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Korean Drama Duty After School Mixes High School, Alien Objects, & Butt-Kicking

Live-action adaptations of manga, webtoons, and comics are a dime a dozen, and Korea’s comic scene is no different.

Adapted from a popular Korean webtoon, Duty After School is about a group of high-school students who are persuaded to train into a platoon of soldiers to fight against unknown alien objects.

Check out the interview below featuring cast members Shin Hyun-soo (as Lee Choon-ho), Lim Se-mi (as homeroom teacher Park Eun-young), and Kim Ki-hae (as Kim Chi-yeol).

1. What should audiences look forward to about your character? What did you focus on in your approach to portraying your character?

Shin Hyun-soo: In this universe, Lee Choon-ho is the first to realise the danger of the spheres, and after the attack by the spheres, he is appointed to Sungjin High School Class 3-2 as its platoon leader. He tries his best not to lose any of the children from the class.

When acting as Choon-ho, I try to maximize a particular side of myself to express the character. For Choon-ho, what I focused on was the warm and sad “gaze” I had when looking at the children.

Lim Se-mi: As the homeroom teacher for Sungjin High School class 3-2, Park Eun-young is one of the adults who is on the side of the children. Before going for the “war against the alien spheres”, apart from the soldiers, she is the only adult that advocates for the children. I think of her as a character that feels sorry for the children who’re left to fight with the extra-terrestrial forces.

With just a few scenes to portray this character, or to study her narrative, that’s a really short time. So, I went into filming with the idea to just portray one aspect clearly. “I’m here because of the children. It is enough with just my love for the children.” That was what I felt was the most important.

Kim Ki-hae: Nice to meet you, I’m Kim Ki-hae and I play Kim Chi-yeol. Before I start, I’d like to thank you for the interview request. First of all, when I first received the character Kim Chi-yeol, my first impressions of him were that he’s a really timid and shy person who doesn’t stand out among his friends, an outsider so to speak. His personality is very different from mine and I felt it’ll be difficult to portray him so I really focused my energy on analysing the character. I also worked on establishing the character together with the director.

According to the director, he really hoped that Chi-yeol can be a really ordinary guy, like a person we can see anywhere around us, such as our neighbour, or in the train after school etc. But he also requested for me to focus on his emotions as this extremely ordinary student grows into someone who is no longer ordinary, when he experiences something unusual and leads an unusual life.

So, in the earlier episodes of the drama, he is someone who doesn’t readily takes action and is really quiet but in the later episodes, as he experiences a lot of death and difficulties, he changes into someone who would take action first and takes charge. That’s how I acted so if the viewers can focus on that, I think they’ll be able to feel closer to Chi-yeol, and enjoy the drama more.

 

2. What can the audience expect from Duty After School?

This drama is not like The Avengers or DC Marvel type of hero movie. It is the story of really ordinary Korean high school students who enlist in exchange for their university entrance exams, and instead of it being of their own will, they have “no choice” but to fight with the extra-terrestrial forces because that is the social convention of Korea. That’s why, not just me, but all the students are forced into joining the war with their bare bodies, and without any special skills or techniques.

So, instead of a drama that focuses on the battle with the extra-terrestrial forces, I think it’ll be great if the focus was on the conflict, growth and developing love, friendship and closeness between these young students who’re still underaged and immature.

3. How was it like imagining yourself battling aliens during the actual filming process?

Shin Hyun-soo: It felt like I was acting out a play on stage. In theatre productions, the format itself often requires you to use your imagination and express with your eyes. For this production, I had to imagine the spheres and there were many scenes where I fought with them so it felt like I was acting in a play, and that actually felt really nice.

Kim Ki-hae: I had some experience with filming for CG scenes when filming the movie, “The Witch: Part 2” but the VFX filming for this drama was slightly different.

Initially, having to fight with extra-terrestrial forces that don’t exist was unfamiliar and rather difficult. All the actors were mostly rookies, and it’s the first time we were working like this, so everyone found it unfamiliar and fumbled around. It was also not easy to know where to look so we went through quite a bit of hardship.

I remember the longest time we spent on rehearsals was 4-5 hours. But after going through all that and having filmed for a year, we gradually got the hang of it, and later on, we knew what to do without saying anything, and just by looking at each other.

 

4. Can you survive an alien war if one breaks out in real life? What personality trait would help you in surviving?

Shin Hyun-soo: I’m not sure if I’ll survive but my personality is the kind to think first before taking action. I’m not sure if this will help me survive.

Lim Se-mi: As long as they don’t attack me, I’ll probably be able to survive. Since young, I’ve often heard that I’m the kind who’ll be able to live well regardless of where I am. Haha!

Kim Ki-hae: This might sound bad but I think you’d need to be a really selfish, underhand, and opportunistic person in order to survive such an apocalyptic situation. Kim Ki-hae isn’t such a person so I think it’d be hard for me to survive ^^ (joking)

Duty After School’s Part 2 episodes will premiere on 22 and 23 April on tvN Asia.

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