Cover The Silent Sea stars Gong Yoo and Bae Doona on bringing the sci-fi series to life (Photo: Netflix)

Gong Yoo and Bae Doona, the stars of Netflix’s newest K-drama, The Silent Sea talk about their experience in bringing the ambitious sci-fi series to life

Riding on the success of Squid Game and Hellbound, Netflix’s year-end Korean drama offering is the wonderful and gripping, The Silent Sea. Billed as the first Korean drama set in space, the ambitious series is headlined by two of South Korea’s biggest names: Gong Yoo from Train to Busan and Bae Doona from Kingdom.

The Silent Sea is based on director Choi Hang-yong’s eponymous same name and follows a space crew on a mission to retrieve a mysterious sample at the abandoned Balhae space station on the moon. With water shortages a devasting problem back on Earth, the sample is believed to save humanity from impending destruction.

In addition to Gong Yoo’s highly anticipated return to the small screen, The Silent Sea is charting untethered waters as the science fiction genre isn’t common in South Korea. In an exclusive round table interview, Tatler got the chance to talk to Gong Yoo and Bae Doona about bringing the sci-fi series to life.

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Bae Doona, your character Dr Song is incredibly layered. While she might come across as complicated or prickly to others, she’s clearly holding a light within her, as well as a lot of grief but kindness. What would you say is at the heart of this character?

I think you really saw right through her character. She’s indeed a very layered person. I like to express her as being tough on the outside but soft on the inside. She carries a great deal of hurt with her. It’s almost like she needs to wear a very tough armour on the outside because she’s so vulnerable on the inside. Because she’s hurt a lot, she’s afraid of getting hurt more and afraid of placing trust in other people. She’s very lonely and desolate as well.

However, she does have a lot of love and kindness. But it’s not something that she often shows to people she’s not close with. It’s odd because she’s a scientist meaning that they are usually required to be more reasonable and cold. But she’s a character who’s very emotional and also someone who’s sort of a philanthropist.

Gong Yoo, as an actor, how do you process and navigate the unknown, the emptiness and the absolute magnitude of being in space?

It really had to depend on different situations even though we did the filming on a created set. But we really leaned into a lot of the technical support that was provided which may include the LED walls. In a way, we’re only allowed a limited amount of individual imagination to be able to really immerse ourselves in the role on set. The surface of the moon was created to be really realistic so I wouldn’t say that it was challenging because not much imagination was left for the actors.

I can’t tell you much of the details but when we return to the pilot station, you will notice a lot of urgency going on so all we had to do was really immerse ourselves in those particular situations and react to them. I’m sure you will get to know what I’m talking about once you watch the series.

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Both of you have already done the science fiction genre before. What is different to your performance in The Silent Sea compared to these?

Bae Doona: The biggest difference is that I’m playing a completely different person that had to live in a completely different era. These are very different works so as an actor for every film, every production, you have to become that person. It’s only a slice of that particular character’s life that you got to show to the world.

South Korea is having a splash in pop culture internationally. As massive stars in both South Korea and overseas, how do you see this going forward?

Gong Yoo: It’s definitely something that I’m very happy to see happen as a Korean actor and I’m really intrigued that I’m able to experience this as it unfolds. We’re living in an era where you can connect and enjoy content from any place around the world very easily as long as you have a television screen or a streaming platform. I’m happy that a lot of content is receiving so much love globally including Squid Game and Hellbound and I dare say and hope that if we remain humble, we’ll be able to see the trend continue for quite some time.

Bae Doona: I wouldn’t say that it’s something that happened out of nowhere or out of the blue that Korean films and entertainment are loved by the world and are being noticed. South Korea is a country that truly loves cinema. And there have been many international films that have been widely loved in South Korea. When you see titles like Parasite, Squid Game, Hellbound and hopefully, The Silent Sea, these are doing so well and loved by the global audiences that one might think it’s a very sudden phenomenon.

But I’d say that we have always had these amazing and talented creators and filmmakers. It’s just that with the streamings, OTT services and the changing media environment, we’ve been provided with a platform for these work to be showcased and discovered by the world. They’ve always been there. You know, we have an amazing director like director Lee [Chang-dong] who was honoured at Cannes [Film Festival] so what we’re seeing now is that stories and creators that we have had for a long time are now being found. I’m glad that many people can enjoy them.

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The Silent Sea is now showing exclusively on Netflix.

 

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