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The commotion caused by the Japanese fans had calmed down because of my skilled fan service. The onslaught of gifts from the Japanese fans was incredible. With the help of several managers and FDs, we could finally move everything to the waiting room at the shooting location. Manager Lee Bongchun wiped away his sweat and said,
“Yeongguk, you have no idea how nervous I was. But what did you say to the Japanese fans that made them turn into gentle sheep in an instant? And these gifts, will they all fit in our car trunk? It seems like we’ll have to fill the backseat too.”
It was like receiving a tribute. It was a word I didn’t like in my past life. How could I describe the fans’ hearts with such a word? But when you receive so many gifts and fan letters like these, you’d feel like a king.
“Wow! Is this a waiting room or a duty-free shop?”
King Cobra PD Kim Jin stuck out his tongue as he entered the waiting room. I was surprised enough that I could only imagine how others felt. I had never received so many gifts and fan letters in my past life.
It’s not just because I only played supporting roles. I chose rough and villainous roles, so it was only natural. There was even a time when I was drinking at a bar, and some gangsters came over to greet me, thinking I was a real thug.
“What’s this, fan letters?”
“Why are you looking through them? These are letters for me.”
“Hey, I don’t know Japanese anyway, so what’s the harm in looking at them a little?”
The fan letters were written in Japanese. They were handwritten, letter by letter. How could I not be grateful? The heartfelt words of the fans were etched in my eyes and deep in my heart. King Cobra PD Kim Jin stuck out his tongue again as he saw me focusing on the fan letters.
“Yeongguk, when did you learn Japanese? I’ve never seen anyone handle fans as well as you in my time as a PD. Especially not a Korean dealing with foreigners. Usually, actors hide behind their manager and don’t come out of the car, but you, Yeongguk, are like a vanguard going into battle! You just went ahead and made a speech in Japanese! Man, even as a guy, I thought you were cool!”
“Why are you suddenly praising me like this? Do you have a favor to ask?”
“Uh, did it show?”
Wasn’t it obvious? He had always been good at keeping work and personal life separate. There must have been a reason he followed me into the waiting room, repeating the praise he had given me earlier at the filming set.
“Is there anything you have in mind for your next project?”
“Yeah, there are still two episodes left until the final episode, but today is virtually the last day. After that, it’s just an epilogue. So, have you received many scripts or scenarios for your next project from your agency lately?”
“You were there at the agency.”
“Your agency’s CEO kept his mouth shut. He didn’t say a word even when I tried to poke my nose in. He said it’s all up to the actor’s decision. That means the CEO trusts you that much.”
PD Kim Jin didn’t know yet that I chose the movie The Priest’s Confession as my next project. It was not public knowledge yet, and Director Shin Seonghyeon was not a loose-lipped person, so it was naturally still a secret.
At that moment, PD Kim Jin leaned forward as if he had something important to say.
“It’s not that, but our SBC Drama Department is planning to produce a grand work as a special project next summer.”
I knew it. There’s no way he would come to me for no reason.
“Do you want me to appear in it?”
“Why? Don’t you like it? You could take a few months off after finishing this project, and the timing would be perfect for you to start your next project. Jeez, don’t think I’m doing this because I like it. The higher-ups are telling me to hold onto you tightly, so I’m just asking.”
“Who’s the PD in charge of the special drama scheduled as next year’s grand project?”
PD Kim Jin made an expression that said “Isn’t it obvious?” and pointed to his own face with his index finger.
I knew it.
“So, you’re going straight into another project after finishing this one? If it’s a grand project, as you confidently say, the production budget must be huge. Won’t the other PDs in the Drama Department protest? If there’s a lineup overlap, someone’s work will be obviously overshadowed.”
“You really know everything, huh? Ahem, well, it’s because the head of the department likes me so much. The Drama Department is a competitive place, after all. When there’s a lineup overlap, someone laughs while someone else cries. That’s just how it is. And now that I have the momentum, I’m going to jump right in.”
“Do you have any plans to move to another broadcasting station?”
King Cobra PD Kim Jin’s face turned pale in an instant. After all, there were only two cases when a salaried PD would be so passionate about their career: either to be promoted to a higher position (CP) within the Drama Division or to prepare for a job transfer to another broadcasting station. Kim Jin PD scanned the empty waiting room and asked in a hushed voice,
“Yeongguk, are you a fortune-teller by any chance?”
“Looking at your reaction, PD, it seems like I’m right. Is it a cable network that’s launching these days?”
“Shhh! Nothing’s been confirmed yet. I would’ve kept it a secret from others, but how can I hide it from you with your quick wits? Just keep this strictly confidential since nothing’s set in stone. To be honest, my situation is like this: Our SBC Drama Division isn’t bad, but there are just too many seniors above me. It seems like I’ll end up living as a perennial average PD before even becoming a CP. There’s a saying that if you hate the monastery, leave the temple. But it’s not happening now; I still need to learn more here for a few years.”
Some people might curse at him, calling him a traitor, but I understood.
Haven’t I watched the broadcasting ecosystem for a long time in my past life? Being a PD didn’t guarantee a stable job. In the future, even announcers would often declare themselves freelancers. The same went for PDs. The era when capable people receive proper treatment has arrived. In that sense, King Cobra PD Kim Jin could be seen as having a pioneering spirit.
“Yeongguk, let me repeat this: this is a secret. It would be an embargo if you were a reporter. It’s an embargo that must never be lifted! Got it?”
“What? You cheeky brat. Anyway, it’s my big mouth that’s the problem. So, what do you want?”
Somehow the tables have turned.
* * *
“Scene number 61, the season of verifying each other’s feelings!”
The late summer heat had given way to autumn. It was a scene portraying a youthful love story blooming in the season of change.
In the schoolyard full of cosmos flowers, Kim Dojin lay on the grass, using the clouds as a blanket. Was it because of the prominent veins on his forearm covering his eyes like a blindfold or his tall, lanky stature? His figure looked like a picture from a photo spread.
“Hey, Dojin, you said you’re applying to the Military Academy!”
Out of the blue, a girl (Seo Min-hye) came and scolded him. She fired away like a machine gun as he pretended he didn’t care.
“No! That’s so random. Why the Military Academy all of a sudden? The teacher’s office is in chaos now because of your bombshell announcement. The principal was sure you’d apply to Korea University.”
It wasn’t that she was trying to belittle the Military Academy. But was it because Dojin’s grades were so outstanding? He was a top student, boasting excellent rankings in his school and the national mock exams. So his homeroom teacher, vice-principal, and principal paid close attention to Dojin’s college entrance.
They probably thought Korea University’s Law School was a given. At that moment, the arm that had been covering his eyes was removed. His long, narrow eyes slowly opened as if waking.
“From down here, you look pretty ugly.”
“What did you say?!”
“Why does it matter so much where I go to college?”
“No, if you go to the Military Academy, isn’t it practically like the military? Then we won’t be able to see each other often. No, that’s not it. Why do you want to go to such a tough place? I really don’t understand.”
“Are you an idiot?”
Dojin smiled. She was a disaster when it came to studying. Maybe that’s why she thought the Military Academy was a barracks life without even a vacation. The Military Academy was a place both similar and different from the military. And Yeongguk’s dream was to become a soldier.
“You like me.”
At that moment, Dojin’s words made her heart race. Flustered by his words, she lost her footing and fell. Their faces came close as if their lips would touch. Their gazes met in the deep blue schoolyard with only a sheet of paper’s width between them.
PD Kim Jin clenched his fist. Surely, this scene would evoke nostalgic memories for many viewers beyond the screen. Everyone had at least one experience of having a crush on someone in high school.
As if a nostalgic youth love song, their gazes met under the autumnal schoolyard, and their lips gradually came closer. Like biting into cotton candy, Dojin’s sweet voice gently entered her ears.
At that moment, PD Kim Jin sprang up from his seat and shouted,
Undoubtedly, the viewers would scream and groan at this scene. The fact that they didn’t clearly show the two people kissing was also meant to induce a tingling and innocent emotion.
Even after the filming ended, the two of them didn’t want to get up from the deep blue mat. Seo Minhye appeared not to have heard the director’s shout as she still had her eyes tightly shut.
“The shooting is over.”
Then, Jang Yeongguk gently pulled Seo Minhye, lying on top of him, by her shoulders with both hands. Seo Minhye’s face had become as red as a beet.
It couldn’t be helped since she had relaxed her body as if they were going to kiss, but the filming had already ended, and yet nothing happened. However, not knowing whether he understood her feelings or not, Yeongguk said only one short sentence.
“Noona, you worked hard.”
In the spot that Yeongguk left, Manager Song Jeongmin came.
“Minhye, you seem disappointed?”
“What are you saying!”
“Anyway, I’m really envious. I thought he was good at acting, but seeing how he handled the overseas fans, he is not ordinary. I want to sign him no matter how much the signing fee will be. My desire is like a chimney.”
Song Jeongmin licked his dry lips, seeming regretful as he watched Yeongguk’s retreating figure. Seo Minhye turned around and shouted at him, annoyed.
“Just be nice to the people you have!”
* * *
A month has already passed. Youth was now only one episode away from its finale. The drama’s shooting team and the actors decided to watch the last episode together at the wrap-up party. By the way, the newly coined term “watching the original broadcast” was also created because of the Youth. It would have been a term that would’ve been created later on anyway.
When I picked up the phone in the press conference waiting room, an angry voice came out.
– “Yeongguk, you ungrateful bastard! Do you know how much I talked you up to the director? I told you so many times. Just bear it for a little while, and then let’s work together again in the drama being produced next year!”
The receiver was sharp. PD Kim Jin’s voice was like a machine gun. It was because he was upset that a big article about my next project was published in the media.
Usually, the press conference would be held two weeks before the shooting, but this time it was a month ahead. There was a need to attract more investors to supplement the production costs. That’s why the press conference was hastily arranged.
“I won’t be the one with an ugly reputation. It’ll be PD Kim, right? You don’t think the director knows yet, do you?”
– “You idiot! That’s supposed to be an embargo forever! I’ve been praising you, Yeongguk, and you’re still unhappy! The director seemed quite upset when he heard you’re starting your next project immediately. Today, he even wore a black tie. You know he only wears a black tie when he goes to his in-laws, right?”
“Are you kidding me? But having a bad reputation? I think the director would rather be relieved. Frankly, it’s lucky that my next project is a movie. If it was a drama with MBS or KBC, he would’ve been even more upset, right?”
Broadcasting companies weren’t in competition with Chungmuro. You could see that from the fact that they didn’t put drama and movie actors on the same level. There was no correlation with viewer ratings, and the production environment was completely different.
After all, the competitors of broadcasting companies were the other broadcasting companies. If I had announced that my next project would be with MBS or KBC, the SBC drama director would have had sleepless nights.
– “Right, he wouldn’t have been able to stand that. By the way, I heard your next project is rated R? Today’s article said you’ll be playing a murderer, is that right? Did I read it wrong?”
“PD, I’ll tell you the details at the wrap-up party in two days. I have to start the press conference soon! I need to prepare, so I’ll hang up now!”
I hurriedly put down the receiver. PD Kim Jin talked so much that I didn’t think he’d ever hang up, so I had to make the first move.
Director Shin Seonghyeon entered my waiting room, followed by the wardrobe team. It was in the convention hall where the press conference was being held. The press conference was like the first impression to the reporters, so there were specially prepared outfits. However, Director Shin Seonghyeon’s face was full of worry.
“We prepared it as you said, but I’m unsure if it’s okay. It’s not the kind of clothing you’d normally wear at a press conference.”
“Director, don’t worry too much. It’s just a movie press conference, after all. We’re not at a hearing, so there’s no need to be stiff. And we’ve already got permission for this.”
Movie press conferences these days are mostly held in a solemn atmosphere. It’s not too different from a hearing, with actors and reporters engaging in Q&A sessions.
However, in the future, there might be laughter at these press conferences, with some actors even attending in zombie makeup. It was hard to deny that the current atmosphere was quite rigid. Soon after, the wardrobe team’s manager took out the outfit they’d prepared for the press conference from a suitcase.
Of course, it’s not a dull suit. After checking the outfit, I gave the wardrobe team’s manager and Director Shin Seonghyeon a thumbs-up.
It was quite provocative.
* * *
The Priest’s Confession.
The convention hall, where the press conference was to be held, was packed with reporters. After all, it was the next project of the nation’s first love. Moreover, Director Shin Seonghyeon’s The Priest’s Confession couldn’t help but be a hot topic among entertainment reporters.
“Seriously, isn’t it unreasonable for him to take on the role of a murderer when he’s already dominating the high-teen market with his nation’s first love image? What happened to Son Won’s CEO’s head?”
“Either the actor threw a fit or had a big fight with the CEO. You know how new actors act once they become popular. They force changes in contract terms. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense. There must have been many offers for nice dramas or romance films for Jang Yeongguk. He kicked the uniform away.”
“Is it because he’s young and daring, or does he like to take risks? Even if he became popular as the nation’s first love, his image will hit rock bottom if his next work fails. He must not know that this industry can change faster than flipping a pancake.”
Some of the reporters openly expressed their harsh opinions. Of course, not all reporters were like that. Most who made such remarks were rejected when they requested an interview with Yeongguk. The interview was postponed because of the shooting for Youth. Thus, several reporters harshly criticized Yeongguk.
At that moment…
“Why are the reporters talking so much when the actor wants to show diverse acting? Are their mouths made of pens? Or have they all decided to change their jobs to fortune-tellers? Did you not see the pre-interview distributed by the director’s side? Technically, it’s not a murderer but a priest who judges. If you have bad eyesight, change your glasses, or stop leaping like ignorant calves and sit still. Don’t be a disgrace to us reporters.”
It was Reporter Kwak Myunghwan who also attended the script reading of Youth. Since his juniors respected and admired him, his words carried a great impact. As the reporters criticizing Yeongguk reluctantly closed their mouths, other reporters found it amusing.
Kwak Myunghwan had been impressed with Yeongguk since the script reading for Youth. He had been a journalist in the entertainment industry for a long time, but he couldn’t explain his emotions when facing Yeongguk. Although he only appeared a few times in dramas through child roles and cameo appearances in Chungmuro, it was like looking at a huge, solid tree.
An actor for acting.
Many actors who entered the entertainment industry initially had that sense of mission, just like rookie reporters starting their careers. However, as they got intoxicated by glamour and popularity, they tended to look for the easy ways.
That’s why this choice was unexpected. It wasn’t just an actor’s choice to attract popularity. Today, Kwak Myunghwan was confident that his intuition wasn’t wrong.
“Director Shin Seonghyeon is entering.”
Soon after the host’s announcement, the main actors, including Director Shin Seonghyeon, walked onto the convention hall stage where the press conference was being held. Their faces were slightly tensed. More reporters gathered than usual thanks to the hot issue of the nation’s first love’s next work.
“Actor Jang Yeongguk is entering.”
With the host’s announcement, all reporters took out their cameras. It was the appearance of the lead actor (Yeongguk), the one that will set the tone for the press conference. Yeongguk entered the convention hall, but the reporters, with their eyes wide open, couldn’t press the camera shutter.
It was because of the sight of a priest walking in, dressed in a cassock.
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