YOO YEON SEOK & “BLOOD”: A Case Study

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After what had seemed like 10,000 years, Yoo Yeon Seok is purportedly in talks to star as the lead in an upcoming drama on KBS called “Blood,” a show whose main protagonist is a skilled surgeon, who also happened to be a vampire. I know… the background seems a bit sketchy and begs the question… why the hell did a vampire, with all of his vampiric abilities and no doubt immense wealth from living for so long (thanks Anne Rice!), need to work, first and foremost, but moreover, why in a profession that ensured that he come in contact with blood on a regular basis?

The answer of course is simple… Because we would have no show otherwise.

In the wake of the news of this new drama from the screenwriter and PD team who did Good Doctor, what really got my attention was the announcement of Yoo Yeon Seok’s possible casting. As everyone who had ever been on my blog knows, my love for Yoo Yeon Seok is enormous, unconditional, everlasting… etc… etc… and to be honest, I would have supported his next small screen project, because it just is what it is. The drama could be a hot mess and I will still watch, for Yoo Yeon Seok. Such is the power he has over me, and not just because of his good looks either.

However I am aware and understand that some people have reacted to this news a little less excitedly than I and my fellow YYS lovers have, citing that he has no experience, no charisma, yada yada yada. BUT… this post is not written to reiterate what doubts other people have already expressed but to argue, instead, as to why Yoo Yeon Seok should be casted in this role, or any other lead roles in the immediate future.

Stay with me, please. And let me make my argument.

1) Chilbong who?

Before his career changing turn as the sweet lovable Chilbong in Reply 1994, YYS had actually made his career doing roles that have dabbled on the other side. The evil side. His success in his career had been hugely dependent on his antagonist roles in Hwayi, Re-encounter and of course, Werewolf Boy. The man did not earn the title of most hated for nothing.

Exhibit A:
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Exhibit B:

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The fact that he had been depended on in the past to portray such hateful and heinous characters is not only a testament to his commitment to his craft, but also to the dedication with which he throws himself into these characters.

And then to have the same public turn around and fall in love with him as Chilbong without even realizing that it’s the same person, is a true statement as to how versatile he is as an actor. It is a rare sort of talent for someone to be so hated in one second, then loved just as much if not more, the next. This tells me that he would have the versatility to navigate the line between good and evil, and do so effectively and in a believable way.

Taking on a role like this which is not defined as a straight up good guy would solidify YYS’ integrity as an actor who always chooses character rich scripts and roles that would continue to challenge his acting chops and also others’ perception of him. That he had always been this type of performer has always been part of why we, his fans, love him. In all the years he has been in the industry he had chosen projects that were mostly unknown, preferring the growth he would gain from performing the role as opposed to the certain popularity that would result from it.

2) Them shoulders though.

Exhibit C:
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He can rock suits like no one else can. With his recent CF deals with multiple clothing lines, it’s perhaps difficult to decide which one is the best. But… one look at his Trugen photo shoots had convinced me that this man is incomparable when it comes to suits, and as a surgeon/vampire, he would have the opportunity to dress in such a sophisticated and suave manner.

Exhibit D:
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Looks wise he has enough delicacy in his features that vampires are supposed to have, and yet his face and body are masculine enough to still project strength. Considering how hard he worked to attain the baseball player physique to play Chilbong, I have no doubt that he would do whatever was necessary to make himself believable in a role.

And let’s be honest, even I can admit that I would appreciate a deviation from his recent fashion disasters. Hopefully the drama stylist has a better aesthetic than his personal one. Not a criticism, but a fact.

Exhibit E:
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3) Those eyes.

No one does conflicted like YYS. His eyes speak of so much emotion, even when he’s not speaking. Chilbong was only meant to be a secondary character on Reply 1994, and yet the shipping wars that ensued indicated that he was not seen as such by at least half the viewing population. That in itself states very definitively that he did a better job than what was expected of him. What might have been a simple role was transformed into a character that people fell in love with, people wanted to get to know, and people hurt with. Despite his character being shipped off to Japan, despite the plot contrivances, and despite the character assasinations.

Exhibit F:
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Exhibit G:
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4) The charm factor.

Anyone who has seen YYS in YOF or any of the other BTS from anything he has ever done knows that this man has enough charm to sell ice to an eskimo. Did you know that the sale of sanitary pads shot up when he did the promotion with GoodFeel? That the tickets to his first ever fan meet sold out within minutes of them going on sale?

Whether people like it or not, the fact remains that YYS has a huge domestic and international fanbase, and he is marketable. He has done ads for everything, from facial cleansers to sanitary pads, to green tea drinks and clothing. And his fandom follows where he goes, myself included.

At best, those same fans will follow him to KBS, should he choose to do this project. At worst, his fans will form a group of small, but loyal, following, and with some degree of luck, the show can become a sleeper hit, the likes of which had only been seen in cable networks in the recent years.

Exhibit H:

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Exhibit I:
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5) Money matters.

Though he has become popular from Reply 1994, YYS is still fairly an unknown in the drama watching universe. And though most people who have watched him love him, his body is work on the small screen is still fairly limited when compared to other actors in the same age range.

Right now, before he really breaks out, is the time for a major broadcast network to sign him to a project before he becomes unaffordable. Whether we like it or not there is an exodus of K-actors to the film industry… credible, serious actors. When was the last time Won Bin or Lee Jung Jae was in a drama? Hwang Jung Min? It even took Jeon Ji Hyun more than a decade to come back to the small screen.

There seems to be a well-known but unspoken belief that actors don’t gain their legitimacy until they are able to break through Chungmuro, a scene YYS has been more familiar and more prolific in since his Oldboy days. If we were to base his career projection on statements he had made in the past, we could assume that YYS always had his eyes on the bigger picture (pun completely intended).

Should his career take off in that direction before he gains any kind of measurable fame in Korean dramas, I have no doubt that he will use all of his energy in ensuring that his film career becomes successful. Which is sad for us, and even sadder for the networks. To put it bluntly, they should get him while he’s cheap. This seems like an almost obvious point, but it is worth reiterating.

6) He deserves it.

YYS has put a lot in his career. A lot. He has endured anonymity and years without recognition. I think the remembrance of this keeps him grounded and makes him more appreciative of all the good things that have come his way recently.

All of his co-stars have nothing but good things to say about him. He’s humble, persistent, hardworking and just an all around good guy. To this day he has kept in close contact with his friends in universities, surrounding himself with people who knew him before he was a well known name. The entertainment industry is fickle, as are most fans, but luckily for YYS, most of the people that support him support him as himself and not as whatever role he plays.

Exhibit J:
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Exhibit K:
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Exhibit L:
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Exhibit M:
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Any news of casting in the Kdrama world brings opinions ranging from enthusiasm to disappointment. From this fan girl’s perspective, there is no one who needs to go back to the small screen other than Yoo Yeon Seok. As always, he just needs the chance. But whether or not he decides to make “Blood” his next project, one thing is for sure, and that is that whatever project it is, we can expect him to do the best he can, as he had always done, as he always does, and as he always will.

(Credit to original posters of photos and Lunagal for fanmeet picture.)

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