The Life List

Han So-hee put on 10kg to play undercover agent

In action noir K-drama My Name, actress Han So-hee steps into the shoes of a young woman named Ji-woo, who is seeking revenge for her dead father. She stars alongside veteran actors such as Park Hee-soon, who plays a drug cartel boss.

Here are five things to know about the new series which premieres on Friday on Netflix.

1 COMPELLING PREMISE

The gritty thriller centres on the murder of Ji-woo's father, which she witnesses without seeing the perpetrator's face. She goes to her father's old friend - underworld boss Moo-jin (Park) - and seeks his help to take revenge. Under his direction, she infiltrates the police force with a new identity.

Han, 26, says: "She had to witness her father's death at a very young age and she had no other choice except the path she took, so my heart aches for her. But her level of determination and the strength she carries is unparalleled."

Park, 51, says: "When Moo-jin gives his trust to someone, he gives it all the way. There's a chilling charisma to him, but he doesn't give anyone a second chance."

2 HAN SO-HEE BULKS UP

Han, known for roles like the heiress in The World Of The Married (2020) and an art student caught in a complicated relationship in the recent Nevertheless, does an about-turn with My Name.

To look believable as a tough fighter, she put on 10kg and trained for her action scenes three months in advance of filming. The series has sparked her interest in kickboxing as well.

Director Kim Jin-min recalls approaching Han for the role: "I told her, 'You will have many chances to play beautiful roles, but this may be a rare opportunity for you to do something really physical and harsh.'"

Han adds: "I saw My Name as something that will make me grow as an actor. I wanted to break the limitations and image people had of me through my previous roles."

3 POWERFUL ACTION SCENES

Most of the action scenes were undertaken by the actors themselves.

Han says she underestimated the difficulty of the training.

"At first, I thought I'd be able to pull it off easily, but after my first day, I realised there's no way to fake the fight scenes - they just won't come out well.

"I had to have good choreography with each of my scene partners. I was very worried about hurting people if I didn't practise enough."

Park adds: "There are no wires or computer graphics in our action scenes. It's very physical - you take someone by the hair and throw him on the floor."

4 THOROUGH PREPARATION

To prepare for their roles, the cast looked to movies, both recent and classic, for inspiration.

Han watched the Charlize Theron-led films Atomic Blonde (2017) and The Old Guard (2020). "There were a lot of long-take action scenes and they also featured a female lead defeating men using fists or knives," she says.

Park turned to The Godfather (1972 to 1990) gangster film trilogy.

"I rewatched the classic to get into the mindset of a mafia boss."

5 DIFFERENT KIND OF NOIR

Ahn Bo-hyun (Yumi's Cells, 2021), 33, plays a police colleague of Ji-woo's. Asked why audiences should watch My Name, he says: "It's different from the existing noir series and undercover agent genres. We have a strong female lead who performs all her action scenes so perfectly."


• My Name premieres on Friday on Netflix.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2021, with the headline 'Han So-hee put on 10kg to play undercover agent'. Subscribe