Home  /  Everything Else: Article  /  Director Lee Sang-Woo Picked Lee Chae-Yeon as his 'First and Last Choice' for the Lead Actress Role in HBO's Horror Anthology series 'Folklore'.

Director Lee Sang-Woo Picked Lee Chae-Yeon as his 'First and Last Choice' for the Lead Actress Role in HBO's Horror Anthology series 'Folklore'.

By Flora  /  20 Sep 2018 (Thursday)

Lee Chae Yeon and director Lee Sang Woo. Photo Credit: HBO Asia

Korean singer-actress Lee Chae Yeon plays Ok-Bin, a loving mother in ‘Folklore: Mongdal’, the 6th episode in HBO’s first horror anthology series, ‘Folklore’. Even though Lee is well known as a singer more than an actress, director Lee shared that he had her in mind as the lead actress and was the ‘first and last choice’. 

“When we announced this project, there were many actresses who wanted to take on this role. I had many actresses on my list. Chae Yeon was my first choice,” said director Lee at the media conference on Tuesday. 

Folklore is a six-episode hour-long horror series that takes place across six Asian countries with each episode based on a modern adaptation of each country’s deeply-rooted myths and folklore, featuring supernatural beings and occult beliefs. Each episode is helmed by different directors from various countries in Asia and filmed in the local language of the country that the episode is based in. Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo who directs the Singapore episode acts as the series showrunner as well.

Other episodes include stories from Indonesia - a tale on the demonic figure called the Wewe Gombel, a female spirit who is desperate to be a mother, directed by Joko Anwar; "Folklore: Nobody", directed by Eric Khoo - tells a story about the vengeful spirit of the Pontianak who died during childbirth; "Folklore: Pob", directed by Thai filmmaker Pen-Ek Ratanaruang - a black-and-white film about the cannibalistic spirit, Pob; and Malaysia's "Folklore: Toyol", directed by Ho Yuhang, about the tale about a mythical creature that may be summoned from a dead foetus which should not be trifled with. 

Lee Chae Yeon in 'Folklore: Mongdal'. Photo Credit: HBO Asia

“To be honest, I saw her dramas and her acting was so bad,” Sang Woo continued. “When I met her, the way she talked, the way she treated people, she’s genuine and not cocky. She has a certain star quality about her. She is a famous singer in Korea, people don’t see her as an actress. But when it came down to the actual filming, her acting was so good. I’m very proud of her.”

Chae Yeon quipped: “It feels like I just got punched by someone. I’m not surprised by what he just shared.” 

“There was an incident before filming, where staff and main actors will gather for the script reading. As I entered the room, a lot of the staff, they greeted me with a rather strange look on their face, as if with the question in their head, “What is Chae Yeon doing here?” Later on, I realised, director Lee only told key staff about me playing the role of Ok-Bin. Partly because he didn’t want to hear any objection from the staff. He believed that I could pull off the role.”

The actress admitted that she had some reservations prior to filming, particularly venturing into the horror genre, especially for someone who is not a fan of supernatural occurrences. 

“I was worried, there was always a question in my head — What if the set was too scary, would it affect my acting,” she said, adding that the filming site was a house where a lot of actual rituals took place. "And because of that, a lot of people, they were afraid to step into the place. For me, I would sprinkle salt after filming in that house, If I feel something is going to follow me back, I would make a stop at another place before I go back, to drop off spirits at another place.”

She further explained that she tried not to be alone on the set at any point in time, and ensured to always have someone with her.

Actor Kazuki Kitamura. Photo Credit: HBO Asia

Japanese actor Kazuki Kitamura is also not a fan of the supernatural realm, but filming on set was not as scary. “The house where the filming took place, it was not dark, it was a pretty bright. When I watched the completed film, I was surprised to see it was pretty dark on screen. If the place was that dark, I wouldn’t have gone in.” 

Likewise, with Lee, Kitamura also sprinkled salt to ward off any spirits. “In the film, you will see some straw dolls that look something like voodoo dolls. In Japan, it is a very scary item, it has connotations with cursing. In Japan, we sprinkle salt around ourselves to purify the air around us, and every day after the shoot, I will sprinkle myself with salt.” 

Kitamura plays a deaf-mute investigative journalist who uncovers the eerie truth in relation to a tatami that manifests itself as a haunting spirit. 

Photo Credit: HBO Asia

When asked about his preparation for his role, the Japanese actor shared that apart from learning sign language for the project, he observed his friend who is hearing-impaired. “If he was in this room, you can’t tell whether he can hear or not. I observed the way he acts, adopted his body language… What I focused most on is to play the deaf-mute as naturally as possible. When you watch Tatami at the start, you might not be able to tell that Makato is deaf.”

Directed by Takumi Saitoh, “Folklore: Tatami” is based on the tale about tatami straw mats that its said to retain the sentiments of its users, both positive and negative. Co-written by Kitamura and Saitoh, the TV-movie has been selected to debut at SITGES International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain.

Folklore premieres on HBO and HBO GO on 7 October at 10pm. New episodes will debut at the same time every Sunday. 
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