Just as bubbly as her roles, but so much wiser

Lee Hyeri plays the eager manager of a rookie band in K-drama Entertainer.
Lee Hyeri plays the eager manager of a rookie band in K-drama Entertainer.PHOTO: ONE

In last year's hit nostalgic Korean drama Reply 1988, Lee Hyeri was quite literally the girl-next-door, as the show revolved around the lives of her bubbly character Sung Deok Sun and her family and neighbours.

The show helped to distinguish the Girl's Day member from the many other K-pop starlets out there.

In her follow-up role, the actress stuck to the tried- and-tested by playing Jeong Geu Rin, the eager manager of a rookie band in K-drama Entertainer.

On the surface, the two characters boast the same sunshine personality.

 

In an e-mail interview, Lee, 21, said: "I like that the two roles are similar yet so different at the same time. Geu Rin comes from a broken family and has to pick up the broken pieces in order to move forward. There's some kind of sadness in her.

"Deok Sun, on the other hand, is just very cheerful. The word I would use to describe her is naive. She is young and free. Even though she was poor, she had everything she needed."

The K-popster's indelible performance in ratings blockbuster Reply 1988 has certainly left an impression on viewers.

"I was out buying food and this group of ahjummas (aunties in Korean) came up to me and called me Deok Sun, like I was their daughter," said the performer, who debuted as a member of girl group Girl's Day in 2010.

Her affinity with audiences has turned her into a top bankable star. Korea Times reported that she earned almost six billion won (S$7 million) by starring in more than 20 advertisements.

In one, the doe-eyed lass beckons viewers to buy chocolates. In another, she is working out in trendy sportswear and shoes.

In real life, she bears more than a passing similarity to the fun-loving academically challenged Sung.

She said: "We laugh a lot and we are spontaneous. Deok Sun, like me, is learning about the world every day, but not through books."

For her role as a newbie manager navigating show business, she did not need to refer to any textbooks as she could easily observe her work environment.

And her acting stint has made her realise the challenges of being the minder of a K-pop group.

She said: "A manager's job is really tough - you have so little time, but so much to do. I think it's really fun to be on the other side. Now I appreciate my manager more."

In the drama, her character faces an uphill task as she has to come up with ways to get publicity for a fledging band. In one storyline, the band's lead vocalist ends up being inadvertently framed for sexual assault.

Though many of the sensational plots are made up, Lee says there is some truth in the show.

Perhaps reflecting on her own ascent, she said: "The drama does reflect how difficult it is for rookies (to make it). It takes the right timing, opportunities and confidence from everyone." Gwendolyn Ng

• Catch Entertainer on Thursday and Friday at 8.10pm on One (Singtel TV Channel 513, 604 and On Demand, StarHub Channel 820, 823 and 124).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'Just as bubbly as her roles, but so much wiser'. Print Edition | Subscribe