The stars of upcoming science-fiction K-drama Sweet Home, which premieres on Netflix today, had to go through rigorous workouts and training to be convincing monster slayers.
Based on the hit Web comic of the same name, the thrilling series about residents of an apartment building who have to battle monsters was a challenge for Song Kang (Love Alarm, 2019 to present). He plays reclusive teen protagonist Hyun-soo, who mysteriously gains superpowers to fight the monsters.
The 26-year-old trained for two months before filming began.
He says in an online group interview with regional press: “It was my first time doing any sort of wire action and it’s tough. I felt like I had lost all control and I would be completely exhausted after one scene.
“For every action scene I did, I met our action director an hour before to rehearse it.”
The monsters in the series are humans transformed into their secret desires. Asked what sort of monster he might become, he says: “I love going to the gym, so probably a weights monster.”
Song’s co-star, actress Lee Si-young (Killer Toon, 2013), says she would become a monster that eats everything.
The 38-year-old actress spent six months training with weights and doing martial arts to get the muscular body she shows off in the series as I-kyung – a firefighter and former special forces soldier.
Lee, who used to box outside of acting, says of the powerful character she plays: “Of course, I focused on my acting to play someone so confident and strong, but I also made sure I had a fit physique. On top of the training I received, I did push-ups, workouts like rolling tyres around and climbing ropes.”
Lee Do-hyun (18 Again, 2020), the 25-year-old actor who plays a young medical student and the brains among the residents, did not get to see as much action.
But one of his most memorable scenes involves him fighting.
He says: “There was a scene in an underground carpark where I had to fight off monsters in a car. We filmed that during winter, underground, so you can imagine how cold it was. And fighting within an enclosed space like a car and having to drive – doing all of that at the same time was a real challenge.”
For Lee Jin-wook, usually known for playing the handsome leading man in romance series such as The Time We Were Not In Love (2015), getting into the mindset of his character was harder.
The 39-year-old plays against type as the rugged, mysterious Sang-wook, who prefers to solve problems with his fists.
“He is quite an anti-social character, but I’m very much a people person. So, to prepare for the role, I tried to cut back on interpersonal relationships and see how it would be like to lead a more reclusive life.”
While the series features an ensemble cast that includes Kim Nam-hee, Go Min-si, Park Gyu-young and Go Yoon-jung, the menagerie of monsters is also a key draw.
Several A-list Hollywood special effects teams were roped in for Sweet Home, including Legacy Effects – known for its work on the Avengers film series (2012 to 2019) – and Spectral Motion (Stranger Things, 2016 to present). Westworld, a top visual effects team in South Korea, also worked on the technically demanding series.
Director Lee Eung-bok, known for helming top series like Goblin (2016 to 2017) and Mr Sunshine (2018), says there is hardly a scene without computer graphics in Sweet Home.
“This sort of creature live-action series is very rare in South Korea, and even our failures in the process of experimenting with the visual effects were very fun,” he says.
Recent celebrated South Korean monster and zombie titles include Kingdom (2019 to present), Train To Busan (2016) and The School Nurse Files (2020).
As to how his work stands out, he says: “In Sweet Home, you can never guess which monsters you’ll be up against. Because the monsters are manifestations of someone’s hidden desires, it’ll be different from person to person.”
• Sweet Home premieres on Netflix today.