[Exclusive] How Lee Yo-won and Yoo Ji-tae from Different Dreams acted as real-life historical figures

The latest Korean drama, Different Dreams is set in Kyungsung, back when Korea was under the Japanese colonial rule.

Lee Yo-won plays Lee Young-jin – a Korean surgeon raised by Japanese parents – who becomes an intelligence agent for the Provisional Government for the Republic of Korea.

Meanwhile, Yoo Ji-tae plays Kim Won-bong, the leader of a secret society fighting for Korean independence. The two characters become undercover operatives for the Korean provisional government based in Shanghai.

Lee Yo-won is best known for her portrayal of Queen Seondeok in the massively popular drama series, Queen Seondeok of Silla in 2009. In recent times, she has starred in the quirky romantic comedy My Horrible Boss in 2016 and the black comedy series Avengers Social Club in 2017.

Yoo Ji-tae began his career in 1998 and gained recognition as an actor through working with acclaimed directors such as Hur Jin-ho in One Fine Spring Day (2001), Park Chan-wook in Oldboy (2003) and Hong Sang-soo in Woman Is the Future of Man (2004). He has recently starred in crime drama series Mad Dog in 2017.

Thanks to Oh!K, we managed to get Lee Yo-won and Yoo Ji-tae to answer some questions! Check out our interview with two casts below:

Q : Thank you for taking the time to attend the press conference for the upcoming drama, Different Dreams.  Can you share with us your thoughts on taking part in this drama?

Lee Yo-won: I am very pleased to be given the opportunity to participate in such a meaningful drama. It is truly an honour.

Yoo Ji-tae: Although I have never participated in any independence movements myself, whenever I hear about past movements I am always deeply touched. Through the screening of Different Dreams, I hope the viewers will feel the same.


To Yoo Ji-tae : 2019 is significant as it marks the 100th year anniversary for the establishment of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. Was there a lot of pressure acting for such a symbolic moment, and playing a real person in history?

Yoo Ji-tae: As always, acting and representing a real person in history is very difficult, and playing Kim Won-bong was no different. I had to decide whether to base the character on historical evidence or try to embellish the character’s traits to create a better story. However, I was able to manage this dilemma to a certain degree because of Kim Won-bong’s controversial political stance – I had to stray from some historical facts and portray a character more fitting for the screen. Therefore, I portrayed Kim as the perfect independence fighter for Korea rather than relying solely on historical facts and his biographical information.


To Lee Yo-won : You had to portray a character that led a double life; one for the Japanese imperialists who adopted your character and one as a Korean independence fighter. How did you manage the character’s duality and what are your thoughts on this?

Lee Yo-won: My character was adopted by a well-off Japanese family and she grew up as one of them, so on the outside my character is obviously Japanese. However, her deepest desire is to fight for her own country. The main struggle of my character was to hide this desire and carry on with her normal life amongst the Japanese without betraying her inner thoughts. This is where it gets interesting because as an actress, I am accustomed to acting and hiding my true self, but my character is a doctor that had no such training, so I can only imagine how hard it would have been. My job was to understand how a woman in her position would feel and behave to hide her inner desires and portray that on screen. It was a difficult but rewarding role.

Q : The Republican party clearly stated its dissent for including the role of Kim Won-bong for a drama on national television in the previous press conference. Also, as seen on the news, Different Dreams was funded in an industry record-breaking amount. How did you manage the pressures from the government and the investors?

Lee Yo-won: Different Dreams is an epic, action historical drama produced to mark the centennial Korean March 1st Independence Movement and I just knew I had to be a part of it. I’m grateful my wishes came true and I am sitting here, participating in this interview. Nothing else – like the pressures of the government and the scale of the investment – really mattered to me when I was filming this series.

Yoo Ji-tae: I think the scale of the investment is usually independent of the pressures that an actor feels while filming for a series – that is what I believe. I tell myself that I will always give 100% to my roles, and that is what I did for Different Dreams. I think we should always give our all, no matter how large or small the job.


To Yoo Ji-tae : I heard you cried a lot on set. Can you share with us which scene brought the most tears and why?

Yoo Ji-tae: Before I answer the question, I would like to thank the director and my fellow actors on set for holding up the atmosphere. I could not have done any of this on my own. Although I have never experienced war or any independence movements directly, I have come to realise the importance of having my own country. Every time someone mentions our independence and the movements that led to it, it strikes my heart and the tears start pouring. The scene that brought the most tears was – although I believe it was deleted in the final stages of editing – when I had to sing the Korean National Anthem. That scene turned on the waterworks and I cried the most just thinking about my country. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the freedom fighters and reassure them that they will never be forgotten.


To Yoo Ji-tae : Historical records state that Kim Won-bong had the highest bounty on his head from the Japanese, showing how much he was feared. Did you incorporate this aspect of Kim’s life in the drama? Also, is this an action-based drama?

Yoo Ji-tae: As this drama is not a visual biography of Kim Won-bong, not everything in this drama is consistent with historical records. This drama is mostly fictional. To answer the second question, yes, this is an action-packed drama. I learned how to ride horses and filmed 80% of the action scenes myself because we could not find a stunt double to film the scenes. It’s my fault as I am so tall and big. I’m kidding; I enjoy filming action scenes myself!

Q : Given that this year marks the 100th anniversary for the formation of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, a lot of movies and dramas were released on this topic, such as Mr Sunshine. How does Different Dreams differentiate itself from the other titles?

Lee Yo-won: I think that for the first time, we included real names in a drama, and this would lead to viewers researching about our country’s past. I think the names and some historically accurate events included in Different Dreams separates us from the rest.

Yoo Ji-tae: The setting of our drama helped us stand out from the rest. The setting is based on 1930s-Korea and we have a lot of historical data to help us reconstruct what it was like to live in that era. Therefore, a non-fictional setting helped us reach a deeper understanding of how we should act and think during the filming process.


Q : Since your roles vaguely represent a non-fictional character, would you both be able to share some things that viewers should look out for in your portrayal, such as special personalities or subtle behaviours?

Lee Yo-won: The lingering question for my character is why didn’t she decide to live a normal life? It would have been so much easier to just live amongst the Japanese as a doctor, but it was because she always had a calling to fight for her country and if she did not pursue this calling, she would not have been happy. She was ready to fight for what she believes while risking everything she has. I am grateful for people like her who have made our country what it is today by risking it all.

Yoo Ji-tae: I had the chance to speak to an old lady who had been taken by the Japanese forces as a comfort woman. She gave me a lot of insights on preparing for this series. She told me war is always bad and is not the answer to anything. I asked her why she thought so, and she showed me a scar on her abdomen and told me it was from a Japanese soldier who stabbed her with a sword. She ended our conversation claiming that a person without a country is no person at all. That was heartbreaking and that thought was deeply rooted in my character when filming this series.


And that wraps up our interview with the two leads of the drama! Different Dreams airs on Oh!K (Astro Ch 394), premiering on Thursday 23rd May, every Thursday & Friday at 7.50 pm, so make sure you don’t miss it!

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