As promised, big interview with writers is served.
Interview with The Princess’ Man writers – Jo Jeongju and Kim Wuk.
“If Seung-yu didn’t lose his eyesight, he wouldn’t stop with the revenge. How can you live with your eyes open enduring all that? It was necessary tool to severe the ties with the past. Then again, I thought it is unbearable pain to not be able to see the loved ones that remained by your side.”
We met with Jo Jeongju (39) and Kim Wuk (37) at some café in Yeouido. “We’re new, so we have nothing to say”, although at first they showed a bit of reserve, it was soon known they possess great writing skills that can create a whole new approach to sageuk.
Jo in 2006 was the writer for one episode in Drama City Series – 인간 말종 개상구(me: aired on 2007.04.07), and debuted with series Partnerin 2009 with Kim Hyeonju and Lee Dongwuk. Kim in 2008 also was involved with KBS Drama City series, but soon went into movies, writing the scenario for ie. Oh My God, so The Princess’ Man is actually a drama debut.
They actually met as KBS fellows and collaborated on The Princess’ Man for a year, creating so called “Lavish Sageuk Faction”.
“The ending is sill reverberating in our heads. As it was a tragic theme, there is a lot of lingering memories still.” They both refused to have pictures taken as they gave their answers.
► It looks as if there was lot of distress over the ending. Whether to kill the main characters or not. When did you decide on the ending?
Jo: Personally it wasn’t of any importance whether it would be happy ending or sad ending. In any case, no matter if one person survived or two of them, it was unrealistic for the complete happiness, and that gave us a lot of possibilities. Shortly after we realized that, we decided that only robbing Seung-yu of his eyesight will stop his revenge. We thought we would be stoned by the audience but surprisingly it wasn’t that bad. (laughs).
Kim: As for me I wanted tragic ending. Writer Jo was unmovable though. I though that unless he dies, he will never stop seeking revenge, but this was a good compromise. It may seem as a happy ending but I like the sad tightrope walking.
► Looks like mixing fiction with reality was fun.
Jo: It was fun to combine them and to embroider them. Our job was to find crevices in history. And when we immersed ourselves in this history, we felt as if Gyeyujeongnan was happening around and to us as well. We were presented what actually happened so we couldn’t create anything new. However, there were empty spaces here and there so we chiseled and filled them up, which was fabulous job.
Kim: It’s hard to continue with the story that isn’t true in sageuk. This way, The Princess’ Manhas more solid roots than, let’s say Chuno. For everyone a different approach to a well known historical fact is some kind of pleasure. This background has quickly a huge role. Some other dramas are content with establishing one place for shooting, but in our case, we had a lot of historical facts going on and drama required the location to be changed often, every few episodes. At such times I really felt that writing this scenario was painful.
► Where the reality ends?
Kim: The conversations between young people are fictitious. We don’t even have the evidence Seryeong actually existed. In records one daughter of Suyang suddenly turns into two. But Seung-yu also almost doesn’t appear. As for Shin Myeon we know he was dispatched to fight Lee Shi Ae rebellion (me: in 1467), and he died after that, in times of the Coup d’état he was a young man. Between Lee Shi Ae’ rebellion and Coup d’état is 10 years of a gap, but we ignored that. Jeong Jong was around the same age as Danjong, in reality. But the fact remains they were real and their relationship as well. But as we wanted to keep the real historical facts intact, we had to adjust the time issues accordingly.
► It is impossible to avoid criticism for distorting the history.
Jo: I think it’s worth it if, instead of distortion, we may call for the more interest into the history itself. When I saw that the events shown in the drama were first on the “search list” on some portals, I felt happy. I wish that people who know nothing about Gyeyujeongnan may find this drama interesting, I wish we could revive back one or two chapters of the history long time dead.
Kim: It’s clear that we dared to slightly distort the history but not on a great scale. We stressed out the older characters of the period like Suyang or Kim Jongseo, but on top of their history we gave them emotions. I don’t think it deserves the criticism. We haven’t rewritten the history, but we have painted the tragic love in the middle of history.
► During the production, what was the hardest and what was the fluffiest part?
Jo: The most frustrating part was the approach to Seung-yu’s failed revenge in the latter half of the drama. We couldn’t turn him into some hero. Despite the failing, he was still bound on revenge and that was the most difficult. We had Romeo and Juliet as some hint, but in fact we worried a lot about the feelings of Seung-yu and Seryeong. Personally, I liked “sayukshin” (사육신) part the best. This is a very well-known story, they died wanting to protect their values and standards, and I wanted to portray that in a way so I could feel it was worthwhile.
Kim: Jonghak is the result of imagination. In fact girls weren’t educated at Jonghak, but we had to somehow tie Seung-yu with Seryeong. As it was essential to the love story later on, it seemed as the good idea. As for “sayukshin”, we brought along Yi Gae who was from Jonghak into the group created by Seong Sammun and Park Paengnyeon and made him the centre. Yi Gae was in fact Danjong’s teacher.
► What you, as writers, achieved through this drama? Was the cooperation difficult?
Kim: The most important is the fact we handled the tragedy. We feared how the audience accepts the failed history, but it looks like the ratings didn’t drop even though this amount of tragedy. Plus, as the “faction”, I could broaden my category of imagination power. We bickered often over the proportion between politics and romance but in the end it looks like writer Jo’s opinion was right. I hoped that the viewers of our drama pondered on how the love between Seung-yu and Seryeong would develop. I lost (to writer Jo). It was something impossible to achieve all alone, so I’m grateful I could learn under the amiable shade. (laughs)
Jo: Oi, we did have in fact some clashes about how to handle things in politics and we shared contrasting opinion but it’s not as if we were constantly fighting. As we didn’t have much time, one person couldn’t write the scenario at all. There is a viewpoint against sad melodrama on TV, but I feel that what happened in episode 14, when Seung-yu brutally kidnapped Seryeong, won people’s heart for those two tragic love story.
If it wasn’t for director and writer Kim, this story wouldn’t be possible. It was hard but meaningful work for me.
Copyright (translation): ©Ethlenn
“Lavish Sageuk Faction” – 명품 팩션 사극 (myeongpum faktion sageuk)
Gyeyujeongnan 계유정난(癸酉靖難) – name for Prince’s Suyang Coup d’etat: korean wikipedia
Sayukshin (Six Martyred Ministers): read here