as he previously worked on the Netflix series, Extracurricular. The television director has an expansive portfolio under his belt beginning in 2003 with Forever Love. His earlier works are also action-heavy and My Name marks his return to his early days of action.

Besides that, he has also tackled romantic dramas such as Marriage Contract for which he took home the Best Production Director award at the 9th Korea Drama Awards. He also worked on The Liar and His Lover and Lawless Lawyer.

Han So-hee herself calls director Kim, “Ji-min the god” because of his directing skills. Most of the cast members revealed that they were drawn to two things about the drama: the script and director Kim.

Han said, “I loved watching director Kim Jin-min’s Extracurricular and wanted to work with him. Just those two things: wanting to try the action genre and to work with director Kim,” while Park said, “Director Kim is gifted in providing direction, not by simply ordering us to do this or that but by getting us actors to use our imaginations. That meant going completely against what I had initially thought in expressing the character’s emotions. It was so refreshing to work with someone who inspired us to imagine.”

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A star-studded cast

The titular role is played by Han So-hee together with an ensemble of talented actors such as Park Hee-soon, Ahn Bo-hyun, Kim Sang-ho, Lee Hak-ju, Jang Yull and Yun Gyeong-ho. Each of these stars hold their own in the drama and according to director Kim, it’s a testament to the great things that happen when actors give their all.

Han is best known for playing Yeo Da-kyung in the highest-rated cable TV drama, The World of the Married which propelled her to superstar status. She recently starred in Nevertheless opposite Song Kang. Meanwhile, Park Hee-soon is a well-known actor in theatre and movies such as The Witch: Part 1, 1987: When the Day Comes and The Fortress. My Name is one of the few TV series that he has done.

Ahn Bo-hyun made a name of himself when he starred as Jang Geun-won in Itaewon Class, putting him on the list of rising actors to watch. He’s currently starring in Yumi’s Cells opposite Kim Go-eun. Meanwhile, Veteran actor Kim Sang-ho has commanded a presence in every role he undertakes whether it’s in Kingdom, Sweet Munchies or Watching and audiences are excited what he will bring to My Name.

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Real action accompanied by real emotions

What sets My Name apart from other noir projects is its action realism—showcasing raw action when possible. Instead of ostentatious moves made to impress others or for the sake of it, the action in My Name is derived from the character’s unique traits and genuine emotions, essentially showing an action sequence with its own story.

The action depicts the desperate, tortured psyche of its lead character, Ji-woo. In order to perform the demanding action scenes, Han attended action school for about three months, doing hand-to-hand combat and weapons training such as knives, guns and batons. Her dedication translates directly to Ji-woo’s consuming obsession with revenge.

“Noir films usually involve a lot of action, but in My Name, there are so many emotions that come into play. So I want to refer to the action in it as ‘action with emotion,” said Park. Director Kim also reveals that stunt coordinators and doubles were involved but the actors did almost 90 per cent of their action scenes by themselves—with all of the main cast except for Kim Sang-ho attending action school.

“Our action doesn’t rely much on the wires and CG. It was down first hand. It was emotionally charged so I would call it emotional action. It wasn’t just a simple hit but you had to grab someone and really go into the scene,” added Park.

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Han So-hee’s complete transformation

When Han So-hee was cast for the lead role, it was the complete opposite of her role in The World of the Married and it's like nothing that she’s done before—certainly, nothing like we’ve seen before. Han rose to the challenge and completely transformed herself as Ji-woo and Hye-jin.

It’s safe to say that the role brought out Han’s potential as an actress and it’s no surprise if she’s on her way to becoming a full-fledged action superstar after this since she’s now doing kickboxing in her free time.

Director Park reveals, that “So-hee was all in into it and she said yes right away without any hesitation. It’s not easy to say and she didn’t even do through a manager to give me that answer. I told her that she has many other chances to play a beautiful role but this might be her only chance to do action. Once you break out of that potential, you will.”

Meanwhile, co-star Park also had nothing but praises for the actress, “It would not be an exaggeration to say that My Name was made for and carried out by Han So-hee. She prepared for it so well and poured her heart and soul into it. And both the emotional and action scenes reflect her painstaking efforts.”

To prepare for the role and really be one with her character, Han had to attend action school for three months, one month earlier than her male co-stars. Going beyond stripping off her girly image and as a testament to her dedication to her role, Han also gained about 10 kilograms of muscle weight to look like a real person who’s infiltrated the police.

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A thrilling story of revenge

At the heart of My Name is revenge. Ji-woo is on a mission to find out who killed her father and in order to do so, she must abandon who she is and create a new identity.

“I threw away my future and my name for revenge. That’s how desperate she is. The word revenge to Ji-woo is everything. I think Ji-woo has to witness her father’s death at an early age and she has no other choice but to go this path, so I feel for her and my heart aches for her. But at the same time, the level of determination and level of strength she carries, is intense,” said Han about her character.

For director Park, he wanted to explore what revenge means. “Revenge is close to righteousness and rightness. This is such an important theme that generates the entire story that is really melted into the 3D characters. Through Ji-woo, we are continuously confronted if this revenge is reasonable, is this right, is this worth fighting for,” he said.

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The meaning of a name

A name is part of a person. It’s a representative term used to identify a person, a thing or a concept. And to a person, a name is a unique way to represent his or her identity and existence. To use the title, My Name highlights not only Ji-woo’s revenge-driven journey but also highlights how she’s trying to find herself along the way.

Abandoning her name to go undercover to find her father’s killer has been her sole mission. But is she really the revenge-driven Ji-woo or the cop who’s actually a mole, Hye-jin?

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All the visuals

In order to bring the realistic revenge story to life, not only do the actors have to undergo intense action trying, director Kim and his crew also had to take special care with the dark lighting and tones to set the genre-appropriate ambience. For My Name, Kim blends the ordinary with the extraordinary to create a convincing reality.

He distinguishes Korean cultural establishments like bars, restaurants, karaoke bars and gaming cafes and puts them against neon signs and dark corners. This is all to craft the visual style of noir which is comprised of claustrophobic dark interiors and stark, contrasting lighting. But one of its most important elements is also a cynical hero, which Han So-hee plays.

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My Name premieres on October 15, exclusively on Netflix. It will also be screened at the Busan International Film Festival from October 6-15.

 

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