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Why 'Island' is a K-drama that packs a punch, according to its cast

By Myla Torres-Eder Published Dec 23, 2022 6:57 pm

A demon hunter, a divine force, and a destined heroine are about to battle it out against the demons locked up in Jeju island.

Island, starring Kim Nam-gil, Cha Eun-woo, Lee Da-hee, and Sung Jun, is a live-action adaptation of a popular webtoon premiering on Amazon Prime Video this  Dec. 30. If the hair-raising trailer is any indication, viewers are in for an action-packed thrilling series.

PhilSTAR L!fe had an exclusive virtual interview with the cast to talk about their experiences while working on this much-awaited K-drama.

In the upcoming series, Kim Nam-gil plays Van, an immortal demon hunter who has a fated past with Lee Da-hee’s character Miho—an heiress in her latest reincarnation and is said to be destined to save the world against evil.

The immaculate Cha Eun-woo is Yohan, an exorcist priest who is tasked to protect Miho. Sung Jun is Gungtan, a demon hunter who is half human and half monster.

Their characters couldn’t be any more different from the actors themselves so we wanted to know how they prepared for their roles. 

Action-packed Island

Cha Eun-woo talks about his preparations for his role as the exorcist priest Yohan
Cha Eun-woo talks about his preparations for the action scenes in Island in an exclusive virtual interview with PhilSTAR L!fe

Cha Eun-woo, who we often see in romantic roles in K-dramas like True Beauty and My ID is Gangnam Beauty, forays into a different genre. Fans will definitely be treated to a whole new side of him in Island. Cha Eun-woo shared that he trained in an action school for his role. 

He explains, "I wanted to focus specifically on Yohan’s unique movements and so I tried a lot and had many conversations with the martial arts director and also trained through an action school and I would meet other characters who I would have the scene with to talk about the specific movements and we had a lot of conversations."

During the press conference of Island, Director Bae Jong complimented Cha Eun-woo on his efforts to improve his Italian and Latin pronunciation saying, “He worked really hard and caught on really fast.”

Cha Eun-woo as the exorcist priest Yohan in Island
Cha Eun-woo as the exorcist priest Yohan in Island 

Cha Eun-woo said he even got some practical advice on how to “wear the priest robe in a more comfortable way” from Kim Nam-gil, who played a priest in the 2019 K-drama The Fiery Priest. Cha Eun-woo also revealed that during a scene, “Kim Nam-gil came to me and told me to breathe. It was really simple but very impactful and encouraging.”

Meanwhile, fans of the original webtoon series will be happy to know how lead star Kim Nam-gil tried his best to stay true to the original comics, even when it came to the fight scenes.

“I try to really pay attention to how it was drawn within the webtoon series in terms of the hand movements and leg movements and whatnot because this was a fight scene that was not human against human. It was human against demon so it had to be different and that’s one thing I always had to keep in mind,” he says.

Kim Nam-gil as the demon hunter Van in Island
Kim Nam-gil as the demon hunter Van in Island

Co-star Sung Joon is all praises for Kim Nam-gil’s dedication to his action scenes: “Nam-gil here, he was even a better action actor than what I had expected him to be so all we had to do was follow his lead.”

Nothing less could be expected from the talented Kim Nam-gil who’s known for his diverse roles. He was last seen in this year’s outstanding crime drama Through the Darkness, one of the K-dramas that got us hooked this 2022.

Island cast display great chemistry

The cast of Island (L-R): Sung Jun, Cha Eun-woo, Kim Nam-gil, and Lee Da-hee
The cast of Island (L-R): Sung Jun, Cha Eun-woo, Kim Nam-gil, and Lee Da-hee

It looks like the actors’ preparations paid off as they really owned their roles. Cha Eun-woo recalls the unforgettable moments he had during the filming of the series.

“For me I would have to choose the scenes where my character Yohan met for the first time each of the characters Miho, Van, and Gungtan," he says. "All of those scenes I remember very fondly. I think it’s because when I saw them in character they seemed to be completely different people from how I knew them personally.”

Lee Da-hee, meanwhile, chooses the filming of a scene “when all four of us were together” in the latter part of the series as the most memorable one for her.

While most people were celebrating last New Year’s Eve, the cast of Island were working hard on a pivotal scene, recalls Sung Jun.

“This is actually rather a difficult memory because we went through a lot on this day but I remember this particular shooting scene on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, when I had a scene that was shot at the beach with Nam-gil.”

“I remember Da-hee was there rooting for us,” says Nam-gil. Now that’s pure dedication and great teamwork we'd love to see.

Historic Jeju Island as a Backdrop for Island

The rich history of Jeju Island is incorporated into the story of Island, from local folklore to the stone statues Dol Hareubang.

Director Bae Jong talked about how most people think of Jeju Island as a beautiful vacation spot, but he says he “also wanted to focus on the sadness of Jeju.” He explained how there were sad incidents in history that took place on Jeju Island and how he thought Jeju would “add richness to the series by contrasting lightness and darkness.

(Photo Courtesy of TVING) Sung Jun, Kim Nam-gil, Director Bae Jong, Lee Da-hee, Cha Eun-woo
(Photo Courtesy of TVING) Sung Jun, Kim Nam-gil, Director Bae Jong, Lee Da-hee, Cha Eun-woo

Island is based on an original comics written by Youn In-wan and illustrated by Yang Kyung-il which began in 1997. It was later serialized into a webtoon. The director explained that there are some differences from the original webtoon as they had the opportunity to flesh out the story and provide more backstory for the characters. 

Island premieres on December 30 on Prime Video.