Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Rom-com heavyweights team up in ‘Hometown Cha Cha Cha’

Vanessa A. Balbuena - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  In a Netflix return that fans of last year’s “Start Up” breakout star have been anticipating, actor Kim Seon-ho is back with a feel-good romance, and this time he’s paired up with one of South Korea’s rom-com darlings, Shin Min-a.

After igniting widespread second lead syndrome in 2020, new K-series “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” sees Kim Seon-ho as unemployed jack-of-all-trades Du-sik to Shin Min-a’s pragmatic dentist, Yoon Hye-jin. They cross paths in a seaside town where his small village warmth initially clashes with her big city ways.

The series features the detailed artistry and vision of director Yu Je-won who has helmed “Oh My Ghost” and “Tomorrow With You.”

“I think it would be really nice if women who watch the drama think that it would be nice to have a boyfriend like Du-sik,” Kim Seon-ho remarked sheepishly during a virtual conference for Asia-Pacific journalists.

For Shin Min-a – star of television hits “A Love To Kill”, “Oh My Venus”, “My Girlfriend is a Gumiho”, “Tomorrow With You”, and “Chief of Staff” – returning to the genre viewers have grown to love her for was always at the back of her mind and she was just waiting for the right script. While her supporters have hailed the comeback of their “Rom-Com Queen,” the 37-year-old actress isn’t such a fan of the label, however deserving she may be.

“I feel pressure with the word ‘queen’,” she said coyly. “I wouldn’t use the word ‘queen’ because it’s a little burdensome.”

Shin Min-a thought the script was fun, with a well-written, solid storyline that had a lot of “wonderful” characters – making it a no-brainer for her to jump aboard.

“I want to show my fans as many sides of me as possible, so I try to venture into other genres as well,” she added. “I wanted to do a heart-fluttering rom-com.”

To prepare for her role, she visited her dentist, had her tooth looked at and observed her dentist’s facial expressions. She also spent time understanding a dentist’s feelings.

Director Yu Je-won pointed out how she was as lovely and even more talented in this second time that he’s worked with her.

“You could say she was born to be lovely. I think she was able to maintain that charm. I also think that her acting has become more mature and she has deepened as a person and as an actor. At the same time, acting depends on who you act with. I think all of them complement each other and make each other comfortable,” he offered.

Kim Seon-ho, 35, was drawn to the “truly heart-warming story” which he felt was really human. He wondered what he can offer to a role of someone unemployed yet capable of almost everything. A memorable scene has him flashing his stack of licenses to Shin Min-a’s shocked character. Asked which of those licenses he’d fancy having in real life, Kim Seon-ho said he’d find the realtor license quite handy.

“A lot of people are interested in real estate these days,” he quipped. “Du-sik is literally capable of everything and he has a realtor license. One of his licenses certifies him as a professional fruit plater too, so he lays out fruit on a plate…”

He added, “Because Chief Hong does so many different things, I had to set apart some time to learn all of his abilities. I had to learn how to surf and how to make coffee as a barista. I had to maintain a certain balance since he’s unemployed but he has a lot of handy talents.”

Actor Lee Sang-yi (“The Third Charm”, “When the Camellia Blooms”), portraying here a star producer, saw why it has been a recent trend in his country for city dwellers to stay for a month or two in seaside villages.

“I know a lot of people are going to live in Jeju Island. That’s exactly how I felt when I read the script,” said Lee Sang-yi. “I felt like I was transported to this village. Of course, being able to act alongside Kim Seon-ho and Shin Min-a was also amazing.”

To be convincing in his role, Lee Sang-yi watched a lot of televisions where he noticed that producers don’t talk a lot on set and are usually quietly observing in the side lines. He also made an effort to be close to his co-stars so that the chemistry will translate on screen.

“Shin Min-a is really considerate and thinks about the people around her. I haven’t had a very long experience in the industry yet, but these more experienced actors as well as the director helped me a lot,” said Lee Sang-yi. “We’ve become quite close now like friends. We can play jokes on each other. Even if it’s silent, it doesn’t feel awkward. If I say something funny, they’ll enjoy it. I feel that they really know me and I know them. I feel like I’ve been accepted by these great people, so it was a really special experience.”

While acting with the leads was an experience in itself, it helped a lot that their filming location was one that offered solace from the chaos of their urban lives.

“The set is amazing and we’re shooting in an area that’s a bit far away from Seoul. When I return home to the city from the set, I really miss it. I miss the staff and my co-stars,” shared Lee Sang-yi. “I would grab my phone to talk to them or send them messages.”

Kim Seon-ho shared the sentiment, saying he wrapped up the project with a feeling that he was indeed part of the village after staying there for a long time.

“We would wake up, go to bed at the same time, and spend the whole day together shooting. I felt like we blended in,” he said. “We would share ice cream. My mind is still there as a part of the village in a way. There are three characters in the village, these ladies are amazing and you should look forward to seeing them.”

Recalling some days when the climate would be hot and contribute to her exhaustion, Shin Min-a said a quick look at the ocean and hearing the sound of the waves would immediately bring her comfort.

“Since we’re shooting by the seaside, I’m also really looking forward to watching the beautiful scenery. There are some challenges, of course, in the process of filming but the scenery is very soothing and gives us energy,” she said.

And what of the chemistry between Shin Min-a and Kim Seon-ho? “It was really good,” Shin Min-a noted. “I know there were high expectations even before we started filming, but I didn’t feel a lot of pressure. I really enjoyed acting on set with Kim Seon-ho. He’s a really good and comfortable person to be around. I think our good chemistry and flexibility is portrayed through our acting.”

“Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” might not be chockfull of big drama, but director Yu Je-won said it’s not about the huge events, but about the small stories in their daily lives and the emotional changes they go through. It’s about healing and warmth. “I hope that is the message we can send to our audience. It’s entertaining and the scenery is breath-taking,” he said.

“On Saturday and Sunday, after you’ve had a long week and you’re ready to relax, I think our drama will be fun to watch and can feel like a retreat,” said Lee Sang-yi. “There are elements that will look like a documentary and there are elements that have a dramatic side. I am sure you’ll be able to get good sleep after watching this comfortable drama.”

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