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(LEAD) Four episodes in, drama 'Memory' just beginning: actor

All Headlines 19:28 April 01, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more comments, details about set at bottom; CHANGES photo to latest version; ADDS photos)
By Park Sojung

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- A high-flying lawyer is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, threatening to ruin his career and family. His clueless wife confronts his just-as-clueless, irate former wife who the lawyer continues to visit by accident. Could the story get any worse for the guy?

Actor Lee Sung-min, who plays the lawyer Park Tae-seok in the tvN drama "Memory," says the answer is both yes and no. Yes, his illness will continue to worsen, but the remaining three-quarters of the story will focus on his attempts to regain his dignity and reconcile with his families.

"In the first four episodes, Park failed to understand his disease and was in denial about it," he told reporters on the set of the Friday-Saturday night series in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, on Friday. "The story is just getting started."

In the first four episodes, Park successfully settles a case tied to a doctor's suicide with his young partner Jeong Jin (Lee Jun-ho), who "Memory" producers say will later help prevent the law firm from discovering Park's disease.

The hospital where the doctor worked is mired in more legal trouble after a separate doctor is accused of a fatal hit-and-run. Its heir apparent, Shin Young-jin (Lee Ki-woo), asks Park to represent the hospital, but Park, who lost his child to a hit-and-run 15 years ago, lashes out and demands that the doctor apologize.

Meanwhile, the sick lawyer starts to "go home" to his ex-wife's house from work, to which the former spouse responds with extreme vitriol. Park's failure to recall their lost child maddens her still to a point of no return. The fourth episode ends with his current wife visiting the ex to bring Park back home.

Lee Sung-min, who once claimed bromance as a specialty, said the male camaraderie on "Memory" will be different from that in "Misaeng," the cult office drama which signaled the beginning of tvN's rise to prominence in TV. In "Misaeng," Lee played the salesman Oh Sang-sik who gives the universally despised intern Jang Geu-rae his first chance to prove himself.

"If Oh Sang-sik took Jang Geu-rae under his wing, Jeong Jin is the one who keeps Park Tae-seok together in 'Memory,'" the actor said of his partnership with Lee Jun-ho, a member of the boy band 2PM.

"Memory" debuted on March 18 with a viewership of 4.2 percent, according to Nielsen Korea, which is not bad for a cable show but far short of the double-digit rates its predecessor "Signal" achieved. CJ E&M's head of its media division Park Ji-young, however, was brimming with hope.

"I trust that viewers recognize quality drama and quality screenplay," she said. "I firmly believe in 'Memory''s success, not that it's not doing well already."

Starting with episode 5, the focus will likely shift from lawyer Park Tae-sik to his wife Seo Young-joo (Kim Ji-soo), a person who is the second-most-affected by Park's Alzheimer's.

"It's not a story about an unfaithful husband, so even though the wife confronts the ex-wife, it'll never become one of those cheesy soap operas," Kim said, adding that if she were actually Seo, she would try to first understand the husband before getting into an argument like Seo does in the latest episode.

Actress Park Jin-hee, who portrays the ex-wife and judge Na Eun-seon, begged to differ as a married woman.

"The situation calls for an immediate cat fight or hair-pulling," she said, followed by a laugh.

Park, who returns to TV after four years, said it's been difficult to act like a judge, being married to one in real life.

"If my husband weren't a judge, I would have less problems playing my character. I worry that people might think, 'Why is she acting like that? Her husband is a judge after all,'" she said.

Lee Jun-ho, for which Jeong Jin is his first TV role, said he has yet to film a scene he's satisfied with.

"When I watch the other actors act, I'm always blown away, but I don't feel that way about scenes including me," he said. "There have been many instances where I go home and in the shower, realize what I could've done better."

Actor Lee Ki-woo, who plays the villain and future owner of the hospital, said with the recent surplus of good villain actors -- Yoo Ah-in of the movie "Veteran," for instance -- it's been difficult to find his own niche.

"So far, I've only been in one or two scenes, and I don't think it's realistic to convey all I have in such a short period of time," he said.

The tall lanky actor said he has experimented with different hair styles in what has proved to be a futile attempt to break away from the usual 2-to-8 ratio parting.

"I've tried 5-to-5, 6-to-4, 7-to-3 and 9-to-1. There's a reason why 2-to-8 is the go-to ratio for men playing wealthy villains," he said.

tvN, noted for its incredible attention to detail in set designs, didn't disappoint with "Memory." On Friday, the set of the law firm Taeseon, where Park and Jeong work, was revealed for the first time to journalists, with artwork hung on the walls said to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The paintings in each room were chosen based on the personality of the character occupying it, producers said.

Folders of legal documents appeared thumbed over and were strewn over desks as if real lawyers worked on them. Posters and fliers promoting Taeoseon were plastered on the walls, with Post-It notes and calendars with heavy marks on the desks' peripheries.

"Memory" airs on Friday and Saturday nights at 8:30 p.m. on the cable channel tvN.

sojungpark@yna.co.kr
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