Netflix’s newest drama Extracurricular is all about high school teens caught in a messy world of crime, and it stars a roster of up and coming talents led by Kim Dong Hee, who you may have seen in shows like A-Teen, Sky Castle, and the recently-concluded Itaewon Class!
Extracurricular centers on Oh Ji Soo, a shy model student who is living a life of crime to fulfill his goal of going to college and living a normal life. Everything goes smoothly until two of his classmates – Minhee and Gyuri – get involved with him. With things going out of control, these teens try to correct their mistakes, but all that’s left to face are the consequences of their actions.
The 10-episode drama comes from the director Kim Jin Min, who also worked on the dramas Lawless Lawyer, The Liar and His Lover, Marriage Contract, and more. It stars Kim Dong Hee as Oh Jisoo, a model student who does crime to pay the bills; Jung Da Bin as Minhee, one of the school’s “bad girls” who’s in the middle of Ji Soo’s criminal activities; Park Ju Hyun as Gyuri, a smart girl who convinces Ji Soo to let her join him in his “business”; and Nam Yoon Soo as Kitae, the school bully who’s also Minhee’s boyfriend.
We, along with the other members of the press, got to ask the main stars and director Kim Jin Min questions just in time with the shows launch yesterday, April 29. Check out the highlights of the interview below:
What was your first impression of the script? How do you feel about playing your first leading role in Netflix Original series?
KIM DONG HEE: The first time I read the script, I don’t think I read it through from beginning to end. In fact, it was quite challenging to read. I was able to picture everything the writer put into words in my head, and I felt like reading a difficult novel; I was very curious to see how the writings would translate on screen. I went through a lot of difficulties, but when I finally pulled off those difficult parts, I felt particularly proud. The script was such a fresh and sensational one. I feel honored to have played the first leading role in Netflix Original series. Just the fact that I took part in a Netflix show as an actor is an honor and it means a lot to me. I feel proud of myself.
JUNG DA BIN: My first impression of the script was that it was pretty intense and shocking, and it gave me a lot of food for thought. It wasn’t until I read it through several times that I finally started to understand what it aimed to say bit by bit, by which point I was captivated by the story. I am so glad that my first leading role as an adult is in ‘Extracurricular,’ and it is very special that the show will be on Netflix as an Original series.
PARK JU HYUN: When I read the script, I thought it was very candid and true to reality. The characters were vivid, and how events unfolded felt very much alive. I was strongly attracted to the charm of every single character that seemed so plausible and so realistic. This Netflix Original series is my debut work as a leading actress. I am so grateful for the opportunity, and this still feels so unreal. I made the utmost efforts to the best of my abilities, so I hope many viewers will enjoy the show.
NAM YOON SOO: I thought the script was so new the moment I read it, but some people might think that the story is unrealistic. I view it as something that could happen around us, and something that could also happen far away. Extracurricular is special to me on a personal level. Kitae is the first character that I took on as the actor Nam Yoon Su, so I felt some weight on my shoulders. To be honest, I still cannot believe that the show will be streamed worldwide. I just can’t believe foreign fans will see me act. I hope I can get feedback that I seem to have grown as an actor through Extracurricular.
What statement do you think Extracurricular is making about youth at risk, and what impact do you hope it will have on viewers?
KIM DONG HEE: I thought, from the moment I read the script for the first time, that these characters would not feel tied to their student status. When I look back on my student days, for example, I considered myself as a grown-up. I think that would apply the same to the main characters, and even more so for Jisoo. But when I became an adult, I was able to feel that I have a lot of responsibilities in life. And teenagers are those who still need protection and more attention from adults. So, if they have issues, adults should give them more attention. Juvenile crime is a really serious issue, so this may be a sensitive thing to say, but I think teens need more attention from adults and need to be protected more because they still lack judgment.
PARK JU HYUN: Extracurricular is a story about choice and responsibility. You make many choices in life, and some of them may turn out to be mistakes. You cannot always make the right choice. If this were a story about adults in their right minds, then it should be about them taking responsibility for their actions, taking full responsibility for their choice. But this is a story about immature teens who cannot take full responsibility for their actions yet. In that sense, I hope this show provides an opportunity for us to think about what we, adults, can do for them, and how we should lead them to a certain direction.
You’ve played a high school student several times in your previous projects. Is there a difference in playing one now that you’re in your 20s?
KIM DONG HEE: In my previous projects, I tried to act like a student as much as possible. But what was challenging about playing Jisoo was that he thinks of himself as a grown-up and takes care of himself even though he is a high school student. He is, in a way, an old head on young shoulders, but still in his teens in terms of age. I had to think carefully about how Jisoo would have felt, and how deep his thoughts would have reached in a given situation. Sometimes I even thought that he could be more mature than I am in certain aspects. That was the biggest difference.
Gyuri seems to be perfect on the outside, but she has many internal problems due to the high expectations from her family. How did you approach this character?
PARK JU HYUN: Gyuri has many internal problems, which makes her excel at hiding herself and using emotions to her advantage. She makes good use of feelings in every scene. She is quick to catch her own feelings and the feelings of those around her, teachers, and parents, and she adapts to any situation fast. So my mission was to hold on to that core. She will get what she wants by playing along with the others, but she will never go too light or too heavy because she won’t let herself get caught. This is the aspect of hers that I had the most discussions with Director Kim and focused on most while shooting.
What do you think brought Gyuri and Jisoo close to each other? And what was it like working with Kim Dong-hee, playing Jisoo?
PARK JU HYUN: Gyuri and Jisoo come from a completely opposite family background, but they have something in common. They feel out of place, and they feel left alone. They need someone quite badly, and they need support, but they refuse to get help. From Gyuri’s perspective, she could have thought: ‘I play along with others to meet my needs, but Jisoo is standing on his own feet. He acts like he doesn’t need any help.’ She could have found such aspects about Jisoo fascinating. I think Jisoo is the one who made her think: ‘Look, he lives on his own. I could do the same.’
Dong-hee tried to stay very tense throughout the process, so I acted along not to interfere with his zone. Our characters are quite different in their personality but somehow get along well, and that peculiar chemistry was replicated in reality as well. I think such vibe will translate well on-screen.
Minhee seems tough on the outside, but she is going through a lot on the inside. How did you approach the duality of your character?
JUNG DA BIN: I think duality resides in everyone. But Minhee and I are in a starkly different world, living a completely different life, so I had to try to think the opposite and approach things more simply.
What was the most difficult part about playing Minhee?
JUNG DA BIN: She is a different person from me, so it took quite some time for me to comprehend Minhee and portray her. That was a slightly difficult part.
Kitae is depicted as a typical school bully up until the second half of the show. What can be considered as a turning point for Kitae’s character?
NAM YOON SOO: I think the scene where his girlfriend Minhee confesses her engagement in criminal activities marks the turning point for Kitae.
Do you think Kitae truly loves Minhee? Or is it just a matter of pride? Which do you think is the case, and tell us about why from the emotional perspective.
NAM YOON SOO: I personally think that you have a hard time defining your feelings as love in your teens, but Kitae does seem to believe that he truly loves Minhee. I think he got angry with himself for the way he acted toward Minhee, the one he loves, and went on to make the trouble bigger. He might have hurt his pride because the revenge was targeted not at him but at what he was bullying.
To Director Kim, you’ve directed many other TV series. How was it different to direct a Netflix series compared to a show written for TV?
DIRECTOR KIM JIN MIN: I had to think a bit more carefully about how far I can go with expression; let’s say, how I portray the cast’s performance, and whatnot. Netflix gave me a medium with no limits, and precisely because of that, I had more to choose from. The expressions that finally came out from the interaction that I had with the actors as a director, and the choices that I made called for more sensitivity on my side in many different aspects – be it how to portray violence, feelings, or anything. I had to be stricter to myself in the process, and this is why I constantly say that I learned lessons in this project. This project was particularly enjoyable to me in that sense.
What message do you want to deliver to the audience through this show?
DIRECTOR KIM JIN MIN: In my view, it is a luxury to say ‘just accept what you can’t avoid.’ What happens in the show may strike you as shocking, but what the characters do in the story can very well happen in real life. Therefore, we are never exempt from all the responsibilities. The same thing can happen to me some day, and we could have been part of it already without knowing, in which case we will need to bear the responsibility for the rest of our lives. That is what I kept on telling myself throughout the project. I also took stock of the choices I made in my adolescence. Rather than making the story didactic, I wanted to tell the story in an entertaining way, through which process I approached sensitive aspects with sufficient caution. I think it is now up to the audience to feel what this show tries to convey, and I hope it can give you some food for thought.
Extracurricular is now streaming on Netflix.