Why Ju Ji-hoon likens Han Hyo-joo to the Little Mermaid

Why Ju Ji-hoon likens Han Hyo-joo to the Little Mermaid

By: - Entertainment Editor
/ 12:25 AM April 15, 2024

From left Lee Musaeng, Han Hyojoo, Ju Jihoon and Lee Heejun at the press conference for Blood Free PHOTOS COURTESY OF DISNEY+

From left Lee Musaeng, Han Hyojoo, Ju Jihoon and Lee Heejun at the press conference for Blood Free PHOTOS COURTESY OF DISNEY+

There are a lot of divisive ethical and moral issues raised in Disney+’s star-studded K-drama series “Blood Free.”

But its star-studded cast, namely Ju Ji-hoon (“Along with the Gods,” “Kingdom”), Han Hyo-joo (“Moving”), Lee Hee-jun (“A Killer Paradox”) and Lee Mu-saeng (“The Glory,” “The World of the Married”) managed to keep the discussion light and accessible at the press conference held two days before the show’s two-episode debut last Wednesday.


In “Blood Free,” Woo Chae-woon (Ji-hoon), a former captain in South Korea’s elite Naval Intelligence Command, sets out to find the people responsible for the terrorist attack that paralyzed the president of South Korea.


Chae-woon sets his sights on CEO Yun Ja-yu (Hyo-joo) whose biotech company Blood Free (BF), known for its groundbreaking work on lab-grown meats, has enjoyed record profits as a direct result of the attack.

To find out if Ja-yu and the other leaders of her team, including BF head researcher On San (Mu-saeng), are behind the dastardly deed, Chae-woon gets himself hired as the personal bodyguard of Ja-yu, herself a target of countless threats by drug cartels, hackers, extremists and leaders of the local meat industry.

But does South Korean Prime Minister Seonu Jae (Hee-jun) have anything to do with the increasingly deadly turn of events?

‘Chemistry worked well’

At the press con, when Ji-hoon asked to describe what it was like working with the intense Hee-jun, he said his coactor’s approach to his character reminded him of a live octopus.

“His character is very energetic … like a live fish or octopus,” Ji-hoon said. “I’m big fan of Hee-jun as an actor, so while I was acting against him, I could sense the natural flow inside of him. It’s so bouncy, especially when we were doing long takes. Chemistry in difficult scenes like this is really important, and our chemistry worked so well to our advantage.

“On the other hand, Mu-saeng was like a sea slug. He’s very quiet, very composed. He isn’t a person who is seen going through a lot of emotional swings. You can’t read his mind or know what he’s thinking. So it’s fun to figure out what he’s mulling over inside his head. And when I ask him mundane questions, the answers coming from his mouth just feel new and fresh.”


If Hee-jun is like a live octopus and Mu-saeng is a sea slug, which sea creature would Hyo-joo be?

“She’s the Little Mermaid!” Ji-hoon quipped, sending the lovely Hyo-joo, who was seated beside him, into fits of girly giggles and laughter.

For his part, director Park Cheol-hwan said he couldn’t believe his luck when he realized the collective appeal of the stellar cast his production team had managed to gather for the show.

“It was an honor for me,” he admitted. “When I was preparing for this show, I did not immediately know which actors would make it to the final list of cast members.

“When I heard that these people beside me were joining the cast—and they’re such big names, as you can see—I was taken aback! We had a perfect script, we had veteran actors. What else could I ask for? So I was fearless on set because I felt like there was nothing that could go wrong.”

On a more serious note, director Park was later asked to address the possibility of lab-grown meats being sold in supermarkets soon.

“We shouldn’t look too far ahead into the future [for something like this to happen],” he pointed out. “I think this [scenario] could happen in the very near future. As to the complexity of the themes we tackle, the technologies involved in cultured meat and AI already exist in real life.

“So I had to investigate and do a lot of research in terms of how they’re used. The use of lab-grown meat isn’t expected to blow up into a huge market soon, but that may be something we’ll eventually see in the next 10 years or so.

“For instance, when we were shooting the series, AI (artificial intelligence) wasn’t too big of a deal yet, but look how rapidly it has grown since! In terms of bringing this story to life, all I was trying to focus on was to make it as realistic, as convincing and as grounded as possible.”

Contentious debate

Hyo-joo said she also understood the contentious nature of the debate surrounding laboratory-grown meats. She said, “Ja-yu is responsible for creating lab-grown products, but her scientific breakthrough has also dealt a devastating blow to the primary industry of meat growers—so she’s understandably under attack!

“In order to protect herself from the people who want to harm her, Ja-yu hires a bodyguard, Chaewoon, played by Ji-hoon. She doubts him because there are a lot of things that happen that bring Chae-woon’s actions into question. Is Chae-woon who he says he is? More urgently, does he have an ulterior motive?”

For Ji-hoon, it’s this instinctive approach to acting that he found truly appealing about Hyo-joo in their first project together.

“Hyo-joo is a very solid actor,” Ji-hoon noted. “She was someone I could rely on while at work.”

Cast of “Blood Free” (from left): Lee Hee-jun, Ju Ji-hoon, Han Hyo-joo and Lee Mu-saeng

Cast of “Blood Free” (from left): Lee Hee-jun, Ju Ji-hoon, Han Hyo-joo and Lee Mu-saeng

Hyo-joo answered, “Well, Ji-hoon said that he relied on me, but I was really the one who relied on him because as an actor, he had great presence on set. Since he’s also one of the producers, he also looked at things with a producer’s eye. So if something goes wrong on set, he would be vocal about it.”

Chiming in, Ji-hoon said, “Yes, I looked at the entire forest, instead of just the trees (laughs).”

As for Hee-jun, he was asked what he could share about playing the prime minister.

He shared, “Seonu Jae is the only son of the head of the largest conglomerate in Korea. His maternal grandfather served as president of Korea. So you can see me dining in these luxurious restaurants with my dad.”

Meanwhile, Mu-saeng’s position in Ja-yu’s team is the source of his power and influence.

He explained, “I’ve been Ja-yu’s friend for 20 years. I majored in physiology and I am one of the founding members of the BF group. On San is very cool-headed and rational, but he’s someone that Ja-yu can always rely on.”

‘An intelligent script’

What does the cast think of lab-grown meat?

Hyojoo mused, “When I was reading the script, I thought this topic was so timely. It’s just the kind of show that we need at this moment. It has such an intelligent script tackling a smart subject matter. It was a total page-turner for me. I was so excited that I actually wrote in my journal, ‘I’m so happy that I have this script … it’s a masterpiece!’”

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Ji-hoon, on the other hand, admitted he had almost the same sentiments: “I’m not really very interested in current social issues. But there are certain topics that we need to think about, and I think our show can provide some food for thought on this subject matter. “It could appear to be a very heavy topic, but ‘Blood Free’ is doing it with a lighter approach. It’s like a casual way of saying, ‘Why don’t we think about this issue?’ That’s what I loved about the script. Writer Lee Soo-yeon deals with deeply provocative topics as much as very entertaining themes. The result is this masterpiece.” INQ

TAGS: Entertainment, Han Hyo-joo

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