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‘Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha’ is set to become our new weekly ‘healing’ habit

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Kim Seon-ho, Shin Min-a, and Lee Sang-yi in "Hometown Cha-cha-cha." The new Netflix K-drama is about “about the small stories in our daily lives and emotional changes. It’s about healing and warmth.” Photo courtesy of NETFLIX

Towards the end of 2020, the Netflix K-Drama “Start-Up” became wildly popular with a fanbase that kept asking for justice and happy ending for the show’s “second lead,” Kim Seon-ho. You might have seen it online (and offline) — the hashtags #TeamGoodBoy versus #TeamDoSan (aka #TeamSadBoi).

Flash forward to August 2021, and we have #TeamGoodBoy’s Kim Seon-ho starring alongside veteran actress Shin Min-a for “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha.” Before “Start-Up,” Kim had over 600,000 followers, mostly fans from his variety show “2 Days & 1 Night.” But because of his role as the angel investor and all-around mentor Han Ji-pyeong, that number grew fivefold by the end of the show.

Now with over 5.4 million followers, everyone’s SLS (Second Lead Syndrome) can finally be set aside. It’s his time, his story, and one where we will not be short on our return on investment as with that pilot episode of “Start-Up.”

Shin Min-a and Kim Seon-ho. Photo courtesy of NETFLIX

During the online press conference for “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha,” it was very clear that the 35-year-old has now arrived. “This is a truly heartwarming story and I felt it was really human. I play the role of Hong Du-sik, someone who is unemployed but capable of everything,” he says. “It’s a drama that can help people heal,” he adds. The light tone and plot is just enough for anyone to de-stress — no complicated storylines or those over-the-top big bads, just the usual slice of life story that is brought about through human warmth and sprinkled with a bit of sea salt.

Asked about how he wants the audience to receive his character, he answers, “I think it would be really nice if women who watch the drama think that it would be nice to have a boyfriend like Du-sik.”

Cast Chemistry

One of the factors that made Kim Seon-ho so endearing in “Start-Up” was his chemistry with his fellow cast members. The same could be said now, as the chemistry between the lead actors has been very clear from the very first poster, which was felt even more after the release of the trailer.

Already dubbed as the “Dimple Couple,” the two leads are very much aware of the expectations they’re facing. “I know there were high expectations even before we started filming, but I didn’t feel a lot of pressure,” says Shin Min-a, who plays dentist Yoon Hye-jin. “I really enjoyed acting on set with Kim Seon-ho. He’s a really good person and a comfortable person to be around. I think our good chemistry and flexibility is portrayed through our acting.”

For fans of Good Boy like myself, his “reward” is working with an actress with two decades worth of acting experience, and who became such a familiar face after her most popular hit in the Philippines, “My Girlfriend is a Gumiho.” (She isn’t really the OG [original gumiho] though, the mythical creature was first played by Kim Tae-hee in the 2004 drama, “Forbidden Love.”)

The actress has been one of the regulars for the rom-com genre, as she starred in other projects like “Oh My Venus” and “Tomorrow With You.” It was also in the latter where she last worked with “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” director Yu Je-won.

Shin Min-a plays the dentist Yoon Hye-jin in the series. The actress has been one of the regulars for the rom-com genre, as she starred in other projects like “Oh My Venus” and “Tomorrow With You.” Photo courtesy of NETFLIX

“She’s always very lovely and very talented. One could say she was born to be lovely,” the director says about his lead actress. “I think she was able to maintain that charm. I also think that her acting has become more mature, and she has deepened as a person and as an actor.”

“At the same time, acting depends on who you act with. I think all of them complement each other and make each other comfortable,” the director adds.

“We prepare a lot beforehand, and when your partners are able to accommodate what you have prepared, there is a sense that everything is going to work out and turn out successful,” says Shin. “They are very serious in their acting, but at the same time, they are very funny and playful. It’s really great working with them.”

Also present in the press conference was actor Lee Sang-yi, who plays star producer Ji Sung-hyun. He also talks about the relationships they’ve formed on set. “We’ve become quite close friends. We can play jokes on each other. I feel that they really know me and I know them, and I feel accepted by these great people, so it was a really special experience,” he says.

The seaside town of Gongjin also plays a huge part as the setting of the series. Photo courtesy of NETFLIX

Setting the Hometown

Playing a huge part in developing these bonds and setting up the atmosphere was their set, which was a seaside village called Gongjin. “I felt like we had become a part of the village because we stayed there for a long time,” shares Kim. “We would wake up and go to bed at the same time, spend the whole day together shooting. I felt like we blended in and became part of the village. My mind is still there as a part of the village.”

“Since we’re shooting by the seaside, I was looking forward to watching the beautiful scenery,” says Shin. “However, the weather is something we cannot control, and I remember it being really hot. So when I become exhausted on set, I would just look at the ocean, hear the waves, and feel comforted. The scenery is very soothing and gives us energy to make it through whatever challenges we face while filming.”

The series is a remake of the 2004 film, “Mr. Handy, Mr. Hong.” The Korean title of the series translates to “Seashore/Seaside Village,” but Director Yu Je-won shares that he wanted to differentiate it from the original work. “I wanted to bring something new to our version, so we chose ‘Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha’ to suit it. It’s a type of dance that’s befitting of our characters in the series.”

“I think the rhythm in which we deliver our lines is something that can be appealing to viewers,” says Kim.

“Hye-jin and Du-sik bicker a lot and don’t like each other at first. But then, I think the audience will see that they are alike in some ways, so I think that will be something to look forward to,” adds Shin.

Kim Seon-ho on the set of "Hometown Cha-cha-cha." Photo courtesy of NETFLIX

Character Preparations

After appearing in serious dramas, such as the two seasons of “Chief of Staff'' and the movie “Diva,” Shin Min-a yearned for the rom-com genre as her comeback.

She says, “While I was waiting for one, I came across this script and found it so well-written, with a solid storyline and a lot of wonderful characters. I was drawn to my character as she is a realist and a perfectionist, but there are elements of her that are a bit clumsy. She looks perfect, but she’s actually not, and I think that’s an appealing and lovely trait of hers. I tried not to emphasize too much of the loveliness of her character, so hopefully a lot of women watching can connect with Hye-jin.”

To prepare for her role as a dentist, she visited her dentist to have her teeth checked and observe how their facial expressions are during the process, while trying to understand their personal feelings.

Her stable beat is a far cry from odd job expert Hong Du-sik, of whom the cast and crew spoke about Kim Seon-ho’s extensive preparations for the many hats he wears. “Because my character does so many different things, I had to set [aside] some time to learn all of his abilities. I had to learn how to surf, how to make coffee as a barista, and so on,” says Kim. “I had to maintain a certain balance between being unemployed and having a lot of handy talents.”

Among these, two piqued his personal interest. “A lot of people are interested in real estate these days. I was really interested in his realtor license. Another license he has is being a professional fruit plater, like laying out fruit on a plate,” he shares with a hearty laugh.

For Lee Sang-yi, being part of the variety show “Hang Out with Yoo” prepared him for his role. “I watched a lot of programs to observe producers, and I noticed how they’re usually just quietly observing in the back instead of being talkative on set,” he shares.

Lee Sang-yi plays producer Ji Sung-hyun in "Hometown Cha-cha-cha." Photo courtesy of NETFLIX

Healing experience

Seeing experiences from different walks of life and with varying careers is what Yu Je-won wants the series to portray. “It is not about big events, it’s about the small stories in our daily lives and emotional changes. It’s about healing and warmth. I hope that this is the message we can send to our audience. It’s entertaining and the scenery is breathtaking,” says the director.

“There are elements in the show that will look like a documentary, but there are also elements that have a dramatic side,” adds Lee. “After having a long week and when you’re ready to relax, I think our drama will be fun to watch and can feel like your retreat on weekends. I am sure you’ll be able to get good sleep after watching this comfortable drama.”

“There are many beautiful sceneries and a lot of small stories. Even though some incidents are not particularly special, as in the case of villagers of Gongjin — it could happen to anyone and still have the experience of healing,” says Kim.

Whether it’s unresolved feelings from previous dramas of any of the leads, or just being overwhelmed with the day-to-day happenings around us, now we can look forward to some form of healing during weekends for the next few months.

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“Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” premieres on Netflix on August 28, with new episodes every Saturday and Sunday at 10 p.m.