Netflix’s “Little Women” – In Conversation with Park Ji-hu and Nam Ji-hyun
Little Women is Korean drama at its best. While we can all agree that 2022 was an extraordinary year for female-based K-dramas, this 12-episode show is a true gem produced by the renowned Studio Dragon.
The title, Little Women, has tricked many into considering it a mere adaptation of the 1868 novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott. Directed by Kim Hee-won and starring Kim Go-Eun, Nam Ji-Hyun, and Park Ji-Hu, the show is only vaguely reminiscent of the multifaceted novel. With the story of the Oh sisters, writer Chung Seo-Kyung was able to elevate the K-drama universe to a new level, creating a story full of pathos, suspense, and thrill. A TV production like Little Women is rarely seen on the small screen, especially in South Korea, where these plots are still configured for male-led K-dramas. Surprisingly, despite being an all-female production, Little Women amazed its viewers, keeping them glued to the screen.
We recently spoke with Nam Ji-hyun and Park Ji-hu in an exclusive interview.
I want to start by knowing your point of view about your characters. What did you think about them when you first read the screenplay?
Park Ji-hu: In-hye has high expectations and would do anything to reach them, and she tries to stand alone from such a young age. This made me feel sorry for her. I noticed that she has a strong sense of pride and desire for talent as well as a firm side to her.
Nam Ji-hyun: The first word that came into my mind was “difficult”. All characters in Little Women are complex, not just In-kyung. I was worried about acting as In-kyung because she is a three-dimensional, two-sided character who could not be described in just a few words. But I wanted to seize this opportunity because I know how hard it is to meet such an elaborate, well-developed character.
Depicting a well-known novel such as Little Women can be challenging, and this is a reviewed and modern version of it. How did you prepare for the role, and did you get anything from the original characters?
Park Ji-hu: I truly loved the original novel and film to the point where I could call them the novel and film of my life. That’s why I was able to prepare for the role more earnestly. I thought In-hye had the characteristics of both Amy and Beth, so I tried to express both Amy’s ambitiousness and Beth’s soft-heartedness. One of the first things I learned about In-hye was that she was an art-genius. Before anything else, I learned art and tried to look at the world from an artist’s point of view.
Nam Ji-hyun: Although it is true that character relationships and major events in our drama are based on the original novel, our drama is unique in its own way. The fact that our drama is based on a world-famous novel did not burden me. The novel has its own charm, and our drama has its own, separate story to tell.
Did you read Louisa May Alcott’s novel? If yes, did it help you with your characters?
Park Ji-hu: At a glance, Amy may seem greedy and selfish, but if you look deeper, you may understand her and be drawn into her. I felt the need to persuade the viewers that her desires are understandable, so that they could sympathise with her more.
What did you think about the other sisters when you first heard they were cast and what was your first impression when you met them?
Park Ji-hu: After I passed the audition, I was excited and nervous at the same time to hear that I would be working with such experienced actors. We met for the first time at the screenplay read-through. Everyone came as their roles; they acted as if they had always been In-ju and In-kyung. I was a little nervous, but thanks to everyone’s kind-heartedness, I looked forward to filming the scenes.
Nam Ji-hyun: First, I heard about Park Ji-woo and then, about Kim Go-eun. I thought they fit the image of the youngest and the eldest so well. They matched their roles perfectly and I looked forward to acting with them.
All three sisters are really tenacious; is there a personality trait of your characters that you share and one that you dislike?
Park Ji-hu: I like her confidence in her talents and persistence, which make her a fascinating character. Rather than saying that I dislike her forthright tone when she talks to her sisters, I’ll say that I hope she fixes it little by little as she interacts with her sisters.
Nam Ji-hyun: Among the three sisters, I think In-kyung is the most passionate about running towards her ideals. Some people may think she is running towards an unrealistic dream or is selfish for doing so without considering her circumstances. But she stands by her principles without caring about what others think of her. I would like to give hope to those who are like her or who want to be like her. There is nothing to dislike about her. At times, she makes mistakes and seems selfish, but without these qualities, she wouldn’t be able to run towards her dreams.
The storyline is pretty intense, a bit dark and mysterious. It’s one of a kind. What made you choose this role?
Park Ji-hu: I met In-hye through an audition. Her efforts to not be a burden to her sisters caught my eye, and I hoped to grow alongside her.
Nam Ji-hyun: I think our drama shows the growth of its characters and delivers a bright, hopeful message. You might wonder why, but I’m sure you’ll agree if you watch until the end. I like dramas that show the growth of their characters, even if it’s by a little. In-kyung achieves character growth as she runs towards a single goal, from the beginning to the end, regardless of what happens in between. When I was reading the first few pages of the script, I was curious about how In-kyung would deal with the situation. This is why I chose this drama.
Money has a fundamental role in this drama, and the sisters have a totally different relationship with it. How do you think this drama will teach people?
Park Ji-hu: Each sister approaches money and solves problems in her own way. And although the three sisters seem to part ways, they end up together because they are family.
Nam Ji-hyun: I think it’s a drama that allows you to think about what money means to you, how that has changed over the years, and whether it’s you that’s been dragging the money or it’s the money that’s been dragging you. It would also be fun to think about which of the three sisters you resemble the most.
Your characters are devoted to each other. There is also a strong family bond, especially between sisters, which is pretty new and intense. How did you work on your extraordinary chemistry?
Park Ji-hu: They lightened the mood. They looked at me with such loving eyes, and soon, I felt endless affection toward them. It was easy to notice how much we cared for each other, even when we were acting.
Nam Ji-hyun: I think we worked well together because we shared the same job. We’ve had similar experiences in the past, or we’ll have similar experiences in the future. I think we saw each other as similar people, and this is why we were able to become so close and trust each other so much.
If you could describe the three sisters with one adjective, which would it be?
Park Ji-hu: Firm and unbreakable.
Nam Ji-hyun: Eventually, one.
Written and interviewed by Marianna Baroli