Exclusive: Song Kang Dishes On Netflix’s ‘Nevertheless’ And Co-Star Han So Hee
The ‘son of Netflix’, ‘that swoon-worthy webtoon actor’, and ‘the new king of K-dramas’ are just a handful of fan-given titles that 27-year-old South Korean actor Song Kang currently holds. While he officially debuted in 2017 with a supporting role in The Liar and His Lover, it wasn’t until the release of Netflix’s Love Alarm in 2019 that earned him international recognition. The K-drama was such a huge success that Netflix renewed it for a second season.
In 2020, Song propelled to stardom when he starred in apocalyptic horror Netflix original Sweet Home. In it, he played a suicidal high school boy who tries to survive a ‘monsterisation’ apocalypse–a far cry from his Love Alarm role and the perfect opportunity for Song to showcase his acting chops to 22 million member households of Netflix. His role in Sweet Home earned him a nomination for Best New Actor – Television at the 57th Baeksang Arts Awards.
Now in his fourth leading role, as the charming and talented art student Park Jae Eon in Nevertheless, he's expected to gain a whole new legion of fans. The romance K-drama, which also features The World of the Married actress Han So Hee as Yu Na Bi, has been gaining attention with international fans for its perfect casting and sizzling chemistry between the two. In an exclusive interview, Song tells Tatler how it has been thus far.
How do you feel about Nevertheless gaining so much attention with international viewers?
First of all, I’m extremely grateful for all the international attention and love for Nevertheless that has come through Netflix. At the same time, I was fascinated. After all, this show is a student romance taking place on a Korean university campus, so there must've been so many cultural differences from other countries. It’s amazing that foreign viewers are able to empathise with and enjoy these unfamiliar elements.
I was really encouraged by the comments on social media from fans around the world. Your support has energised me throughout. I’m very grateful and I’d love to have the chance to go and thank you in person someday.
You’re no stranger to taking on webtoon roles. In playing the role of Park Jae Eon, what do you do to bring the character to life in a way that's similar to the webtoon yet relatable to a TV audience–especially for the international viewers?
For Nevertheless, I worked really hard to stay true to the source material in terms of the visual elements. I made sure my style matched the original character’s and really tried to carry across Jae Eon’s vibe from the webtoon to the show. There are unpleasantly cold elements to him that I wanted to make sure were properly conveyed onscreen, which is why I chose to lose some weight to better show the tiniest changes in expression that Jae Eon makes.
Jae Eon in the show Nevertheless is attractive in some ways that are different from the character in the webtoon. One of my priorities was making sure there was a visual connection between the webtoon character and the Jae Eon I portray, and also expressing the complex and multifaceted elements of him you’ll only see in the show. I was very happy to see that viewers compared and contrasted the two versions of Jae Eon and found unique things to like about my portrayal.
Since Nevertheless centres on students in an art school, what did you have to do to prepare for your role?
I’ve never played an art student before and I didn’t know much about art school, to begin with, so I spent quite some time looking things up. Jae Eon is supposed to be a genius sculptor, so I had to make sure I could put on a really natural and effortless performance for those sculpting sequences. I watched videos of students working on their sculptures in school and I also sought the help of experts in the field while shooting the scenes, so I was pretty much learning on-site while acting the part.
Jae Eon specialises in working with metal, which I’d never done before, so I gave it a shot! I had a great time, especially with welding, which I've to admit I might have a bit of a knack for (laughs). I had a blast working on this show and trying so many new things.
In what ways do Park Jae Eon differ from Song Kang?
Jae Eon doesn’t really let his emotions show and he prefers to hide them, which is very different from me. When I share how I feel or think, I’m usually quite frank. I don’t like hiding things, so I try to be transparent. So it made me a little sad to see how Jae Eon struggled to express himself in both his daily life and in his relationship with Na Bi.
There are a few story arcs involving the other characters of Nevertheless. Which one are you hopeful for and personally want to see more of?
I’m personally looking forward to Bit Na’s story. I know viewers joke about her being 'the girl Jae Eon', which might be why I kind of feel a connection to her. I started rooting for her without even realising it (laughs). Just like Jae Eon’s encounter with Na Bi helped him to face himself and realise what he really wants, I hope Bit Na will also have that wonderful moment of self-realisation.
What surprised you the most about working with Han So Hee?
Every moment is a surprise when you’re working with Han So Hee because she’s Yu Na Bi incarnate (laughs), The moment I heard she had been cast as Na Bi, I thought she looked very much like the webtoon character. When I started working with her in person, I realised it wasn’t just her looks—she embodies Na Bi in her performance. Han So Hee makes Na Bi’s complicated emotional changes look effortless. It was captivating. I couldn’t imagine anyone else in that role and I’m always grateful for her as we work together.
Which scenes were the most challenging ones to shoot and how did you overcome those challenges?
I can’t think of one challenging scene in particular, but I found it really tough to portray all of Jae Eon’s complicated emotions throughout his constantly changing relationship with Na Bi. This is why, whenever I get stuck while reading the script or when I didn’t understand something, I'd speak with the director and Han So Hee until I understood well enough, and practised as much as I can to portray those subtle emotional changes.
A new episode of 'Nevertheless' airs every Sunday on Netflix.