Hwang In Youp, Choi Sung Eun reclaim dreams in The Sound of Magic

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Hwang In Youp, Choi Sung Eun reclaim dreams in The Sound of Magic
Hwang In Youp (True Beauty) is Il Deung, a rich, overachieving kid pressured to fulfill his parents’ ambitions. The Korean actor will hold a fan meet in Manila on Aug. 20 at the New Frontier Theater.

South Korean stars Hwang In Youp and Choi Sung Eun joined Ji Chang Wook as lead cast of The Sound of Magic, a teen-oriented drama that combines romance, fantasy and musical numbers.

Hwang, 31, is best-known for starring in True Beauty, while 25-year-old Choi’s previous dramas included Beyond Evil and Start-Up.

In their first K-drama together, now streaming on Netflix, Choi and Hwang’s characters — Ah Yi and Il Deung, respectively — are high schoolers forced to confront their troubled situations like full-blown adults even when they’re not. Both belong to the opposite ends of society — she, a struggling student who has to fend for herself and a sibling and he, a rich, overachieving kid pressured to fulfill his parents’ ambitions and live up to his name, which means “No. 1.”

Choi Sung Eun (Beyond Evil, Start-Up) is Ah Yi, a struggling student who is forced to fend for herself and a sibling .

They meet an eccentric, child-like magician Ri Eul (Ji Chang Wook) who is living in an abandoned amusement park. His sudden appearance in their lives somehow ignites their lost passions and dreams. His mysterious identity, however, plus incidents of criminal nature that seemingly point to his direct involvement, lead these youngsters to question whether Ri Eul is for real or a fraud.

In a recent roundtable Zoom interview with Asia-Pacific press members, including The STAR, the stars spoke more about the show adapted from a webtoon titled Annarasumanara by Ha Ilkwon and directed by Itaewon Class director Kim Sung Youn.

Il Deung (Hwang) serenades Ah Yi (Choi) in a dreamy scene from the K-drama The Sound of Magic.

The series is a visual feast with magical scenes that impressed the cast as well, like “money” raining from the sky to a carousel ride that flies. “That was definitely the first time for me. The fantastical scenes were challenging but at the same time, they were very interesting because they were new to me,” said Choi.

She added that a lot of preparation went into the visual effects-laden scenes. “I want to talk about the merry-go-round scene, we had a lot of rehearsals and because there was a lot of VFX required. We thought a lot about how it would turn out and how it would look. Before we got into each of the scenes, we had these pre-visuals and previews. Sometimes, the scenes turned out just as the previews or even better. So, thanks to all the staff that this was all made possible.”

Asked how she connected with her Ah Yi and what advice she would give to anyone experiencing similar circumstances as her character’s, Choi said, “Not everyone is in a very difficult situation like Ah Yi. But I think everyone is getting busy getting by instead of reaching for their dreams. In that aspect, I think everyone can relate to Ah Yi and that was the same for me. I really got consoled by magician Ri Eul.

“For people having difficult days, instead of just saying, ‘You can do it’ or cheer them on, I really want to help them dream again. I want to make sure they can have fun with me and become that person they can come to and who has their back. I think that could be a good consolation and advice for people who are struggling.”

Hwang considered himself quite the opposite of his character. “Il Deung is a boy who doesn’t know how to express his emotions and he doesn’t really know what he truly wants or really desires. When I was a student, I got along with a lot of friends really well. So, I think, I’m quite different from Il Deung in that aspect. A dream wasn’t forced upon me by my parents. I was able to express (myself),” he explained.

Nevertheless, there was a time he found it difficult to be honest about what he wanted for a career.

“When I was small, I watched a lot of TV dramas with my parents… I felt like I wanted to be in TV and acting. But I was a shy boy and I was very shy, in my adolescent times, to tell other people what I wanted to do. As I got to the end of my 20s, I thought, ‘OK, maybe it’s time to give it a try.’ I did and I started learning acting and now I’m here…. I’m very happy that I’m here.”

Below are more excerpts from the interview with the stars.

On the main attraction of The Sound of Magic:

Choi: “Before I met with the director, I read the original webtoon series, and the story itself, in a way, is very beautiful and very relatable... The visuals of the webtoon series, I really loved it as well. I was really curious about how this was going to be expressed in a live-action series. But above all, what sealed the deal was when I met with the director because I felt like, if this were in the hands of director Kim, he would definitely be able to bring this to life. I was drawn to his honesty, and I felt like he was someone who would bring out something new from me, as an actor.”

Hwang: “I think Sung Eun really took the words out of my mouth. When I saw the original webtoon series, I loved the story. The message really resonated with me. My first meeting with the director was about two hours, and usually, directors would ask you about how similar you can portray your character. That’s what I thought he would ask, but actually, he was really curious to know about me, as a person. And that really touched me. I was moved by his approach to wanting to get to know me as a person, and I really wanted to work with him, which is why I decided (to join the series).”

On their favorite scenes from the series:

Choi: “I keep coming back to the musical numbers, I like the number in the merry-go-round scene. It makes me feel joyful. Even after I was done filming, I listened to the song. Personally, the one that I really liked when I was shooting was when Ah Yi is at the amusement park by herself and she sings a song. The lyrics really touched my heart.”

Hwang: “There’s a scene where I play the guitar and sing a song and confess my love to Ah Yi. I love that, and I think it is an adorable song and an adorable number. When people listen to that number, maybe they can listen to it when they drive, and anytime, it will really cheer them up.”

On how they executed the musical numbers and other challenges:

Choi: “First of all, every work is a challenge. But I think there were a lot of things that took a lot out of me. There was a lot that I had to prepare for, and because of the music element, I got a lot of help from many wonderful people. I’ve only been trained to act with lines, but now there’s lyrics, and the lyrics were so well-written. At some points, the lyrics actually taught me what the character Ah Yi must have been feeling in that particular scene and I was very grateful for that, and I loved that process. I felt like this could be truly a unique appeal and charm of a music drama and I felt very grateful to the lyricist, Kim Eana.”

Hwang: “I’m sure you can tell through short clips that the music is so great. And it’s not just the music that’s amazing — the space, the set was so fantastic as well. And the fact that I was given the opportunity to perform with such great music in such an amazing set, I told the director, this is a first for me, and the director replied, it’s a first for me, too. So, we all felt this was something new, something we were able to create together for the first time. We were left with such great memories.”

On personal takeaways from The Sound of Magic:

Choi: “(With) The Sound of Magic and this is true for a lot of other titles as well, I try a lot to find an answer from the script. The script (The Sound of Magic) itself was so wonderful, and the more I read it, I found myself comforted by that story on a personal level. I felt these nudges in my heart at certain points through certain lines, and it was so comforting. That’s how I’m going to always remember The Sound of Magic.

“Was I able to expand my acting spectrum? I did my best, but I think that’s really up to the audience to decide… But I tried my best to make sure Ah Yi’s emotions are played in a way that’s relatable and understandable. I had a lot of great help from wonderful people in the team. There were these elements that the character was really able to resonate with a lot of people. I relatively had an easier time understanding my character, and I’m excited to see how the character Ah Yi resonates with the audiences. That’s what I truly hope to see.”

Hwang: “Il Deung is very cute. He doesn’t really know how to express his emotions but he tries his best to express them. He can seem rough. But I think through Il Deung, people are going to be consoled and comforted. I hope that you all love Il Deung and look forward to meeting him in the show. (Going forward, I want to) do any and all roles. I want to become an actor who can pull off any role.”

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