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A young man in a neat black uniform, reminiscent of a priest donning a Roman collar for mass, could be seen. He opened the Bible in the car that was heading to the filming location. It wasn’t to study the Psalms or epistles.
As his mind cooled down while reading the Bible verses, he opened the script for Youth again. The script had been read so much that it was worn out, but today’s filming seemed quite important.
“Yeongguk, have this.”
His manager, Lee Bongchun, handed over a thermos as he held the steering wheel tightly. When the young man opened the lid, a subtle ginger scent spread. Bongchun glanced in the rearview mirror and said to the young man,
“There’s not much I can do for you. I couldn’t help you much since you seemed tired from your recent schedule. Ginger tea is good for colds and bronchitis, so I thought I’d give it to you. When I get a raise, I’ll change it to ginseng tea someday.”
In his past life, he drank a lot of tea. He especially enjoyed it in the winter to melt his frozen hands and soothe his throat. If his throat was even a little blocked, it was common for him to lose his role, even if it was just as a stand-in.
Those were the days.
The faint and smooth scent stirred his memories.
“No, you’re such a big help to me, hyung. I’m always grateful.”
“Thanks for saying that. I should drive well so that our Yeongguk can feel comfortable. But since I have experience driving a top-notch car with a load of tricks, I’m confident with my driving skills. How about that? Can you feel this smooth cornering?”
“Hyung, watch the front!”
At that moment, a reckless car overtook them, barely missing them by the width of a piece of paper. At that sight, Manager Lee Bongchun rolled down the window and shouted,
“Hey! You don’t know how to use the blinker! If our Yeongguk was injured, it would have been on me!”
Manager Lee Bongchun glanced at the rearview mirror, his face full of embarrassment. Although he occasionally made mistakes like this while trying to do his best, he was undoubtedly a good person.
“Lead actor, are you ready?”
The mischievous PD Kim Jin approached as soon as they arrived at the filming location. His playful face was vastly different from when he was filming. After all, this man was able to rise to the position of channel director in the cable station because of his clear distinction between public and private life.
“Our nation’s first love, are you feeling nervous?”
“Why are you making me nervous like that? Don’t tell me we already have to deal with a rushed script?”
A rushed script was a scary phrase for drama actors. The reason why drama shoots were called broadcasting marathons was not for nothing. The filming hours, including all-nighters, and the intensity of shooting with rushed scripts were unimaginable.
There were cases when the writer sent the script by fax, page by page, leaving no time for rehearsal. In extreme cases, the filming proceeded almost like a live broadcast. All this was even scarier because it wasn’t an exaggeration.
“What are you talking about! Don’t you know that Writer Hwang is famous for not having rushed scripts? That person takes a long time to select the lead actors, but they’re as sharp as a knife when it comes to deadlines. If it weren’t for Writer Hwang, I wouldn’t have even thought about the next project. How could you shoot while receiving rushed scripts? It’s like telling the actors and the filming team to die.”
“Then what is it?”
“The viewer ratings for episode 8 that aired yesterday exceeded 30%. If it continues like this, it’s pretty much guaranteed to reach 40%. But MBS is trying to put a cowardly brake on us. They’re pulling forward the schedule of one of their new dramas. Today, the channel director personally received a direct call from the president. They said that if we completely crushed MBS, they would reward us by giving us a vacation abroad. So, make sure to work even harder!”
“A vacation? I don’t care about that.”
“Huh? Why is your reaction so lukewarm? Have you ever been to Phuket, Yeongguk?”
Whatever, it’s not like I haven’t been there before. Despite all this, in my past life, I was considered one of the best supporting actors in South Korea. In the past, international locations and awards were rare, but in the future, South Korean dramas will dominate Asia.
That made sense since sales generated solely from broadcasting rights often resulted in breaking even because of the impact of the Hallyu wave. Thanks to that, I’ve been to Phuket, Bali, and Hawaii so many times that I was sick of them.
“Man, I’ve never been to Phuket! So I have to go. I think if we hit MBS or KBC with today’s scene, they’ll both give in without a fight.”
Already thinking about his vacation, PD Kim Jin was chattering away nonstop. It was rare for a director to be so friendly with the actors. Sometimes, they even waged psychological warfare on set. But PD Kim Jin had none of that personality. He actually felt like a friendly neighborhood hyung more than anything else.
Alright, alright, stop nagging me. I’ll make sure to send you to Phuket.
* * *
“Scene number 37, emotions blooming on the basketball court –!”
It was Youth’s highlight scene. A tall young man was playing basketball alone under the streetlight, which shined alone like the lonely light of a lighthouse illuminating the shore. Following the curve of his long arm, the basketball gracefully traced a parabola, shaking the net.
“Hey, Dojin! What time is it now, and you’re still playing basketball? Look, you’re the only one on the court right now.”
Just by hearing his voice, he could tell who it was. She (Seo Minhye) was his childhood best friend and also happened to be the one who stirred up Dojin’s (Yeongguk) heart. Like a cold coming during the change of seasons, the basketball court was also in full bloom.
“You came in first place in the midterm exams again. You’re so selfish. The other kids struggle so hard to be first just once, but you do it as easy as eating rice. Lucky bastard. You got a confession today, too, right? Yoon Heesu is pretty and has a nice personality. There are so many girls you like, but you’re not dating any of them. Are you… into that kind of thing?”
At that moment, Dojin raised his head and looked at the girl sitting on the bench. It had been like this for a while now. The girl, who used to be invisible to him, kept catching his eyes, and before he knew it, she occupied a corner of his heart. This certainty of his feelings probably started from the valley.
Like a crayfish hiding its body in the crevices of rocks, Dojin also tried to hide his emotions by throwing the basketball hard. However, as if knowing his complicated feelings, the basketball bounced off the backboard and rolled around.
“Is that important?”
A single phrase caused a ripple as if a drop of water fell on a lake’s calm surface. His voice was cold and dry, unlike the usual young man. Responding to that voice, confusion filled the girl’s pupils as well.
“No, I mean, don’t get mad. Can’t friends joke around like this?”
The confusion in each spoken line was filled with emotion. The basketball court was filled with inexplicable tension.
Some people say that the most beautiful time in life was the flowering age, referring to one’s school days. But that’s not the case for this young man. It was incredibly painful and cold. He wanted her to know he loved her, even if others didn’t.
Everyone on the busy filming set was paying attention to the two.
The corners of his mouth were smiling, but his eyes turned icy cold and distant. It was as if he was surveying a dark alley. At that moment, the young man strode forward and approached the girl.
“Do you still feel like I’m just a friend?”
The scene was filmed as a closed-up shot to highlight the actors’ emotions and increase the audience’s immersion.
Should I cut and move on from here?
PD Kim Jin couldn’t help but keep worrying. It was understandable since the original script was supposed to end with the complicated and subtle gaze between the two characters. However, he just couldn’t bring himself to yell “cut.”
The acting continued. That’s when it happened.
Dojin threw the basketball to the girl. Tracing a low curve, the ball flew slowly and landed in the girl’s arms. Startled by the sudden ad-lib, the girl showed no signs of panic. She didn’t want to lose to him in acting, at least not now.
With a basketball between them, the two stood face-to-face. The girl felt her heart pounding as their hands were only a palm’s width apart. After all, if they fell like this, their noses would touch. PD Kim Jin leaned forward and watched the scene.
When he was about to yell “cut,” the young man’s broad shoulders seemed to crumble toward the girl.
“You don’t know anything.”
The sweaty strands of Dojin’s hair buried themselves on the girl’s shoulder. This wasn’t in the original plan either, but it felt as natural as if it was predestined. The girl felt as if her breath had stopped at the following words.
“I wish time could stop right now.”
* * *
Kim Jin’s face brightened as he reviewed the footage. It was no wonder, as the scene was worthy of being called a masterpiece. Even the sudden ad-lib added to the perfection of the picture. At that moment, a familiar hand touched Kim Jin’s shoulder.
“PD Kim, why are you giggling?”
“Whoa, Writer Hwang! When did you get here?”
Kim Jin’s eyes widened at Writer Hwang Sugyeong’s appearance. It was obvious since drama writers usually didn’t leave their homes while writing scripts.
“I came a while ago. I was curious to see how today’s scene would be directed, and I couldn’t just sit still. After all, I’m just another viewer in front of the TV. By the way, was that last ad-lib your idea, or did Actor Jang do it on his own?”
“Was it bad?”
“No way! I almost screamed without even realizing it when I saw that ad-lib from the corner of the shooting set. How could he come up with such a perfect action and line? Tell me, did you direct him, or did Actor Jang do it himself?”
“Of course, Actor Jang did it. Why would I go against Writer Hwang’s script?”
“I knew it!”
“Huh? What’s with that reaction?”
Writer Hwang Sugyeong had just witnessed Jang Yeongguk’s acting skills. It was a scene where he completely overshadowed his partner’s acting. However, the partner’s flustered reaction unexpectedly matched the situation perfectly. While it was an ad-lib, Yeongguk even managed to act out the awkwardness seamlessly.
It’s like he’s possessed.
The more she saw him, the more she found Actor Jang Yeongguk intriguing, even though he was the main character she had chosen. Right then, PD Kim Jin spoke as if he had a hunch.
“Writer Hwang, don’t you think it’s a waste just to leave like this? How about treating us after you finish today’s deadline?”
“I haven’t finished today’s deadline yet.”
“Come on, why are you like this? Do you think I know you never leave your house without finishing the deadline? Stop being like that and treat us. You’re well-paid, aren’t you? We, salaried workers, can’t even have a get-together because we’re too busy with filming. There is no morning shoot tomorrow. What do you say? Isn’t this reason enough?”
Could a drama director be so shameless toward the writer? It might have been a bit mean if it weren’t for PD Kim Jin’s naturally cunning personality. It was true that her per-episode fee was the highest among the three major broadcasting stations. Knowing that, Kim Jin could say such a thing. Eventually, Hwang Sugyeong looked at the filming set and shouted,
“Alright, my treat. I’ll pay for tonight’s dinner!”
Under the streetlights, the film crew cheered as they packed up their equipment. However, not everyone was as pleased. Seo Minhye wore a complex expression. It’s understandable; she had boasted about her long-time acting experience but was overwhelmed by her opponent in a single moment. The person in question seemed unaware of this fact.
“AD, where did Yeongguk go?”
“He said he had a meeting tomorrow morning, so he left early. Remember, he greeted the other directors and even the PD before leaving.”
“Ah, right. We need both our male and female leads together!”
“Is it just today? It’s a shame Yeongguk isn’t here, but there will be more opportunities next time.”
“Then I’ll consider it Hwang’s treat next time, too.”
“Anyway, why does the conversation always end up like this?”
Seo Minhye felt bitter amidst the noisy atmosphere on set. But she didn’t let it show. She was a professional, after all.
* * *
Since early that morning, a tense atmosphere lingered in the CEO’s office. Director Shin Seonghyeon, with a cold expression, repeatedly picked up and put down his teacup. A cynical emotion could be seen behind his frameless glasses. Eventually, he seemed to have made up his mind and put the teacup down.
“CEO, I know I’m not a capable enough director to choose the actors. But this situation isn’t right. I clearly had actor Min Jeongu in mind when I sent the script to Sonwon Entertainment…”
“Director Shin, how many times do I have to tell you? Actor Min’s schedule is already full for this year. He’s already started two new projects in the past few months. Of course, I had to consider his opinion, so I still forwarded the script to him, but he’s struggling right now because of his schedule. As much as I am the CEO, I can’t force a role on an actor.”
Min Jeongu is an actor in his mid-40s signed to Sonwon Entertainment. As much as he honed his skills on the theater stage, he was among the few talents highly regarded at Sonwon because of his exceptional acting. Of course, I had no personal connection with him. The same was true in my past life. Back then, while he was at the height of his career, he suddenly announced his retirement because of a sudden inflammation.
The reason why Shin Seonghyeon, the screenwriter and director of The Priest’s Confession, had been so passionate about casting Min Jeong-woo was as follows:
“CEO, as you would know from reading the script, the character’s age range is around 50. I think no one else but Actor Min can digest this role among actors of that age range. I don’t want to cast other actors and distort the script.”
Although pride could not put food on the table, he was stubborn. It made sense. Most movie directors were bull-headed. Wasn’t that natural? Most of them started with menial jobs in the film industry and worked their way up to directing. Their pride in their profession was, therefore, immense.
But in the end, that’s what held them back.
In my past life, The Priest’s Confession failed at the box office. The main issue was casting. While the actor’s age matched the script, his acting skills did not. Often there were cases where the age range of the script and the actor differed.
For example, the work called Ajae, which later caused an uproar in South Korea, originally had a protagonist in his 50s. At the time, if the director hadn’t given up his stubbornness, an actor named Hyun Bin would have appeared and captivated his heart. However, I was not Hyun Bin.
“Director, is it just because of my age?”
“I don’t mean to belittle you, Mr. Jang. I’ve looked through your filmography since you are already famous in Chungmuro for being the Ten-million Cameo. I know that you have excellent acting skills, enough for Baek Janghun to acknowledge. However, you can’t deny the experience that comes with age. The protagonist in the script is a middle-aged man who has experienced the ups and downs of life. He’s a character who seems to have mastered everything while reciting a deathbed chant at the boundary between life and death, but you are too young to express that.”
Well, I couldn’t show my true feelings either. If I were to include my past life’s age, an old man way passed middle age was already residing in my heart. But Director Shin Seonghyeon’s story didn’t end there.
“Isn’t your current image the nation’s first love? Honestly, you are an actor who is too good for me. However, isn’t there an appropriate time and place? When I received a call from the CEO last night, I honestly couldn’t understand. Why would you want to transform the image of a popular high-teen, known as the nation’s first love, into a murderer?”
“Actors aren’t products, they’re people who act. That’s what the CEO told me. Of course, I also agree with that. Director Shin Seonghyeon, I read the script and also the Bible and Psalms.”
“Do you have a religion?”
“No, I don’t. I read it to understand the work. To understand the protagonist’s emotions, I have to look at the background first. And there was a psalm that gently helped me understand the emotions of the script. Can you listen to it once while thinking of me as the protagonist?”
Director Shin Seonghyeon, silent for a moment, quietly nodded his head. CEO Kim Seonghwan also leaned forward in his seat, paying close attention as if he was enjoying an interesting spectacle.
When I was in college in my past life, The Priest’s Confession not only played the role of a textbook but also created a turning point in my life. It made me realize I had a small talent even though I initially had no interest in acting.
The Priest’s Confession.
The college student who was immersed in the script tirelessly searched for interviews with Director Shin Seonghyeon. It must have been because I wanted to know the world he thought existed within the script. Thanks to that, I knew better than anyone else the unmentioned world that Director Shin Seonghyeon thought existed within his script. I even knew what inspired him to write The Priest’s Confession.
“Do not drag me off with the wicked, with those who do wrong.”
With that, Director Shin Seonghyeon, about to take a sip from his teacup, raised his head.
“Who speak peace to their neighbors, though evil is in their hearts.”
The teacup he was holding began to shake violently.
“Repay them for their deeds, for the evil that they do. For the work of their hands repay them; give them what they deserve.”
His pupils trembled as if there was an earthquake. It was because the psalm had been a major source of inspiration when he wrote The Priest’s Confession. He had been keeping it deep in his heart, never telling anyone, yet it seemed as if I had somehow read his mind and knew it accurately.
“Give them what they deserve. Psalm 28:3-4.”
A shiver seemed to run through his entire body. He then said,
 Since the character is a Catholic priest, this translation is from the official English translation of the Roman Catholic Bible.
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