“Followers. Several people who know me and watch me. That’s what gives you power and lets you make money.” This striking statement is from the hit Netflix K-drama Celebrity,which delves deep into the hyper-competitive world of social media influencers as they sway and manipulate trends in a bid to enhance their social currency.
Directed by Kim Cheol Kyu (Flower Of Evil, Chicago Typewriter), Celebrity tells the story of Aa Ri (Park Gyu-Young), a door-to-door salesperson, whose meteoric rise to fame is as swift as her downfall in the world of social media. Actor Kang Min-Hyuk plays the suave Han Jun Kyung, who finds himself entangled in Aa Ri’s conflicting web of ambition and desire.
Speaking from Seoul, Kang Min-Hyuk confesses that the overwhelming reactions to the series were unexpected. “I thought many people would sympathise with the stories on social media because they are so close to our lives, but I didn’t expect that so many people would enjoy it the way they did.”
Kang Min-Hyuk’s Han Jun Kyung, a third-generation conglomerate, though one of the most morally upright characters in the narrative, where everyone is influenced by their motives and deep-seated agendas, can also be ruthless when provoked.
“Han Jun Kyung is a “chaebol’, a man born into wealth but possesses an unshakable belief in himself. Though other characters also belong to the upper echelons of society or are in constant contact with money, Kyung retains an innate strength todistinguish between right and wrong,” he says, adding, “Since he is aware of his status, he also sees himself as the voice of have-nots and empathises with them. I wanted to present these aspects of his character with confidence, and the belief that comes from knowing you’ve not done anything wrong, even though you may be in the wrong, is the strength of Kyung’s character”.
The show makes a strong social commentary against capitalism and classism, through the lens of its female protagonist. One of the key moments from the show is when Kyung invites Aa Ri home, and she is left speechless as one of his many helps carefully watches his every step and helps him take off his shoes.
The said scene, which became a viral topic of discussion, clocked nearly 25 million views within 24 hours since it aired. Kang confesses that he was aware the scene would evoke strong sentiments but it has to be seen from the perspective of the character.
“Han Jun Kyung regards it as a regular chore someone has been assigned to do in the household. As he says in the drama, it’s someone’s work — what they have been employed for — and he is just letting the person do their task. I didn’t judge the character since I tried to understand where he was coming from and his perspective.”
Another aspect of the show was the on-screen chemistry between Kang Min-Hyuk and Park Gyu-Young.
“The word ‘Chemistry’ itself is quite self-explanatory, in that it’s not one-sided. We had discussions and decided we had to approach situations as if they were happening in real-time, and that helped us both,” says Kang.
Applauded for his nuanced performance as Han Jun Kyung, Kang Min Hyuk, who has been part of popular shows such as Heirs, Hospital Ship, and How To Be Thirty, confesses his acting process is continuously evolving. “I look at the drama in its entirety as well as the attributes of the characters, rather than the genre, or a role. But when choosing work, screenplay writer, director and my co-stars or the cast are important, since one cannot work without the other. Discussion and collaboration between all three are extremely important for me.”
The multi-hyphenate Kang Min-Hyuk, who is also a musician, lyricist and drummer with K-pop band CNBLUE, says there is no conscious effort on his part to balance his many roles. “They are just different forms of art and each tends to blend with the other and helps me evolve as an artist. When I am a drummer and musician on stage, the emotions that I feel with my fans translate into my acting and vice versa. The different professions I have, naturally end up helping the other. I want to continue going down this road without any regrets by working hard.”
The actor reveals he is currently going through scripts, as well as preparing for his album and CNBLUE’s upcoming performance in Seoul.
With the ever-growing popularity of Korean content in India, and South Korean celebrities becoming household names, Kang reveals he is a huge fan of Indian cuisine. “Recently, there was a plan to visit India, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it. Next time, I would love to visit India. Indian food is quite popular in Korea like naan, curry, tandoori chicken! I would love to eat all this from the land where it originated!”
Celebrity is currently streaming on Netflix