Korean actress Shim Eun Kyung transforms herself to play zombie or granny

South Korean actress Shim Eun Kyung trained for a month to play Patient Zero in the hit movie, Train To Busan.
South Korean actress Shim Eun Kyung trained for a month to play Patient Zero in the hit movie, Train To Busan.PHOTO: SHIN MIN

South Korean actress Shim Eun Kyung made a cameo appearance as Patient Zero in last year's zombie apocalypse hit, Train To Busan.

The scene may have been brief, but she took a month to perfect the zombie act, writhing in pain on the floor, transforming into a zombie and infecting passengers on the Busan-bound train.

"I underwent training at an action school, where I learnt zombie moves. I also practised wire work for the scene where I pounced on an attendant," the 22-year-old says.

"I felt the need to do a good impression of a zombie because zombie movies are not common in Korea."

She was speaking to The Straits Times on a recent trip here for the launch of Korean entertainment channel tvN Movies.

She has a meatier role in Train To Busan's prequel, animation movie Seoul Station (2016), where she voices a dysfunctional teen on the run from zombies.

The voiceover was the more challenging role, she says. "It was hard for me because I am not a professional voice actress. I had to exaggerate a bit because I could rely only on my voice to express myself, whereas with acting, I could make the role more realistic with movements and facial expressions."

Her greater confidence in acting is no surprise as she has been honing the craft since the age of nine. She started out playing the younger version of female leads in dramas such as The Woman Who Wants To Marry (2004) and Hwang Jin Yi (2006).

She grew up to play leading roles in music-themed drama Cantabile Tomorrow (2014) and comedy movie Miss Granny (2014).

Starting out young may have given her a head start, but she had to ponder over how to make the smooth transition from child to adult actor. "I had to think about overcoming my limitations as a child actress. It was difficult deciding on my next role."

Perhaps wanting to make a splash in her first role as an adult, she chose to play a character much older than her age. She transformed into a septuagenarian trapped in the body of a 20-year-old in body- swop movie Miss Granny.

"I felt a lot of pressure as I didn't have the experience of being an old person. I wanted to persuade the audience that there was a granny living in me," says Shim.

Audiences were sold and the movie was a box-office hit, reportedly drawing more than eight million viewers in South Korea.

Shim also picked up multiple awards, such as Best Actress at the 50th Baeksang Arts Awards, an annual ceremony honouring South Korean film and television.

So immersed was she in her granny role that her act continued off the set. "I tried to adopt more elderly habits and mannerisms in the way I talked. Even after the film was over, people said I sounded like a really old person."

•tvN Movies is available on StarHub TV Channels 818 and 819 and via online streaming service StarHub Go.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2017, with the headline 'Transforming herself to play zombie or granny'. Print Edition | Subscribe