Kingdom creator wants zombie series to run for 10 seasons

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Kingdom creator wants zombie series to run for 10 seasons
After investigating the plague’s origins in Kingdom’s Season 1, exiled Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) heads back to the palace in Season 2
Photos courtesy of Netflix

MANILA, Philippines — After a successful Season 1, the South Korean zombie thriller Kingdom is now back on Netflix.

As of writing, the six-episode second season has emerged as the most-watched Netflix content among Filipinos — dislodging fellow K-drama Crash Landing On You — based on the streaming service’s new feature that allows subscribers to find out the Top 10 releases in one’s country.

The STAR recently joined a video-conference interview with Kingdom creators and stars, and they talked about what fans of the show can somehow expect — from mysteries to be solved to new characters — in the second season.

Chief State Councilor Cho Hak-ju (Ryu Seung-ryong) will stop at nothing to rule over Joseon

But if you ask them about global success, they would say it was the least of their expectations when the period thriller set in the Joseon Dynasty of Korea first streamed in 2019.

Writer Kim Eun-hee said, “I truly didn’t expect the kind of response we had for the previous season. I tried very hard to bring out the most Korean elements in the series, which I think audiences found interesting and liked.”

Director Kim Seong-hun, who helmed the entire Season 1 and the Season 2 opener, said, “I hoped very much for the kind of interest and love for the series, but I couldn’t possibly have predicted it.

In Kingdom’s Season 1, the dead king is resurrected, and Crown Prince Lee Chang is accused of treason and exiled to the outskirts of the kingdom. There, he begins to investigate what is causing poor communities to turn into the “undead”.

The ambitious Queen (Kim Hye-jun) is determined to produce an heir to the throne and keep Joseon under her rule

In Season 2, Lee Chang and his crew are determined to return to Hanyang, Joseon’s capital. Apart from the plague, they also have to deal with the Cho Clan who has grown more powerful than ever and will do everything to keep the prince from claiming his rightful place at the throne. The second season brings back stars Ju Ji-hoon as crown prince Lee Chang, Ryu Seung-ryong as Chief State Councilor Cho Hak-ju and Bae Doona as the physician Seo-bi, among others.

If “hunger” was an overarching theme in the pilot season, writer Kim Eun-hee said that she wanted Season 2’s storyline to be anchored on the concept of “blood”. She said, “I wanted to tell a story about blood in Season 2. Apart from it being literal blood, I wanted to explore the themes of bloodline and lineage. In the end, I think the new season will be a story about the two colliding worlds of the undead who desire blood and those who desire a particular bloodline and lineage.”

Director Kim Seong-hun, writer Kim Eun-hee and director Park In-je during the video-conference interview with the Philippine press

Certainly no spoilers here but Season 2 director Park In-je promised a rollercoaster ride throughout the six episodes. “To give you a general idea, Prince Chang, who was following the leads to the miraculous herb that became the key to the survival or the fall of the country, faces a lot of challenges. He thinks about what the miraculous herb is and how he should approach it as well as what he needs to do for his ‘kingdom.’ One last key theme for the new season is whether or not the ‘kingdom’ will fall. You can expect a rollercoaster ride throughout the season.”

When asked about the difference between working on Netflix series and a South Korean drama, Kim Eun-hee said, “First of all when it comes to working with Korean terrestrial broadcasters, we are never free from the pressure of ratings. And there’s also the factor of having instant and very immediate feedback from the viewers, which sometimes results in having to make revisions to the script and whatnot.”

Cast and creators Kim Eun-hee, Jeon Seok-ho, Kim Sung-kyu, Ryu Seung-ryong, Bae Doona, Ju Ji-hoon, Kim Hye-jun, Heo Jun-ho, Park In-je and Kim Seong-hun at the Seoul presscon for the Netflix zombie thriller

She continued, “There’s, of course, the freedom of expression. So, things like decapitation, for example, that will never be able to be something that will be shown on TV. In Korea, you know now, nowadays only, you also have to work, even if you were just holding a knife, that has to be blurred. So that was a big difference.”

The first season was released in 190 countries with subtitles in 27 languages. It was also dubbed in English in some countries. Director Kim Seong-hun admitted to being initially very worried about dubbing. He said, “I had some reservations thinking, this isn’t a contemporary story, and seeing actors wearing Korean traditional costumes speaking in a very different language can be very jarring for the viewers. But in the end, I was surprised to see how natural the dubbed versions sounded.

“I realized that language is ultimately only a method of delivering the essence, which is the work itself. A great artist you may know (Oscar-winning Parasite director Bong Joon-ho) recently spoke of a one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, and we reduced the barrier to one centimeter with the subtitle and dubbing service. It’s tailored to an individual customer’s needs, so you can choose to watch the series in a dubbed version if you feel burdened by subtitles or enjoy the original version if you’d rather listen to the actors’ voices. I hope audiences enjoy the flexibility of having both options.”

Meanwhile, the director credited the major surprise going into Season 2 — how the zombies are actually capable of coming out and attacking during daytime— to the genius of the writer.

 Kim Seong-hun said, “I would have to say that that was actually the part of the master plan that has been created by writer Kim Eun-hee from about two years prior. Just like the universe was created first with the sun and the planets and earth, this was all the masterplan of the great writer, how they reacted at different temperatures and how they, as you said, have different mechanics in Season 2. Hopefully, she will continue to surprise you with the shocking points all the way until Season 10.”

So, the question now is: Will there be a Season 3? Writer Kim Eun-hee teased, “As you all know, production of Season 3 is dependent on the success of Season 2. If you support and love Season 2, I’m sure we’ll be able to bring you Season 3 with a greater world. I personally hope that the series continues all the way to Season 10.”

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