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INTERVIEWKim Hye-yoon credits unique narrative for global success of 'Lovely Runner'

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Actor Kim Hye-yoon / Courtesy of Artist Company

Actor Kim Hye-yoon / Courtesy of Artist Company

By Park Jin-hai

Kim Hye-yoon, the star of the recently concluded tvN romance drama, "Lovely Runner," attributes the show's global success to its unique blend of storytelling.

A key factor of the narrative's appeal, according to Kim, is its shifting perspectives between Im Sol (Kim) and her love interest Ryu Sun-jae (Byeon Woo-seok), departing from the traditional romantic comedy format, which usually focuses primarily on the female lead.

"The buzz surrounding the drama began after the drama narrates from the perspective of the male protagonist, Sun-jae. Rom-com dramas in many cases normally unravel the story from the perspective of the female lead, so this change of perspective must have given drama fans a heart-fluttering moment," Kim said during an interview with The Korea Times at a cafe in Seoul, Monday, a day before the airing of the final episode, adding that the popularity still feels as a sudden and pleasant surprise to her.

The 16-part drama intricately weaves together the perspectives of Sol and Sun-jae, providing viewers with a multifaceted understanding of both characters. This approach allows audiences to connect with them on a deeper level, delving into their motivations and emotions as they navigate the complexities of their relationship.

"Another biggest attraction of this drama is the theme of mutual 'rescue romance' as the leads save each other, both emotionally and physically," she said.

The series centers on Sol, a huge fan of the K-pop idol Sun-jae. Sol, who aspired to be a movie director, became paralyzed after an accident and finds comfort in Sun-jae's music. Then, disaster strikes again when top star Sun-jae dies in a tragic accident, leaving his fan Sol heartbroken.

In a twist of fate, Sol travels back in time and wakes up back in high school, 15 years in the past — before her accident and Sun-jae's death. Seeing this as a miracle, Sol decides to use this chance to save her idol and rewrite their destinies.

Kim Hye-yoon plays the role of Im Sol, who travels through time to save her K-pop idol Ryu Sun-jae, in the tvN romance drama 'Lovely Runner.' Courtesy of Artist Company

Kim Hye-yoon plays the role of Im Sol, who travels through time to save her K-pop idol Ryu Sun-jae, in the tvN romance drama "Lovely Runner." Courtesy of Artist Company

The 27-year-old actor, debuted on the KBS drama "Samsaengi" (2013) playing a supporting character, became a recognizable face through the mega-hit JTBC series "Sky Castle" (2018). With "Lovely Runner," Kim is experiencing the highlight of her career.

She said the script of the drama, adapted from web novel "Tomorrow's Best," was so much fun and even made her worried about her acting.

"The script was as much fun as the original web novel. I was laughing and crying along the way. The story was so captivating that it made me feel even more pressure. I hoped that I could express it well enough for the viewers to experience the same range of emotions. I was really worried about whether I could do it," Kim said.

Another challenge she faced was portraying her character, Sol, across different life stages, from her teens to her 30s, through various time jumps in the drama.

"The time-slip element was challenging because it required me to portray a 30-something woman who returned to her teenage self. So I had to carefully choose words and expressions that teenagers would not typically use," she explained.

Kim also paid attention to visual details such as hairstyle and clothes to differentiate Sol's appearance at various ages throughout the drama.

"For younger Sol, I wore fake bangs, while for older Sol in her 30s, (I opted for a) more mature hairstyle. Wardrobe has been youthful and vibrant in her teens and early 20s, but a more sophisticated style for adult Sol," she said.

When asked about how much similarity she as a person shares with her character, Kim responded "50 percent."

"Sol is a very emotional person, often shedding tears in extreme situations. However, in real life, I am not someone who cries easily. I would say that I share about 50 percent of Sol's personality traits. Like Sol, I am cheerful and have a great sense of humor, which makes it easier for me to portray her character," she said.

"However, Sol is the type of person who bounces back immediately from difficult situations, never giving up or dwelling on them. In contrast, I do experience moments of discouragement, self-doubt and hesitation. While Sol's resilience is something I admire and hope to learn from."

Kim expressed her openness to taking on more teen romance roles, stating that she is willing to continue embracing such characters as long as she can.

"Instead of working hard to try to shed school uniforms or break away from teen image, I want to embrace it and let it be. Time will come when I look awkward to wear school uniforms in dramas. Until that time, I am happy to wear them," she said.

However, unlike Sol, Kim has no desire to revisit the past, even if given the opportunity to travel through time.

"I has given much thought about what time period I would go back to if time travel were possible. But I think I would choose not to go back to the past even if I could. I believe I made choices in the past and they were the best choices that I could make at the time. I have no regrets about it. In fact, those choices I made led me to where I am today," Kim said with a smile.

Park Jin-hai


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