A quirky superheroine is born in The School Nurse Files
A quirky superheroine is born in The School Nurse Files
Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - September 29, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A new kind of superheroine is born on screen, and she’s quirky, eccentric and you might think, very unlikely to save people from bad elements and intentions. But she does just that with the help of her weapons of choice a BB gun and a rainbow-colored plastic sword.

Meet Ahn Eun-young, the jelly-fighting warrior disguised as a high school nurse in The School Nurse Files, the Netflix original Korean series directed by Lee Kyoung-mi based on the award-winning 2015 novel School Nurse Ahn Eun-young by Chung Se-rang, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Kyoung-mi.

In the series, these colorful and cute jellies — visual “remnants” of human desires — are not all good or harmless as they look. People who are haunted by the “contaminated” jellies are bound to experience terrible bad luck and misfortune.

Eun-young has this special power to see and destroy these kinds of jellies whenever, wherever they appear. But to the rest of the world (or at least, where she works at), she’s seen as this weirdo who’s jumping around the school premises and wielding her funny-looking “weapons” at seemingly nothing.

Still, even with her special gift, Eun-young, the human that she is, has her weak moments. She draws her strength from an unexpected source. This is Hong In-pyo, a schoolteacher with a disabled leg, who also happens to be the one who accidentally releases the jellies at their school. But he is protected by an aura that supercharges our female hero whenever they hold hands, making the battle she has long been waging a not-so-lonely one after all.

Cast as the main leads are Korean stars Jung Yu-mi (from the hit films Kim Ji-Young: Born 1982 and Train to Busan) and Nam Joo-Hyuk (from the movie The Great Battle and K-dramas The Light in Your Eyes and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo).

During last week’s virtual presscon hosted by Netflix Korea, the stars talked more about their characters, the filming experience and working with each other for the first time through The School Nurse Files.

Jung Yu-mi said, “Ahn Eun-young has a very ordinary name but she has this extraordinary ability to see these jellies, which other people cannot see. She’s a nurse and she starts working at this school and she feels something mysterious is there, and she always carries a BB gun and a plastic sword with which she can defeat these jellies. She’s always in constant battle with these jellies. Because she was born into this destiny of having to see things that other people cannot see, she has to fight them.”

In the light-hearted, action-fantasy Korean series The School Nurse Files, Jung Yu-mi is the jelly-fighting warrior who works as the school nurse Ahn Eun-young. She charges her superpower through the schoolteacher Hong In-pyo, played by Nam Joo-hyuk.
Photo Credit: Choi Yong Bin for Netflix

Nam Joo-Hyuk said of his latest role, “Hong In-pyo is the grandson of the founder of the school, a Chinese Characters teacher and he actually has this unique aura that surrounds him. With that special protective aura, he ‘charges’ Ahn Eun-young’s power. He will be facing amazing and incredible events that happen at the school (after) Hong In-pyo does something that unleashes a huge amount of jellies at the school. He’s in a partnership with Ahn Eun-young. He’s like a helper to her in fighting these events in this school.”

According to the writer Chung Se-rang, she always knew the title role was made for Jung Yu-mi long before it was even offered to the actress. With the casting of Nam Joo-hyuk, she believes that they make the “perfect duo”.

In a statement, Se-rang said, “I wanted Jung Yu-mi to play Ahn Eun-young even before we decided to make a series based on the novel. She has a silent but explosive energy,” adding that through Nam Joo-hyuk’s acting, “I learned that In-pyo had traits that even I didn’t know about. He even made me come up with some ideas for a sequel.”

Yu-mi, on the other hand, had always imagined herself starring in an action-based project, but The School Nurse Files was the least of her expectations. “To be frank, it was not what I had expected, not what I had dreamt of as a child. I was thinking of a different movie such as Crouching Tiger, or these movies you see as a child growing up that make you want to do action on film.

“When I met the character of Ahn Eun-young, it was a completely new kind of action that I got to experience. She taught me that this could also be action and I think, it’s just my destiny to start my action role with her, and I decided to accept it.

“Once I got more comfortable and I got into the role, it could have seemed like it was a little awkward to other people, but for me, it felt just meaningful and natural.”

When she first read the novel — which began as a short story and now adapted into a series — she loved that it was “so bubbly and quirky” and that “there were many subjects being dealt within the story.”

She added, “I felt a lot of warmth in the story. And when I was told it would be made into live-action, I really wanted to see how it was. I was very honored and thankful that they offered me the role. I wanted to make sure that the story was created in a way that would touch the hearts of the audiences as much as the novel did to its readers.”

Joo-hyuk agreed. “I think the subject matter itself was extremely new and fresh, and so when I looked at the character Hong In-pyo, I wanted to take on the challenge of really bringing that interesting character to life. I also wanted to take that opportunity of being able to work with director Lee. I was really curious as to what kind of amazing story would be brought to the screen through these creators.”

Yu-mi admitted that she was inspired to sign up for the project after learning that Lee Kyoung-mi was going to be its director. One of the few female directors in South Korea, Kyoung-mi is noted for having directed the country’s leading female stars in some of their most important film work, including Son Ye-jin (The Truth Beneath) and Kong Hyo-jin (Crush and Blush).

Yu-mi said of the lady director: “The moment I learned that she would take the role as the director, I was so excited. I felt so supported on site. I could rely on her. I mean, there is the original novel, of course. But director Lee took part in the screenplay writing process as well. And when we were doing the shooting on site, the directions that director Lee gave were really subtle and delicate and I was really enthusiastic about following all her directions and I wanted to portray them on screen as much as possible. I think I could have done a little better. But thanks to her effort and support, I was able to complete my character.”

Meanwhile, the most-asked question during the virtual presscon was about the believable chemistry between the 37-year-old actress and 26-year-old model-turned-actor.

For Joo-hyuk, their chemistry wasn’t confined to the screens. “Yes, we had amazing chemistry. Even when we were on hold or we were waiting to go into scenes, we had many, many conversations. So when we started the shoot, we felt extremely comfortable with each other, and I really think the chemistry was very special. The chemistry between (the characters), I personally believe we were able to bring that to the screen.”

Yu-mi shared that while she never expected it to happen, she was happy to have him as a partner. “What I learned from him is that he’s very quick about his wits. Every time, he is very quick in these creative aspects, which makes me very quick with my reactions as an actor. We created a lot of synergy.”

For the actor, though, the credit should be given to his co-star. “I thought it was the other way around, I was able to create a lot of this synergy because of her. All I did was follow her lead. At the end of following her lead, I think we were able to create amazing synergy. You know, it was almost as if she carried me on her back.”

(The six-episode The School Nurse Files is now streaming on Netflix.)

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