Charismatic, handsome, versatile are just some of the adjectives prefixed to South Korean superstarJi Chang-wook’s name. An actor who not only tops the popularity charts for his dashing good looks but also for his repertoire as a singer and actor on stage, in television dramas, and feature films.
Last seen as the lovelorn architect in the 2020 mockumentary Lovestruck In The City, he is back on screens to cast his spell as the whimsical enigmatic magician Ri Eul who befriends a disillusioned teenager in the musical fantasy drama The Sound of Magic, an adaptation of author Ha Il-kwon’s popular webtoon Annarasumanara.
Directed by Kim Sung-youn who previously directed the hit series, Iteawon Class (2020) and Love In The Moonlight (2016) The Sound Of Magic is an ambitious project as it draws upon several elements of a musical, a fantasy, a murder mystery and a teen drama in its six episodes that come embellished with striking visual effects and impressive song and dance sequences.
“Where else would I have got an opportunity to sing, act, dance and do magic? This was the perfect show,” says 34-year-old Chang-wook admitting that it took him back to his theatre days having been a returning member on the hit musical, The Days through 2013 to 2016.
“The vocal training and choreographed movements apart, it was a challenge I gave myself; it was the chance of a lifetime,” adding with a laugh that no one would cast him as a high-schooler now.
From playing the mysterious night courier in the 2014 super hit drama Healer, the hard as nails bodyguard in The K2, the tyrannical emperor of Empress Ki or the maverick lawyer in Suspicious Partner, Chang-wook is captivating and yet again proves himself as a wholesome entertainer.
As he enchants the burdened Ah-yi and empowers her through ‘magic’, the actor is like a chameleon as he shifts from being playful to the dubiously dark Ri Eul. However, one can’t ignore his deep baritone voice as he takes to the vocals, making one wonder why he has not been singing as often.
“Well, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t burdensome to some extent, but I had such wonderful help from the music team. And when I was on set, I felt like the pressure eased. But getting the magic right was the real challenge, and I watched videos and took help from the illusionist Lee Eun-gyeol,” says Chang-wook.
He admits being drawn to The Sound Of Magic for its narrative of the lost wonders of childhood innocence and dreams, and being take back through the characters to his own family’s struggle in his growing years and after the death of his father.
In his fifteenth year in showbiz, the actor whose last few dramas Melting Me Softly and Backstreet Rookie received a lukewarm response admits he has no method and his choices are instinctive.
“The story needs to be interesting and engaging and if I feel there is a message that needs to be conveyed and a show and character align with that I am all in. Ri Eul’s innocence and mysteriousness appealed to me,” says Chang-wook.
Holding their own, actors Choi Sung-eun as the disillusioned and sensitive Ah-yi and Hwang In-youp as the overachiever and rough at the edges Na Il-deung give emotive performances as they navigate through their dilemmas, insecurities and pain.
Hwang In-youp who has risen in the ranks as South Korea’s new breakout star after his performances in 18 Again and True Beauty says playing the overachieving Na Il-deung gave him an opportunity to expand his acting spectrum but also helped articulate a poignant message.
“My character showcases how the standards of happiness and success in society are measured through performance and achievement and its a misnomer,” said In-youp.
Last seen in Start-Up and Beyond Evil, Sung-eun who plays a pivotal part hopes her character can help people find their lost dreams.
Though The Sound Of Magic may have opened to mixed reviews its strength lies in its performances and experiential treatment.
Post The Sound Of Magic, Chang-wook will be seen in If You Say Your Wish with Sung Dong-il and Choi Soo-young. And if you’ve been missing him in the action space the grapevine is abuzz that him and actor Wi Ha-joon (Squid Game, Bad and Crazy) are all set to star in the action thriller, The Worst Evil.