Q and A: Catching up with the stars of 'Mr. Sunshine'

MANILA, Philippines – If you're late to (or still not onboard) the Korean drama wave, we can't really blame you. With over decades of titles to choose from, it's hard to even think about where to start.

Mr. Sunshine, from the makers of the hit Descendants of the Sun, might be a good place to start. It just concluded its run and all episodes are available for streaming on demand over at Netflix. 

In a nutshell, Mr. Sunshine is a treat for those who enjoy a mix of history and drama. But it's not just about that. Set in the 19th century or the Joseon dynasty in Korea, the show primarily tells the story of Eugene Choi, a Joseon-born man who finds himself in the United States only to later return as a US marine officer. 

He then finds himself falling for the daughter of an aristocrat, all while learning of plans to colonize his native land. If that's not enough reason to get you hooked, we can assure you that the acting is top-notch. 

The writing is also just as tight while being adaptable – Soompi reports that the details of a certain character were tweaked following backlash from viewers.  

Rappler caught up with the stars of Mr. Sunshine who play star-crossed lovers in the hit television series. 

Photo Courtesy of Hwau0026Dam/Netflix

What motivated or inspired you to be part of Mr. Sunshine?

I didn't see any reason not to work with Lee Eung-bok and Kim Eun-sook. I'd been always open to doing dramas, and as soon as I read the script, I made up my mind to take on the project. I found the story very captivating and well-written, and I felt that Eugene Choi was very intriguing.

How did you prepare for the characters you played – they all have interesting back stories and are all intertwined.

Most of the time, I have to play a character in a situation that I've never experienced myself, so I try my best to immerse myself in the character and focus on his situation when reading the script. My acting is the result of constant practice and hard work.

Eugene is an interesting character. He's both familiar with and a stranger to Joseon. How did you approach portraying someone as complicated as him?

Eugene Choi has a literally complex background. And because his background consists of rare circumstances, it's difficult to fully understand his emotions. So as I mentioned earlier, I try to put myself in the character's situation and stay focused on the character's situation to feel his emotions. Essentially, the approach doesn't change just because the character is more complex. The key is to try your best to understand the character you play.

Compared to other dramas, do you think there's more pressure when dramas are historical? In what way?

It's not just historical dramas that place a lot of pressure on an actor, but every genre does. Any genre of TV show can influence the audience, so I try to stay very conscious of that. But of course, the audience feel slightly different emotions when they watch historical dramas as opposed to modern ones, so I do feel the weight of pressure a little more. I believe that it's also important for a historical drama not to distort historical facts that its story is based on.

Photo Courtesy of Hwau0026Dam/Netflix

What motivated or inspired you to be part of Mr. Sunshine?

I had a meeting with the writer and the director without knowing anything about the show. I saw how confident and passionate they were about this show, and that's why I decided to take on the project.

How did you prepare for the characters you played – they all have interesting back stories and are all intertwined.

I studied the historical context first and then thought a lot about Ae-shin's relationship with other characters around her. I tried to get a glimpse of her personality in her dialogues with her teacher, nanny, and butler. And afterwards, I tried to understand new situations from Ae-shin's point of view.

Go Ae-shin, in many ways, is the show's spark. How did you prepare to play a noble who always breaks convention?

At first, I wasn't sure to what extent I could push the unconventional personality of Ae-shin. But I found my answer in the various forms of relationships that Ae-shin has with people around her. When Ae-shin is with her nanny, Ham-ahn, who is a mother figure to Ae-shin, she is very different from the version of herself when she walks around the streets of Seoul covered up in a cloak.

Likewise, Ae-shin is different when she's around Eugene, who is a stranger but intriguing, and when she meets Hui-seong, who comes to visit her after 10 years of absence. So I tried to portray different extents to which Ae-shin lets her guard down depending on who she's around. I think that helped build a much more interesting character.

Do you do your own action sequences and stunts? How was the experience?

I tried my best to cover as many scenes as possible myself. I checked with experts about safety issues before we started shooting action scenes. Even then, once I started shooting, I would get quite eager to do a better job. I was tumbling around, hitting into everything and ending up with a lot of bruises. But when the scene comes out great, I feel so rewarded. I had to balance myself between my eagerness to do a better job and my safety.

Compared to other dramas, do you think there's more pressure when dramas are historical? In what ways?

There are certain sentiments that are almost ingrained in you as a citizen of a country. Historical drama can be a bit sensitive in that sense. Ae-shin has multiple layers to herself – her patriotism towards her country, her determination to protect her family, and her feelings for her lover. It occurred to me that if one single aspect is emphasized too much, that could distort the character as a whole. Anything is possible for a human being, in theory, but Ae-shin is a character in a drama for [a large audience to see]. It was challenging to play Ae-shin because how a character is perceived by the viewers is also important.

– Rappler.com 

Mr. Sunshine can be watched on demand over at Netflix