Bae Doona is not one to back down from any challenge

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Bae Doona is not one to back down from any challenge
In the sci-fi dystopian series The Silent Sea, Bae Doona plays a famous astrobiologist enlisted for a special mission to the Moon for the survival of mankind.

MANILA, Philippines — Not one to back down from any challenge, South Korean star Bae Doona looked back on some of the lengths she went to in the name of acting.

In an exclusive Zoom interview (alongside co-star Gong Yoo) for her brand-new Netflix series The Silent Sea, the filming challenges she took on for the first space-themed K-drama, as well as past works on the streaming service, were unearthed.

When The Philippine STAR asked her if The Silent Sea was the hardest to shoot ever, the 42-year-old actress was quick to say no. She said: “Not for me. There isn’t a single production that’s not challenging so you tend to really prepare yourself to get into that.”

Bae Doona recalled that what made The Silent Sea particularly tough was the physical weight — owing to the bulky spacesuit – that she carried around for seven months, not to mention acting in front of a green screen that required a lot of her imagination.

“That’s definitely challenging. However, I’ve been on so many taxing and challenging sets before,” she said.

She noted it was equally tough doing the Kingdom, the Joseon Dynasty-set zombie thriller where she plays a physician’s assistant whose search for a cure is where lies the possible end of the zombie apocalypse. “It was below 17 degrees where I only had to wear a Hanbok and got into the very icy cold water.”

In an earlier series, Sense8 by The Wachowskis of The Matrix fame, she portrayed a rising star in the underground kickboxing world. “It was very tough as well, morning and night workouts, all the stunts, the cross-continental shoots that I had to do,” she shared. “So, I would say that the production process for The Silent Sea, it was challenging but I’m very happy with it, especially with great people on set and a near Seoul location. It was challenging but we all made it work.”

Nevertheless, Bae Doona wouldn’t dare compare these productions to each other. “I mean, each production is very different. I think it wouldn’t be fair, or it wouldn’t be right to talk about what is different between Kingdom and The Silent Sea. I guess, if you look at the time period, Kingdom is set in a former historical era, and then The Silent Sea is far into the future. I think, I’m not being very eloquent here; it’s tough to say exactly what is different, but all of them are very different. And I chose to take part in this production because I wanted to tell a new story,” she said during the separate press junket with Asian-Pacific press.

In The Silent Sea, the Earth’s natural resources have been depleted and human beings are forced to find hope elsewhere.

Bae Doona plays the famous astrobiologist Song Jian who is enlisted for a special mission to Korea’s lunar research base in an area on the Moon called the Sea of Tranquility, hoping to discover some answers.

Apart from Song Jian, the team is made up of captain Han Yunjae (Gong Yoo), chief engineer Ryu Taesuk (Lee Joon), team doctor Doc Hong (Kim Sun-young), chief security officer Gong Soohyuk (Lee Mu-saeng) and pilot Kim Sun (Lee Sung-wook).

Unlike the rest of the crew, however, Song Jian has another motivation for being there. She wants to uncover the truth behind an accident that happened at Balhae Station, which led to its closure five years before.

After arriving at the research base, the crew finds out that more mysteries lurk inside the station, where they end up trapped in isolation. With a mere 10-percent survival rate, the team faces the grim prospect of not returning to Earth alive and ultimately helping mankind survive.

The Silent Sea is an adaptation of director Choi Hang-yong’s short film of the same title, which generated attention at the 2014 Mise-en-scène Short Film Festival.

Bae Doona said, “When I first read the script, because sci-fi and outer-space series (are) not that common in Korea, I thought it was a big challenge. Prior to having seen this script, I would have thought this was a challenge, but I did watch the short film, which The Silent Sea is based on, and after watching the short film, I thought that, you know, making a sci-fi for your thesis, for your graduation work, that wouldn’t be really easy because you don’t have that much input, you don’t have that much investment and money, you have this limited budget, and you’re using this limited budget to come up with this short film.

“And, I think, this was amazingly done. The emotional development of the cast was perfectly drawn on to the screen, so I was very surprised at the perfection of the short film. I thought, if it was this director who made this short film, a space sci-fi created in Korea would be worth a challenge as an actor. That’s what I thought. So, I wanted to take part (in it).”

Besides that, she loved the idea that it would reflect “Korean sentiments and it would give a lot of food for thought” for the audiences.

“There could be some social issues we could cover, and it could really intrigue the viewers, and trigger our imagination. So I was really up for the challenge,” she added.

Meanwhile, as one of South Korea’s top actors – one of the first to penetrate Hollywood before Oscar-winning Parasite, et. al. with such films as Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending – The STAR asked Bae Doona about her process in picking projects in this stage of her career.

“For me, as an actor, it’s always the script. But personally, I think the director comes before the script. I am very, heavily influenced by who the director is. What kind of a person are they? What kind of story do they want to tell? And what do they want to achieve through this production?

“Another element that I am most recently very much focused on is, can I make myself useful in this particular production? No matter how great the script may be or what a great director, if I feel like I wouldn’t be as useful in the story as a character, if I feel like I could be replaced by someone else, I tend to draw away from those productions or stories. So, I always try to think to myself: Is there something that only I can bring to the table?

“On the other hand though, if I feel like I’m not going to be very useful for the production but if the director is very adamant and they tell me that you have to play this role, you are going to be very, very useful, then I tend to say yes (laughs),” she concluded.

The Silent Sea is now streaming on Netflix.

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