Monday, November 24, 2014

My Love From Another Star: American Cast

Apparently, ABC is going to make an American version of the superhit Korean drama, My Love From Another Star. I've already kind of reviewed the drama before (verdict: very good). If you want a quick synopsis, it's essentially a romantic comedy that asks what would happen if a Superman (who chooses to hide his powers) and a famous actress fell in love. If you're a fan of Korean dramas, go see it.

Generally speaking, American remakes of Korean entertainment have been reliably putrid (e.g. My Sassy Girl, The Lakehouse, Oldboy), so I don't have high hopes for this one. Nor will I be disappointed when, inevitably, all the things that made the original popular are lost in translation and the end product is a bland rom com. Besides, with sites like Viki and DramaFever, anyone can go directly to the source and cut out the American remake middleman, (subtitles included for all the non-Korean speakers).

But it'd still be fun to speculate as to what the ideal American cast would be. So here are my choices.

The Jun Ji Hyun Character

The JJH character is the biggest celebrity in her country. If there's a huge Chanel billboard in Times Square, then she's on it. If there's a hit TV show or movie, then she's the star. She is beautiful and always has a parade of suitors that she has fend off. And she knows all this, meaning she has a very, ahem, healthy ego and won't hesitate to tell you about it. But she's not perfect. She has a bad temper and is easily irritated because she's very used to getting what she wants. She's been in show business all her life, so she's not all that knowledgeable or curious about the world outside her spotlight, which often results in her exposing her ignorance. This doesn't mean that she's a bad or dumb person, though. In fact, she has strong principles and never fails to stand up for those whom she loves. She's just been in a pretty toxic industry for too long and doesn't have many people whom she trusts, including her own mother.

In casting the JJH character, two things are most important: she has to be believable as a beautiful superstar actress, and she has to be funny. She has to simultaneously be able to be strong and ditzy, without being annoying. If I were in charge, I'd cast Lizzy Caplan. She's obviously gorgeous, she can do comedy (Janis Ian from Mean Girls!), and she can pull off "attitude." Also, she is around the same age as JJH. She's established her prime time TV credentials with Masters of Sex, so she'd fit right in with another TV series.

The Kim Soo Hyun Character

The KSH character is actually centuries old, so he's more intelligent and experienced than any human being alive. Plus, he has Superman-like powers, everything from super-strength to super-speed to time-stopping. Problem is that he's learned over the many years that revealing his powers will only bring pain and suffering not only to him, but to those around him. So he has chosen to hide his abilities and bide his time on Earth until he can return to his home planet. As a result, he has also chosen not to establish any meaningful relationships. As a professor at a university, his youthful appearance, due to a slower aging process, also works against him as it causes others to not take him as seriously as they should. Including the JJH character.

For the KSH character, the actor needs to be able to play the straight man since the JJH character will be initiating most of the comedy. He has an affected sense of detachment that is often betrayed by how easily he's flustered, especially in emotional situations. I think Nicholas Hoult would work. He's already played "bespectacled brainiac" as Hank McCoy in the X-Men movies, so we'd buy him as a young clean-cut professor type. He's done comedy before in About A Boy, which was a fantastic movie, as well as TV with Skins. And the age gap between him and Lizzy Caplan would be almost exactly that of KSH and JJH. This perceived age gap is very important because it's a crucial element to the comedy between JJH and KSH. In the beginning, JJH treats KSH like a junior, which he clearly looks like. Of course, he is extremely annoyed by this since he is hundreds of years older than she is, but has to play along in order to maintain his cover.


It feels almost impossible to expect the American remake to capture what made the original so popular. Trying to successfully translating certain cultural norms (e.g. Korean celebrity culture, formal vs. informal speech, references to other dramas, the whole chicken and beer thing) might as well be a pipe dream. Moreover, a famous actress like JJH already has an established reputation among Asian audiences, so she could play with or against type for (meta) comedic effect. In an international remake, that's much harder to duplicate.

So in hopes of getting you more acclimated to the original, I'll end this post with a music video of the show, even though it makes it seem like a pure melodrama when it's more of a comedy (at least in the beginning). Enjoy!

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