After such a long, long wait, Kingdom: Ashin of the North, the highly-anticipated sidequel of Kingdom, is streaming on Netflix this July 23! The 92-minute special episode comes from director Kim Seong Hun and writer Kim Eun Hee, who also worked on the previous seasons of Kingdom, and stars Jun Ji Hyun, a.k.a. Gianna Jun, Park Byung Eun, Kim Si Ah, and more.
Watch the trailer below:
Kingdom: Ashin of the North is a side episode or “sidequel” which traces the origins of the mysterious resurrection plant that caused the Joseon plague which we got to see in the first two seasons of Kingdom. At the center of the story is Ashin, a woman from a foreign tribe who loses everything after her village is horrendously attacked. Settling with her father in the kingdom of Joseon, she then encounters a mysterious disease, setting her on a path of betrayal and revenge.
Just last Tuesday, ClickTheCity is lucky to join the APAC press and ask a question during the Kingdom: Ashin of the North press conference. Joining the event are Gianna Jun, Park Byun Eun, writer Kim Eun Hee, and director Kim Seong Hun. Here are 8 things we got to know — and you definitely should, too — from the press event:
1. The side episode is directed by Kim Seong Hun, who also directed the first season.
Director Kim Seong Hun — who directed the entire first season of Kingdom, as well as the first episode of the second season — makes a comeback in the world of Kingdom with Kingdom: Ashin of the North.
Asked about why he decided to take on the role of directing this side episode, Director Kim said: “While we were working on the second season, I was lucky enough to read [a part of] the first treatment of the script, written by writer Kim Eun Hee. When I read it, I thought to myself: ‘I knew she was a great writer but was she this great?’ I decided that the fastest way for us to really bring that [script] into life was for me to do it myself. That’s why I decided to direct this special episode.”
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He also explained that there is a “joy in the familiarity” not only in the world and the characters of Kingdom, but also in seeing the staff and crew that he worked with in the last seasons. He then cheekily added, “I do want to add [too] that I don’t think there’s any director that would say no to the opportunity to direct something that Gianna Jun would be starring in.”
2. Writer Kim Eun Hee decided to tell Ashin’s story in a side episode instead of a full-on season.
Ever since Gianna Jun appeared at the last few moments of Kingdom season 2, many fans have been speculating that she will play a big role in the story and that she might just hold the key to the origins and the cure of the plague in the Kingdom. It was in November last year that Netflix announced that Ashin’s story will then be told in the form of a side episode, instead of being included in a potential 3rd season.
When asked about this decision, Kim Eun Hee, who penned the script for Kingdom: Ashin of the North, as well as the first two seasons of the drama, said that it’s because Ashin’s story is “very long and complex.” “I felt that rather than to incorporate her story into the third season, it would be more audience-friendly, and also something that would be conducive to higher-quality content if we were to provide it in a special episode,” she said.
3. Ashin’s story came about after writer Kim Eun Hee learned about a particular northern tribe in Joseon.
According to Kim Eun Hee, the character Ashin came about during the “early to the mid-stages” of the second season as she was looking for stories to include in the latter part of the season. Because the resurrection plant has certain cold properties, she started researching more about the cold, northern areas of Joseon, eventually coming across a group of people called the “Songjeoyains” — a marginalized group of people “that didn’t belong anywhere.” It was also through this that she was able to create Ashin and incorporate her into the world of Kingdom.
4. Gianna Jun and Park Byung Eun reunites in this side episode as Ashin and Min Chi Rok.
Gianna Jun and Park Byung Eun reunite in Kingdom: Ashin of the North as Ashin and Min Chi Rok. The two stars first worked together in the 2015-film Assassination. Recalling what it’s like to work with the actress for the first time 6 years ago, Byung Eun said that there was a bit of awkwardness between them before. This time, however, he was just excited and that he “really looked forward to the chemistry” that they could create on-screen.
Aside from saying that she’s very happy to see and work with the actor again, Gianna mentioned that Park Byung Eun is a better fisher now, compared to when they first worked together. She explained: “Back when we were shooting Assassination, he said that he was really good. He was boasting a lot, but I never really got to taste what he caught. And so this time, I asked him — we all begged him — to bring the catch that he had. We were able to enjoy all of the results of his wonderful fishing skills.”
5. Both Park Byung Eun and Gianna Jun made sure that they focused on highlighting the emotions of the characters in the drama, rather than on the action and fight scenes.
Instead of focusing on the action that comes along with starring in a project like Kingdom, the two stars both said that their efforts went more into how they would portray their characters and relay their stories to the viewers.
Asked about how she prepared and immersed herself in the role of Ashin, Gianna Jun said that she was already prepared for the physique and stamina required of her for the series. So instead of focusing on these, she put more emphasis on portraying Ashin’s emotions. “I tried to focus mostly on how to interpret the personal anguish and hurt [she is going through], which we, in Korean, refer to as “Han.” [I focused] on how to interpret that emotion into wanting to avenge for the whole land of Joseon.”
While we mostly got to see Park Byung Eun in action as Min Chi Rok in the previous seasons, the special episode is all about his involvement in the bigger story, as well as his relationship with Ashin. He said: “In this special episode, I try to focus more on the relationship between him and Ashin, [as well as] the relationship with the resurrection plant and how all of that ends up unfolding into this zombie outbreak in Joseon.”
6. Gianna Jun was more excited than scared to see the zombies of Kingdom!
The zombies of Kingdom can actually be terrifying, even for the ones who actually starred in the drama (remember that one video of the cast getting pranked and scared by zombies?), so it’s no surprise that the cast was asked about their thoughts upon seeing the actual zombies on the set.
However, it was different for Gianna Jun. “Even before we began to shoot it, one of the things that I was most excited about was coming face-to-face with the actors dressed as zombies.” In fact, she said she even begged to take photos with the actors, just so she can brag about it to her friends and family.
7. The stars, writer, and director all share their favorite scenes from the special episode.
Asked about their favorite scenes from the side episode, Gianna — who’s always been a big fan of the Kingdom series — said that she really enjoyed shooting scenes that involve the resurrection plant. “Every time I was shooting scenes [involving the secret of the resurrection plant], I felt like that was really penetrating through the entire Kingdom series. So as a fan myself, I really enjoy shooting those scenes. I really got chills down my spine in those particular scenes.”
Lastly, Park Byung Eun mentioned a particular scene with young Ashin (played by Kim Si Ah) kneeling before his Min Chi Rok. He commended the young actress’ performance, which helped him immerse in his role and in the story even more. “[Kim Si Ah] gave such a great performance and had such great energy that, in turn, it really provided me and my character similar energy needed to create that scene,” Byung Eun said.
8. Everyone felt some kind of pressure when producing or starring in Kingdom: Ashin of the North.
Ever since Kingdom premiered on Netflix back in 2019, the Korean zombie drama has been receiving so much love from fans all over the world, and so it’s only natural that fans raise their expectations for the succeeding season, as well as for Kingdom: Ashin of the North.
Everyone in the press conference agreed that they, indeed, felt pressure when producing the new special episode. However, they all agreed that the pressure had a positive effect on all of them as it got them motivated to perform better and exceed the expectations of the drama’s loyal fanbase. “Rather than being too nervous or daunted by the pressure, I tried to really focus on what I have to do,” Park Byung Eun said. “[The positive type of pressure] drives you to bring the best performance out of you. So I think it’s the role of a good actor to really interpret that kind of energy into a great performance.”
The same goes for Gianna Jun, who uses pressure to do better. “My personality is one that does better under pressure,” she started. “I deliberately tried to feel that positive pressure. I didn’t want to make it look like I was just joining and enjoying the ride that was already propelled by what was already a great show before I joined. I tried to focus more on bringing everything I had into the series.”
Kingdom: Ashin of the North starts streaming on Netflix this July 23.