Saturday, March 26, 2016

[Article] Jang Keun-suk to rekindle hallyu fever with 'The Royal Gambler'

Original Source: m.koreatimes.co.kr
By Park Jin-hai

The “Prince of Asia,” Jang Keun-suk, who has avoided public attention for a year
following a tax evasion scandal, will return to the small screen in SBS’s new epic drama “The Royal Gambler.”

Jang says he wants to become more than a pretty baby-face image with this fresh start in the 24-episode drama. His previous role in “You’re Beautiful” had earned him wide fandom throughout Asia.

Set in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Jang will star as Baek Dae-gil, an abandoned son born to King Suk-jong and a maid. He later clashes with the prince over the throne in the action and romance drama.

“Up to now, people remember me as an actor with a pretty face. I have questioned myself as to whether I have been too complacent with that image. I think that the Dae-gil character is one that will help me overcome that fixed image and start anew as an actor,” said Jang during the press conference at SBS, in Seoul, Thursday.

 “My first impression of the screenplay was that it's very three-dimensional as if I'm watching a movie. While reading the script, I wondered what facial expressions I would have made if I were Dae-gil. I didn't want to miss this opportunity," Jang said.

“The Royal Gambler” is Jang's first historic drama in eight years since the KBS 2TV series “Hong Gil-dong” in 2008.

Reflecting on his popularity throughout Asia, his comeback met with a fervent fan reaction. Fans from 35 countries including Japan, Taiwan, Russian and Argentina have engaged in promoting the drama, putting up posters at airports, subway stations and bus stops throughout their countries.

On the day of the press conference promoting the drama, some 60 fans mostly from Japan lined up in a long queue at SBS to get a glimpse of Jang standing beside stacks of 20-ton bags of rice donated in the name of each fan club.

“I have flown here this morning to meet him. I became his big fan since the drama You’re Beautiful. I like him giving a warm smile, yet he gives an energetic performance when he sings in the duo with Team H,” said Mayuko, 48-year-old woman from Osaka, Japan. “Last year, he was not seen so much by the public. I’m happy that he came back. I’m coming here next month too to see him shooting the drama.”

Mayuko’s friend who also visited for the press conference said she is in love with his “none-like-any-other” character.  

Local industry watchers expect the drama could rekindle hallyu in Japan, which started in 2002 with the mega-hit Korean romantic drama “Winter Sonata,” but lost steam recently after the bilateral relationship between Korea and Japan turned sour following political issues such as Japan’s claim over Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo and the war-time forced sex slavery issue. 

"The Royal Gambler" has been sold to KNTA, a Japanese broadcaster specializing in hit Korean shows, for about $150,000 per episode, for a total of $3.6 million for the whole series.

It follows Japan's import of the KBS hit series “Descendants of the Sun” starring actor Song Joong-ki and actress Song Hye-kyo. The military romance drama was reportedly sold for $100,000 per episode.

Jang has been one of the most successful hallyu actors in Japan, as his previous romantic series “Love Rain” was sold to a Japanese broadcaster for a $300,000 per episode.

The first episode of the new TV series will air Monday and will premiere in Japan in early April.

jinhai@ktimes.com

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