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(Yonhap Interview) Actor Han Suk-kyu is embodiment of 'Dr. Romantic': director

All Headlines 11:00 December 04, 2016

By Lee Haye-ah and Youn Go-eun

SEOUL, Dec. 4 (Yonhap) -- Actor Han Suk-kyu is such an iconic figure in South Korean cinema that viewers may think it's only natural for him to look so convincing as the charismatic "Dr. Romantic."

They couldn't be more wrong, according to the director of the SBS drama that last week surpassed the meaningful 20 percent mark in viewership.

"It's not like (Han) moves around the hospital as if he knows the place or uses the medical jargon with ease. He also has a very cautious character," Yoo In-shik said in a recent phone interview with Yonhap News Agency. "But when we put together the bits of film, it suddenly looks so natural that I can't help but be in awe."

This image shows a still of Han Suk-kyu in "Dr. Romantic." (Yonhap)

The 52-year-old veteran plays a legendary surgeon named Boo Yong-joo, who under unfortunate circumstances relocates to a remote, rundown hospital with his identity in disguise. He calls himself Kim Sa-bu, which means Master Kim, and devotes himself only to the well-being of his patients. He appears cold and rude, but his unmatchable flair and deep humanism in the operating room eventually move his staff, including two junior surgeons played by Seo Hyun-jin and Yoo Yeon-seok, to help him build a top-class institution boasting cutting-edge technology and professional integrity.

"I'd thought that I would be happy if (viewership) exceeded 20 percent, but I'm a bit taken aback that it happened so fast," Yoo said. "Han Suk-kyu is Kim Sa-bu himself. It's clear that he shapes his acting step by step."

The drama's popularity has largely been driven by Han's mesmeric acting. But according to Yoo, the actor of such hit films as "The Contact" (1997), "Swiri" (1999), and more recently "The Berlin File" (2013), doesn't try to dominate the set.

"Everyone loves him," the director said. "Besides the acting, he's such a gentleman that everyone takes to him."

Yoo added with a laugh, "People here and there are busy doing impersonations of him."

Han even inspired the selection of some of the drama's theme songs. Screenwriter Kang Eun-kyung inserted The Beatles' "Hey Jude" and Madonna's "Material Girl" into the soundtrack after meeting with the actor who, according to Yoo, brought back memories of the days gone by.

This image shows a poster for "Dr. Romantic." (Yonhap)

"The response has been good, so we plan to continue using old pop, such as Cyndi Lauper," he said.

The director was quick to also credit the other cast members, the screenwriter and the rest of the staff for the drama's success so far. He dismissed Kang's recent remarks that his directing is a "treasure," saying it is in fact the script that makes the drama what it is.

"She's amazing. She manages to find the button that triggers people's emotions in even the smallest supporting roles," Yoo said. "I'm struck again by what an amazing writer she is. When I read the script, I can see the quality of directing she expects, and even though it's a bit challenging, I do my best to meet those expectations."

Despite the mental and physical fatigue that comes from shooting difficult medical scenes, filming has been a joy thanks to the professionalism and teamwork of the staff and actors, he added.

Asked to discuss the meaning of "romantic," Yoo said, "There are doctors who despite having a bit less and being less famous, have a burning heart. I want to show that there are such people. If people feel overwhelmed and think, 'Yes, there must be people like that in the real world', or 'Wouldn't it be good to live my life like that?,' I couldn't ask for more."

The Monday-Tuesday series airs at 10 p.m. on SBS TV.

This compilation of images shows stills from "Dr. Romantic." (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr
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