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'Navillera' director on why Song Kang is the perfect Chae Rok

Casting an actor to play a character of a widely popular webtoon can't be easy, but the team behind the new Korean drama "Navillera" found their lead stars in no time.

The story revolves around Chae Rok, an extremely talented 23-year-old ballet dancer who becomes a mentor to Deok Chul, a 70-year-old man who wants to pursue his lifelong dream.

According to director Lee Dong Hwa, Song Kang — who captivated audiences in "Love Alarm" and "Sweet Home" — was fit for the role in more ways than one.

Apart from his looks and talent, Lee said the actor gave off a "pure" and "reserved" aura that was just right for the character.


Photos: Song Kang's Instagram

"I wanted someone who was not as familiar to the public, and who had this reserved aura and, when I met Song Kang for the first time, I can feel that we all felt very awkward for the first few minutes," the director said during a virtual press conference.

"That gave me the impression: 'Ah, this here is a very pure actor in front of me'. And, you know, as you can see, he has the looks and the talent to follow, that as well. So, that's why I decided to cast him," he added.

Veteran actor Lee In-Hwan, who plays Chae Rok's elderly student Deok Chul, said he was also happy after seeing his promising young co-star at work.

"His first impression for [me], he looked like a very young boy, [a] very innocent boy, his face is so tiny [even though] he's super tall," In Hwan shared.

"But as we shot each scene, I saw him change and grow, and I could really see that he was growing as an actor... He absorbs everything and makes it his own, and I think that he will become a great actor in the future," he added.

Kang, on the other hand, was humbled to learn that fans who loved the webtoon appeared to respond positively to Lee's choice.

"Well, I don't really know what to say to that. I'm very humbled by such a compliment," the actor said, flustered.

"I feel like 'Navillera,' the original webtoon, is one of the most beloved webtoons ever, so because of that fact, I did feel quite daunted having been cast as the main lead," he added. "But I did my very best to express the character and I really communicated a lot and deeply with the director. So, you know, thanks to his leadership, we were able to create something."

Despite his modest words, Song Kang actually did five to six months of ballet training just to prepare for his emotional and physically daunting role.

Kang and Director Lee also hope the audience would take away some important life lessons from Chae Rok and Deok Chul's journey.

"Navillera is not only entertaining, but it's also very moving and there are spectacular ballet performances in the series, so this is a very rare theme to be dealt with," Kang said.

"There is a man that has given everything he has for his family throughout his life and, in his later years, he wants to follow his dream... and there's this young man, Chae Rok, who has a lot of pain in his life and who is lost and is searching to achieve his dreams," Lee said.

Episode 1 of “Navillera," directed by Han Dong-hwa and written by Lee Eun-mi, is currently available on Netflix.

New episodes will be available every Monday and Tuesday at 10 p.m. —JCB, GMA News