K-dramatized ‘Good Wife’ is expressive, direct

AJ Lee, July 28, 2016, 10:19 a.m.

The popular U.S. legal drama “The Good Wife” starts out with its heroine Alicia Florrick, played by Juliana Margulies, standing rigidly next to her disgraced politician husband at a press conference, her expression unfathomable. 

The show which aired from 2009 to May this year traced Florrick’s growth as she heads out into the workplace to support her family when her husband is sent to prison, after 15 years as a stay-at-home wife. 

Margulies’ nuanced portrayal of the heroine’s steely composure coupled with a vulnerability that seeps through has won her numerous awards, including a Golden Globe and an Emmy.

In the show’s Korean remake, also titled “Good Wife,” which began July 8 and will air for 16 episodes on cable channel tvN, Cannes-winning actress Jeon Do-yeon takes up the role, renamed Kim Hye-Kyung. What is different is Jeon chooses passion and expression over inscrutable subtlety in relaying the character. 

“(Alicia) seemed reserved and distant. When I read the Korean script, I imagined (Hye-kyung) as the complete opposite,” said Jeon at a press conference for the show in western Seoul on Thursday. “I thought a more expressive character would be more relatable to the Korean audience,” she added.

“But they’re similar in that they both grow, in different ways, gradually throughout the show,” she said.

Director Lee Jung-hyo also wanted to take a simpler approach in conveying the characters to viewers.

“In the American show, you never know what (Alicia) is thinking,” he said. “I made Hye-kyung express all her emotions through her own words.” 

He added that other characters, such as Hye-kyung’s husband Tae-jun, played by Yoo Ji-tae, are more distinctive. “He’s much more immoral,” said Lee, comparing Tae-jun with Peter Florrick, Alicia’s husband in the original series, played by Chris Noth. 

Though tvN’s show shares many identical cases with its U.S. counterpart, Lee had wanted to create a distinct show that caters to the Korean sentiment. 

“I told the actors they didn’t have to watch the American show,” he said.

The original CBS show seemed all about unpredictable characters. Alicia offered a rich mixture of demureness, passion, intelligence and emotion, while Peter was both an ambitious politician and a tender-hearted husband. Will Gardner, a partner at the law firm where Alicia works, played by Josh Charles, was hotheaded but tactful. 

Yoon Kye-sang, a singer-turned-actor portraying Seo Joong-won, Will’s Korean counterpart, also wanted to add layers to his character.

“I thought it would be more interesting to oscillate back and forth rather than stick to one certain characteristic,” he said. “(Joong-won) is sometimes very cold and sacrifices everything for his firm. But he is also in love with Hye-kyung,” said Yoon.  

The original creators Robert and Michelle King have said that the show was modeled around the Clinton scandal. It was inspired by a news frame of former U.S. first lady and current Democratic presidential nominee Hillary standing by her husband’s side, her expression unfathomable. 

Director Lee, however, focused more on the “personal than the political,” adding there was “no Korean equivalent” to the U.S. power couple.

“I did do some research on the Clintons,” he added. “But I thought more about how any individual would react in those situations,” he said. 

The Korean “Good Wife” is seeing an average viewership of 4 percent, a strong figure among cable networks, according to tvN’s parent company CJ E&M.

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