Lead stars step up to ‘Soundtrack #2’s’ exciting new challenges
The lovely Keum Sae-rok and the dashing Steve Sang-hyun Noh may have already won acclaim for their acting chops—she for “Youth of May” and “The Fiery Priest,” he for “Pachinko” and “Curtain Call”—but they have not played the main leads in their respective projects until the K drama series, “Soundtrack #2,” came along.
In the six-part Disney+ show, which began streaming last Wednesday (with two new episodes every week), ex-sweethearts Do Hyeonseo (Sae-rok) and Ji Suho (Sang-hyun) are reconnected four years after they decided to end their six-year relationship.
Upon his doctor’s orders, the overworked Suho, now the CEO of his company, must hire a piano tutor as part of his month-long recovery. But Suho only ends up revisiting the biggest heartbreak of his life when he starts his therapy and surprisingly comes face-to-face with the piano teacher his friend unwittingly hired for him—the cash-strapped but consistently stubborn Hyeonseo.
Completing this story’s romantic roundelay is talented musician K (Sohn Jeong-hyuk aka singer/songwriter Demian, in his acting debut), whose presence in Hyeonseo and Suho’s lives further complicates the couple’s renewed “entanglement.”
“Viewers will find Hyeonseo’s dilemma very relatable,” noted Sae-rok at the press con last Wednesday. “She’s always dreamed of becoming a professional pianist, but she’s struggling [financially], so she gives up her dream just to make ends meet.
“She’s very grounded and realistic about her options in life. Despite the challenges, she tries so hard to keep herself afloat—and I wanted to properly convey her thoughts about her dreams and how she deals with reality.
“But the preparation to make Hyeonseo convincing was very difficult because it was my first time ever to actually play the piano. Luckily, I had the best tutor [to help get me up to speed with what I was supposed to do]. I got an electronic piano to practice at home, and I tried my hardest to pull it off despite my limited time to prepare.
“For piano playing, what’s really important is your posture and the way you put your fingers on the piano … because it shows whether you can really play or not. But, director Kim is actually a great piano player, so she wouldn’t eat [during breaks] and play the piano instead.
“So I would always observe and watch her do it. And every time she would give me a compliment me and say, ‘Your shoulders look more relaxed today,’ I knew I was on the right track. She could tell.”
The window to the soul
As for Sang-hyun, he said that he used his eyes a lot to do his sensitive character justice.
He explained, “Suho feels a lot of different emotions, especially when he suddenly finds himself reconnecting with his ex-girlfriend. There are butterflies in his stomach and he feels his heart fluttering. I tried to show all of that through my gaze.
“This project shows different facets and a new side of me as an actor. The roles in my previews works were quite different because, despite what he had to go through, Suho is just more playful and fun.
“He is also a very jealous person. As you can see, he’s very expressive of his emotions—he can’t really hide his feelings even if he wanted to. And that makes him an endearing character even more.”
Didn’t he find it daunting to play the lead character this time around?
“I did feel a bit of pressure because this is a new challenge for me, especially when it comes to bringing the character to life,” Sang-hyun stated. “But we have these wonderful directors and a fine cast, so I knew that if I would take it step by step and work very hard, I could pull it off. I was very excited to be part of this show.”
Admittedly, Jeong-hyuck was very nervous at the prospect of diving deep into acting with his more seasoned and established costars. But music was a crutch that really helped him even the playing field and connect with his role instantly.
“Music is something that I’m really used to doing,” Jeong-hyuck said with a nervous smile. “Before joining ‘Soundtrack #2’ last year, I was preparing for an album that I could not release. So I wasn’t having a favorable relationship with music at the time (laughs). But working on this series made me love music even more.”
“K is very transparent and straightforward because he’s naive. So, he doesn’t overthink things at all—and I think that explains his charm.”
But the actor pointed out, “This is my acting debut, so there were many moments on set when I felt I wasn’t doing great. But our directors, Kim Hee-won (‘Little Women,’ “Vincenzo,’ ‘Soundtrack #1’) and Choi Jung-kyu (‘The Devil Judge’), would always reassure me that I was doing alright.
“And I’m eternally grateful to Sae-rok and Sang-hyun because I would see them cheer for me. They were much busier than I was on the set, but they always tried to root for me. So thank you [for the vote of confidence].”
Asked to comment on Sae-rok’s piano playing, Jeong-hyuck quipped, beaming, “She could be a session pianist in my concerts! Seriously, I’m not a guitar player myself, and I also had to learn to play the guitar for this series. So we didn’t really have much time to assess each other’s playing skills because we were both working really hard to focus on the work at hand.
“For about a month, we really worked hard to pull it off. And it sounded fine when we were playing together. As they say, practice makes perfect.”
Jeong-hyuck’s presence made the global press con extraspecial because in between the presentation and Q&As, he was coaxed to sing and accompany himself on the piano to perform “The Couple,” a dreamy ballad that he specifically wrote for the show!
Jeong-hyuck’s impromptu performance wasn’t the only “charming” surprise at the press con. After a behind-the-scenes clip was shown, you could see the classically handsome Sang-hyun wiping tears in his eyes, visibly moved by the feel-good memories of the shoot that wrapped up just six months ago. “I don’t easily cry … ,” he intimated.
A new take
To address a question asking about the seemingly “been there, done that” premise of her latest rom-com, director Kim said, “You’ve probably seen a lot of this type of love triangle. But instead of trying to do something new, what I wanted to work on, together with director Choi, was to go back to the classics because I wanted to imbue our tale with the essence of love, captured beautifully by those classic romances.
“I wanted to focus on [telling the story well] and, as you’ve also seen from the highlight clip, our main theme revolves around music. We wanted to make sure that the music and the story would complement each other and flow well together.
“Yes, it’s a familiar story. But it’s boosted by good performances from an exciting cast. So while it may seem familiar, it’s nevertheless a new dish for everyone who likes a good story.”