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Villainous characters captivate drama viewers

Kim Jae-wook from OCN’s crime drama “Voice” / Courtesy of OCN

By Park Jin-hai

Gentlemen in slick suits give kind and gentle smiles, but these bear a chilliness that makes viewers shudder.

The small screen is thriving with attractive-looking villains.

By imprinting strong images of creepy psychopathic characters, TV dramas have succeeded in creating extreme tension for viewers. And actors who play the evil antagonists are gaining more popularity than their righteous protagonists.

Um Ki-joon of SBS legal thriller “Defendant” and Kim Jae-wook of the recently finished OCN crime drama “Voice” are now enjoying golden years in their acting careers with their latest villainous characters. After years of playing lesser recognized small roles, Um and Kim have now emerged as some of the most trustworthy and hottest actors.

Um plays the roles of Cha Min-ho, Cha Myung Group’s evil vice-chairman, and Cha Sun-ho, his older twin brother in “Defendant.” Um, playing the roles of the twins, heirs to a shady company, freely switches from one to the other opposing personalities.

Min-ho kills his twin brother and assumes his identity. To get rid of prosecutor Park Jung-woo, played by Ji Sung, Min-ho frames him for the death of his wife. Park was investigating the death of Sun-ho.

In the drama, which has garnered near 30 percent viewership, Um remains calm after killing his brother and taking the prosecutor’s daughter hostage and says to the prosecutor with a sinister smile, “Shall we have a race? A race to find your daughter. Would it be more painful for you to see her die in front of you, or for her to watch you die? I’ll do whatever hurts you more.”

Kim Jae-wook is perfectly featured as a cold-blooded psychopathic killer Mo Tae-gu in the recently ended OCN crime drama “Voice.” As Mo said in the drama “If only you get rid of this unnecessary emotion, you can become stronger than anybody can imagine,” Mo has been the personification of an emotionless villain. Believing that he’s responsible for cleansing the world of those he considers to be sinners, he doesn’t flinch at the pain of his victims. He talks with their corpses and collects hair from them. Under any circumstances, he remains calm and pleased with his actions.

Kim, with his eerie acting, stole every scene as the psychopathic killer.

Industry insiders say actors prefer strong villains to dull and benign supporting characters. “As villains are the epicenter of all cases and trigger suspense and tension in the drama, viewers wishing for a happy ending tend to give greater attention to them. Strong villains characters in return make protagonists stand out, in the same way as light and shadow,” said an industry insider. “Nowadays, actors seem to choose strong villains over so-so small characters.”

A production company official said staff pay more attention when searching to cast a villain. “Compared with soap operas, villainous characters wield more power with viewers in dramas reflecting social ills. Viewers want the satisfaction of watching the protagonist completely destroy absolute evil. “When hiring lead characters, we look for their stardom and likeability, but for villains, we look for the actor’s pathos, spectrum and flexibility,” he said.


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