Suhyeon was bored.
So bored that he wriggled around on the floor, doing backstrokes under the covers.
What kind of life did I lead before… What exactly should a normal five-year-old be doing?
He no longer had any drama sets to visit, nor did he have any networking events to enter separately.
Having drifted away from the entertainment industry, Suhyeon—now leading a mundane life—twisted his body, unable to cope with the surplus of time on his hands.
A smartphone at the very least… If only I had a computer…!
Time flies at the age of five.
The body, obeying every thought, stays busy causing mischief due to uncontainable energy and, thrilled by the concept of friends, wants to meet loads of people.
The once-constrained world had suddenly expanded, and he was busy exploring.
Of course, this was all irrelevant to Suhyeon, whose mind was twenty-five.
I’m so bored! I’d rather go to an academy! Why does my mom think that a five-year-old must play all the time? In a global era, even if not Hangul, you must send kids to English academies!
While thinking Suhyeon was smart, Jiyeon hoped that he would enjoy the “privileges of a child.”
She was worried seeing him, although composed and intelligent, showing no curiosity about his surroundings.
Perhaps it was because of pressure or stress that he was forcing himself to act like an adult?
From Suhyeon’s point of view, it was a well-meaning but unnecessary concern.
Reading scripts is interesting only for a day or two.
The fairy tale that Jiyeon and Hochan had prepared for him was too childish.
And reading the books his parents read could invite another unnecessary commotion, and more importantly, there were no topics that piqued Suhyeon’s interest.
Why are there only self-help and career-related books?
After all, the majority of their collected books were nothing but career-oriented textbooks, various qualification exam workbooks, and ridiculous self-help books like Just Sleep Four Hours.
Even with an abundance of time, he had no wish to read books lacking both emotion and entertainment.
Mom’s busy with work.
Jiyeon, who should have been playing with her child, was preoccupied with completing jumbled-up tasks during her time with Suhyeon.
Suhyeon would have loved to play if she would join him when he tugged at her clothes, but he didn’t want to bother her as she busily worked.
Even pulling at her hair was too much.
Either way, the only thing left to do is sleep… but if I nap too much during the day, I won’t be able to sleep at night. It’s torture.
While he was squirming under his non-torturous torture, Jiyeon’s phone rang.
Thinking it was a work-related call as usual, Suhyeon considered how to kill time instead of paying attention to her conversation.
Until his name came up.
“Mom, is it for me?”
“Shh. Yes. Uh, hmm… I see… Is this Lee Seohan? Yes, I will discuss it with my son and get back to you. Yes.”
Jiyeon hung up with a peculiarly stiff expression.
Polite until the end, but she seemed to have something on her mind.
“Ah, yeah. It’s from someone who wants to film a drama with Suhyeon…”
“Oh! What is it!”
As it became clear that it was a casting offer, Suhyeon’s eyes twinkled as he leaned in eagerly.
Normally, such impolite behavior might have gotten him scolded, but Jiyeon didn’t reprimand him.
“Well, that is… TNB… They want to shoot a crime thriller based on an event that happened four years ago?”
The mention of an unfamiliar channel and genre had his head spinning.
TNB? Did they start making dramas already? Wasn’t that supposed to happen in another 5 or 6 years?
Hearing the explanation, even Suhyeon pondered deeply.
A cable network that hadn’t lost the title of “Empire of Dramas” for over a decade before he went back in time.
Actors desiring works of artistic merit and three-dimensional characters would discreetly wait for casting from this beast of a broadcaster, known for producing high-quality works.
…However, it was currently a brand-new network just established.
The question was not the quality of the productions but whether the company even had the means to produce dramas.
So, if Seohan-hyung recommended it, does that mean he’s also in the cast? Is this another production I don’t remember from before? But that can’t be, he has a movie coming out next spring.
Suhyeon, forgetting his age for a moment, furrowed his brows as he thought of Seohan’s film set to be released next year.
Seohan loved working on multiple projects.
However, he avoided competing with his own starring works releasing around the same time.
Thinking about the end of the current drama, that means working on three productions at once. That’s just not feasible. So, this is a drama that was originally rejected…
After much deliberation, Suhyeon concluded that the drama from TNB was a casting that the past Seohan had declined.
And then, another question came to mind.
But why did he accept it this time?
Cable, first production, a genre unfamiliar to the audience.
It made no sense to Suhyeon why Seohan would accept a project that seemed doomed to fail on so many levels.
“Is hyung really in this drama?”
“Ah, yes! That’s right. He said he’ll participate on the condition that you’re in the cast. Well, so conditional acceptance means…”
“If I film the drama, hyung will do it, too, right?”
“…Our Suhyeon is smart, isn’t he? Yes, that’s what it means.”
Having heard all he needed to, Suhyeon covered his face with a cushion on the sofa and groaned.
No matter how he put together the puzzle pieces he had, the bigger picture remained blurry.
If only I could use a computer… For now, let’s try to work it out.
After rolling around for a while, he went over to a corner strewn with colorful wooden blocks and Legos, and he plopped down.
In a situation where he couldn’t freely use a pen and paper, these toys of various shapes served as a decent auxiliary tool.
Considering they say they need me to confirm shooting, it looks like the child role is important.
Setting up a Lego figure, Suhyeon surrounded it with dark-colored blocks.
With terms such as “No Romance,” “Adapted from Real Events,” and “Child Abuse”?
Four years ago, when I was one… If it was a big case from around that time, it’d be the Seongsu-dong child murder case.
Suhyeon recalled a notorious child case he had come across online in his first life.
A case where the child’s biological mother, not a stepmother, abused and murdered the child, and then disposed of the body.
It was a gruesome and brutal story where the culprit turned out to be the mother.
It was discovered through a teacher’s report and prompt action by authorities, which ultimately lead to the finding of the child’s abandoned body in a corner of an old factory.
…I feel like I’ve seen this in a movie. Was it I Love You, Mom?
Suhyeon, who had been making a peculiar face due to the detailed memory, soon recalled the part he was caught up in and his eyes widened.
Right, it was Director Lee Bongchun’s debut film. It was the movie my acting teacher liked because of its great mise-en-scène, wasn’t it?
I can’t recall the specific intricacies since it was released when I was in elementary school, but I remembered finding the film quite interesting.
And the acting teacher’s words that had stuck with me also came to mind: “Without the child actor, this work wouldn’t have been as successful.”
Ah, is that why Seohan-hyung accepted the role? Because the child actor’s part is crucial and I’m here?
Suhyeon weighed his own conditions.
Although he only appeared in six episodes, the role was quite a buzz maker, and his looks were so adorable it was hard to compare him to other child actors.
Even if it sounds like self-praise, there was no corner where his acting fell short…
He was perfect in various ways.
It’d be tough to find a child actor as perfect as me, after all.
Male child actors generally debut at an older age than their female counterparts.
It was due to the difference in the rates of physical and mental development, making it less common for boys under ten to stand out in acting compared to girls.
Looking at it now, I am indeed a rare commodity.
Having realized his value once again, Suhyeon thought back on the appearance fees he had received.
In Promise of the Blue Summer, where he had been a rating booster from the beginning, he received a fee slightly higher than the lowest ranking, at second grade.
By principle, they should give a new actor the first grade, but since they found me through connections, they paid more. There was also a bonus, but my fee didn’t change even as ratings increased.
Broadcast stations have a solid 18-grade, 5-grade system. It was regrettable.
The highest grade that child actors could be given in the 18-grade system was 5th grade.
No matter how remarkable a child actor was, it was difficult for a young actor, who hadn’t even reached middle school, to receive a grade higher than 5th due to entrenched practices.
Even if I become an irreplaceable resource, they won’t recognize it unless I really make it big.
In an industry where the thought “child actors are just a bonus” prevails, no matter how well one acts or stands out, it’s tough to get paid what you’re worth.
However, occasionally, there are exceptions that transcend this reality.
High risk, high return. Not bad.
Since Seohan insisted on “with Suhyeon,” the staff had to cater to Suhyeon’s whims until they signed the contract.
They couldn’t afford to let go of Seohan, as the actors with the same level of talent were too expensive.
It was a situation of mutual dependence, but thanks to that, Suhyeon was in the position of power.
Being in charge, keke, feels good to the ear! It would have been even better if I had earned this position on my own merit, but I’ll use this opportunity to raise my price.
Suhyeon tentatively decided to accept the drama.
It was a choice that could change with additional information, but for now, it was a not-too-bad steppingstone.
“Oh my! Suhyeon, what’s all this? I must take a photo, a photo.”
Suhyeon, caught up in Jiyeon’s fuss, looked at the creation he had made.
In front of him were two well-crafted battalions and trenches.
…I guess I have this talent too.
Suppressing a hollow laugh, Suhyeon soon struck a cute and charming pose as Jiyeon wished.
Having experienced a desolate family life, he didn’t miss these trivial opportunities.
And a week later.
Suhyeon stood in front of the TNB building without delay.
* * *
“Sangil-hyung. Please take good care of me today.”
“Of course, Actor Kang Suhyeon.”
“Talk to me comfortably. I’m just five years old, you know?”
“I can’t do that to the person who pays my salary.”
Suhyeon, who had greeted Sangil with childlike charm, cut back his words in response to the sharp reply.
Though it was only his second time seeing him today, despite the ever-smiling face, Sangil seemed quite steadfast.
Folks who say what they want while smiling are comfortable for me. But what on earth does Chaemin-hyung do…?
Choi Sangil was the manager introduced by Kwak Chaemin.
He was the person to replace Jiyeon as she became increasingly busy.
After speaking with him for about 30 minutes, Jiyeon had trusted Sangil, saying “if it’s Sangil, I can trust him” and left Suhyeon in his care.
It was surprising that Jiyeon, who was concerned about leaving the child alone and would even postpone work to be with him, made this decision.
It fits mother’s heart just right… I hope the contract goes well today.
Still being five years old, Suhyeon chose to hide behind adults rather than make demands autonomously.
Being too precise about money wasn’t cute for a child, and there was no need to step forward and form awkward relationships with the officials.
Therefore, during their first meeting, he spoke with Sangil about each of the drama contract demands, and Sangil confidently promised to take care of it.
Suhyeon peeked at Sangil, who never stopped smiling, and entered TNB with a confident and toddling gait.