Drama Dreaming: Someone Like You

♫♫ Listening Suggestion: Van Morrison’s “Someone Like You”

Title: Someone Like You 
Directed by: Lee Yoon-jung (Coffee Prince, Triple), Kwon Seok-jang (Ex Girlfriend Club, Miss Korea), or Kim Suk-yoon (I Live in Cheongdam-dong, Awl)
Written by: Yoo Yoon-kyung (My Husband Oh Jak Doo) or Kwon Hye-ji (Individualist Ms. Ji Young)
Produced by: Yoon Jae-won (Beloved)
Genre: Romance, Family, Slice-of-Life
KDrama Tropes: SISTERS, Noona Romance, Secret Identity, Competence Porn, Manic Pixie Dream Boy, Drinking Contest, Mutual Pining, He Rides a Motorcycle, Workplace Romance, Friendship-to-Lovers
Episodes: 32
Airing: tvN 
Year: 2018 (September – December)
Days: Friday and Saturday nights at 22:00

Synopsis: A veteran drama writer falls in love with an actor playing one of her characters, but she’s too shy to let him know who she is.


A Closer Look

In the television industry, Seo Min-hee is known as “Monster Writer Min-hee.” Her dramas are panned by critics and viewers alike—but they always get the highest ratings, breaking records domestically and abroad, starting trends, and launching actors into international stardom. Her name is spoken with both fascination and derision, and her work has such a cultural impact that whenever someone does something ridiculous, people ask them “Do you think you’re in a Monster Writer Min-hee drama?” Though she’s known to be a recluse who only communicates via e-mail, Seo Min-hee regularly produces work, churning out at least one drama a year. Her newest drama is the highly anticipated A Flower Rises in the Sun, a 120-episode revenge makjang about a poor woman who murders an heiress and steals her identity, and it’s rumored that with it she’s become the highest paid writer in the industry.   

Moon Ae-jung (Ha Jae-sook) is 33, happily single, and happily fat. She’s also the real person behind the name Seo Min-hee. Ae-jung lives alone in a cozy apartment with her dog in bustling Mapo-gu, just a few miles away from the broadcasting station she’s historically worked with. Though no one knows she’s the great Monster Writer Min-hee, Ae-jung likes to visit the sets of her dramas. She pretends she’s part of the catering staff, leaving her free to walk around the set and do as she pleases. After a few weeks of visiting the set of A Flower Rises in the Sun, Ae-jung notices one actor. His name is Yoon Chul-woo (Kim Moo-yeol), and he plays a minor character in her drama. She immediately pegs him for what he is: a bad boy. Leather jacket, motorcycle, beat up boots, and loud music. He has all the signs of every man who’s broken her heart. She cannot go there…but she can admire from afar, can’t she? Little by little, Ae-jung makes his role in her show bigger and bigger, until she starts killing off main characters so that he can become the lead.

That same night,  Ae-jung gets a call from an unknown number. She picks it up, and it’s her little sister, Ae-yeon (Kim Seul-gi). After years traveling abroad with her indie band, she’s back in S. Korea and needs a place to crash.

A highly inconvenient crush on someone who would never notice her, a rebel little sister, and a secret identity. Sometimes Ae-jung has to remind herself she’s not living in a makjang. 


Character Descriptions & Narrative Arcs

Moon Ae-jung

“What is there to life? Not much. You do what you have to so you can eat well. …When I was younger I would worry every time my mother stepped out the door, afraid she would never come back and I would be left all alone. It was so bad I’d get stomachaches over it. I never told anyone about it, and no one ever suspected anything. My dream then was to live in a big house with her and my dad and Ae-yeon. Then Dad left and I didn’t have much time to worry about anything. I didn’t have much time for dreaming, either. I realized my fear was a luxury.

I’ve somehow managed to do more than just survive. You want to know my secret? Here it is: don’t think, do; don’t worry, work; once you finish, start again. The thing is to remember not to ask for too much. That way you’ll never be disappointed.”

Ae-jung has lived alone for almost 2 decades, first moving out of her mother’s home when she was just 17 years old, working at a chicken restaurant to make her way through college, and then renting a room in a boarding house while she worked as a script supervisor before writing her first hit drama. She finally bought her own place 2 years ago, after she paid off her own college tuition, both her sister and mother’s credit card debt, and the mortgages on the family home. She still works hard and she’s still the primary breadwinner for her family, but she no longer has endless sleepless nights and multiple jobs just to try and stay afloat. Even better, now that she’s a successful writer her mother can no longer nag her about not pursuing a more concrete career.

Even with all her responsibilities, Ae-jung has always come off as care-free: she has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture, is quick to smile with a sharp wit, is highly observant but keeps her judgements to herself, and has a knack for making friends easily and keeping them. She takes pleasure in the fact that she’s managed to support those she loves, can read comics and romance novels while munching on snacks late into the night without anyone bothering her, and has never done anything to make her ashamed or embarrassed of herself.

Ae-jung has been in love before, but it’s always been one-sided. For her it’s been convenient; romance would have disrupted her life and distracted her from her work anyway. In the absence of reciprocation she’s come to enjoy the act of being in love: caring for someone, noticing the best in them, hoping for the best for them, and helping them however she can—all from afar. What loneliness she’s felt she’s eased with her imagination, which brings her joy and comfort. But what happens when she’s loved back? Ae-jung is truly surprised when the love she feels is returned, and this throws all kinds of new questions at her. She’s happy being fat, but can she trust someone else with her body? Is it better to risk the disappointment of reality than to indulge in fantasy? Ae-jung’s story will be about learning to take up space in the world with more than just her body.

Moon Ae-yeon 

♫♫ Listening Suggestion: Rihanna’s “Yeah, I Said It”

“Ae-jung remembers more about him than me, our dad. All I remember is this one thing he said to me. ‘Your will is frightening.’ He left when I was…what, 11? So he must have told me that when I was even younger. I’d never thought of myself as scary before then. Ae-jung always liked him more than I ever did, but sometimes I still can’t believe it, that he ever told his own kid she was frightening.”

Ae-yeon’s a proud contrarian. Her whole life she’s worked against being defined by things outside her control. As a teenager, when she realized being petite made people think she was demure and softly feminine, she chopped off all her hair and started a rock band. When she caught some of her friends talking behind her back about her father leaving her family, she never spoke another word to them. Ae-yeon doesn’t mince words or feelings, and she never second guesses something she’s already done.

Whenever people learn she and Ae-jung are sisters, they always tell her she’s the prettier one, and that she’s lucky she’s not fat. But Ae-yeon has always been jealous of older sister, even as she beat people up who mocked her. She didn’t go to college like Ae-jung, hasn’t held the family up like Ae-jung, hasn’t found success in her work like Ae-jung, isn’t as emotionally resilient as Ae-jung. But most of all, Ae-yeon despairs at her inability to draw people around her like her older sister does. On stage she can command a presence that has all eyes on her, but in everyday life people back away from her. Despite all this, Ae-yeon has a deep and abiding love for Ae-jung, even though the only way she can express it is through song.

She returns to Seoul broke after being on the road with her band for 2 years, and she has no one to call except Ae-jung. Ae-yeon’s story will be about finding out she loves the life she’s chosen and the person she’s come to be, even though it and she are so different from the person she cares about most in the world.

Yoon Chul-woo

“I’ve never been this bad at something before! I’ve done a lot of things I’ve hated, but I’ve always been good at them. Acting is the first time I’ve had something I want that I’m bad at. …I like the craft of it, the process. You take what’s on a page and you put it in motion. …I think what I love best is how a group of strangers come together to create this one thing, this one time, and it becomes this makeshift family. And it’s not happening quickly, and it’s not happening how I expected, but you know, I think I may be getting better.” 

From afar Chul-woo looks exactly like the characters his harried agent always sends him out to audition for—roguish, charismatic, positively Byronic. But he’s actually the exact opposite: he offers his help without being asked, even to strangers; he has a tendency to break out in a huge grin in the middle of a sentence, like he’s just so filled up with joy he simply can’t help it; his favorite pastime is gardening; he graduated top of his class from Seoul National University; and careening down Seoul streets on a motorcycle aside, he’s a bit of a scaredy-cat. The “baddest” things about him are he has a filthy mouth and he teases the people he likes.

Chul-woo lives at home with his parents, two university professors. His two older sisters have moved out, one to get married and start a family of her own in Japan, the other to teach in the United States. Being almost a decade younger than his youngest sister, Chul-woo has always been the baby in his family; as such, his parents often overlooked him, many times even driving off for work in the morning forgetting they had to drop him off at school. In college he studied micro-finance to appease his father, but since then he’s been trying to make it as an actor, working odd jobs in between gigs to contribute to the household. It’s been six years since Chul-woo first started acting, and this bit role in a Monster Writer Min-hee drama is the biggest he’s ever had. He’s absolutely elated when he starts getting more and more speaking lines, and he hopes it’s because the writer sees potential in him.

Chul-woo doesn’t fall in love easily, but when he does, he falls hard. He’s affectionate and tactile, and very open about his feelings. He doesn’t understand why someone would keep a feeling like love to themselves, and when he falls for Ae-jung, he’s confounded as to why she throws up seemingly arbitrary barriers. Chul-woo’s story will be about finding family and fulfillment in unexpected places.

Lee Geun

“One thing I hate in film or television is the voice-over. It’s a cop-out. I’m friends with a few artists, and if you ask any of them, they each will say that their chosen artform is the one that most reveals human nature, that speaks to our inner selves. If you ask me I’ll of course say it’s film. It’s not just because film is the medium that brings together all the others; it’s that film has changed the way we experience the world in a way none of the others have. We literally see differently because of film. So whenever I hear a voice-over I always think ‘This shouldn’t be here.’ Because a film should be innate, it shouldn’t need to be explained.”  

Lee Geun became a documentary film maker because he’s never been good with words. What he feels he can’t articulate through language, he tries to articulate through his camera. He’s never been particularly interested in himself, and he’s never understood himself much, either; and so in matters of love he only ever realizes what he truly feels for someone after they’ve left him. Sometimes he worries he feels more in the wake of a failed relationship than her ever does while the relationship is in progress. Lee Geun’s story will be about his struggle to articulate who he is and what he wants. 


Family & Friends

Kim Hae-sook as Mi-yeon, Ae-jung and Ae-yeon’s mom | Park Young-gyu as Ae-jung and Ae-yeon’s dad | Kim Bo-yeon as Chul-woo’s mom | Kang Seok-woo as Chul-woo’s dad | Shim Eun-ha as Chulwoo’s eldest sister | Suh Jung as Chul-woo’s second eldest sister | Choi Hwa-jung as Ae-jung’s mentor, and a director she often work with | Do Ji-won as the director’s wife, who owns the agency Chul-woo works for | Ae-yeon’s dog


Character Relationships

Ae-jung & Chul-woo

♫♫ Listening suggestion: Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Stir it Up”

Moon Ae-jung

Ae-jung first notices Chul-woo when she visits the set of A Flower Rises in the Sun. While other actors are joking around before filming a scene, he’s focusing intensely on the script in his hand. When the director yells action, Ae-jung is surprised to find he doesn’t even speak in the scene, just stands in the background. It turns out he’s just playing a bodyguard. While the scene is still being filmed, Ae-jung picks up this mysterious actor’s copy of the script, only to discover it’s dog-eared and all marked up: it’s got insightful notes scribbled on every page and every now and then the repeated message, “This is your chance, Chul-woo! Work hard; you can do it!” Ae-jung is so touched that an actor with such a small role would think this deeply about her script that she asks the editors to send her cuts of his scenes. The first time she writes a speaking scene for him it’s purely just as a little thank you to him for his dedication and hard work. 

The first time Ae-jung and Chul-woo actually meet he’s the one who first notices her. He stops her as she’s walking around the set and points to her shoelaces, which have come untied. Before she can even thank him, he says, “Here, I got it,” gets down on one knee and ties them for her. Then he gives her a megawatt smile and says, “There, now you won’t trip and fall.” Ae-jung immediately falls for him. Which is terrible, because he’s not in his character’s costume but in his own clothes—a white t-shirt with rolled up sleeves that she can see tattoos peaking out from under, earrings in both ears, and beat up Docs. All signs point to the kind of guy she shouldn’t even dream about. That night she writes more than just a line for him; she writes an entire scene.

Yoon Chul-woo

As Ae-jung continues to visit the set, she and Chul-woo continue to meet, and they become friends. He knows her as Ae-jung from the catering staff. They drink together after work, bring each other coffee in the mornings, and tell each other about their childhoods, their families, and their hopes. She asks him why he always marks up his script with so many notes when it’s just a soapy drama, and he tells her that Monster Writer Min-hee is actually his favorite writer, because even though her dramas are implausible, she always  gets the truth about human emotion and motivation right. Disbelieving, Ae-jung quizzes him on all the shows she’s worked on, and it turns out he even tracked down and watched the drama specials she wrote when she first started working.

Ae-jung realizes Chul-woo isn’t at all who she took him to be: he’s genuine and kind and warm, and the more she gets to know him the more she likes him. But she can’t confess because she’s scared he’ll turn her down and then they won’t even be able to be friends anymore. After all, she’s been lying about her identity the whole time, and he probably doesn’t go for women like her anyway. Instead she writes more and more for him, giving him more screentime and making him more central to the plot of her show. Soon viewers and critics alike take notice—some are scandalized that Monster Writer Min-hee is so drastically changing the story, while others are praising Chul-woo’s acting (and looks), cheering for him to become the lead.

Little by little, Ae-jung plucks up her courage. She starts slipping snippets of their conversations into the script, and soon Chul-woo realizes that she is Monster Writer Min-hee and Monster Writer Min-hee is her—and that the woman he’s been crushing on for months is the one behind his success. Chul-woo thought he never had a chance with her either, but when he reads the big confession scene for A Flower Rises in the Sun, hope blooms in him. Instead of confronting Ae-jung, he asks her to help him practice a scene—the big confession. It’s a scene Ae-jung wrote especially for him, and in it she poured all her desire for how she hopes he could feel about her. Chul-woo and Ae-jung play out the scene, exactly as Ae-jung has it written, and it ends in a kiss. After Chul-woo kisses her, he says, “That was fake, but Ms. Moon Ae-jung, I want to kiss you for real. Is that all right?” Ae-jung nods, and then they kiss for real 😊 😊 ❤❤❤.

The Moon Family

Ae-jung and Ae-yeon’s father abandoned the family when they were just 14 and 11. He sent divorce papers to their mother through the mail, and they never heard from him again. 

Ae-jung and Ae-yoen’s mom

After her husband’s abandonment, Mi-yeon fell into despair. Neither of her daughters had ever seen her so sad or so lost, and for them it felt like a double abandonment—seemingly overnight their father disappeared and their mother turned into someone unrecognizable. Ae-jung’s reaction was to square her shoulders and work so that what little they had left—each other—could stay together. Ae-yeon’s reaction was rage. While Ae-jung applied herself to school and work and caring for the house and their mom, Ae-yeon ignored her studies and spent more and more time out of the house. She started and disbanded several bands, barely graduated high school, bummed around Seoul for a while, and then started a band that played “angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion” that found moderate success in the underground scene. She’s been touring with them ever since.

Ae-jung and Ae-yeon’s dad

For Ae-jung, securing a future for herself and her family has always been foremost in her mind and efforts, even though it’s often left her feeling lonely. She makes friends easily, but she rarely ever shares her troubles with anyone. Her father’s abandonment scared her, but her mother’s depression frightened her even more. The three women have a complicated relationship with each other. Ae-yeon resents Ae-jung’s work ethic because it makes her feel incompetent, but she also wishes Ae-jung would worry as much about her as she does about their mother. While Ae-jung was frightened by their mother’s depression, Ae-yeon was disgusted—she saw it as a weakness, and it’s very difficult for her to forgive her mom for the neglect that came with it. Ae-jung has always found it a little difficult to get through to Ae-yeon, because no matter what she says or does, her little sister just gets angry. But she knows Ae-yeon loves her, because each album she makes is always dedicated with a simple, “For my older sister.”

The Yoon Family

Chul-woo’s mom

Chul-woo’s dad

Both Chul-woo’s parents are professors at prestigious universities. When they were younger they were both idealists, but after decades in a marriage together, Chul-woo’s father has become more and more conservative, while his mother watches his ideas transform speechlessly. Their two first children, Chul-woo’s older sisters, came from planned pregnancies. Their third, Chul-woo, was accidental, and though Chul-woo’s mother wanted an abortion, his father pressured her into keeping him by telling the elders in the family about the pregnancy.

Chul-woo is 9 years younger than his youngest sister, and 12 years younger than his oldest sister. Growing up they seemed more like distant cousins to him than siblings. They both moved overseas when he was still a child, and to him it seemed like people were always  leaving—his sisters moved away, his parents were always gone, and they were always going through a constant cycle of maids. With such a barren home life, Chul-woo found solace in sports, joining a soccer team when he was in the third grade and playing straight through college. It’s also why he likes gardening so much: he enjoys figuring out which plants grow best together, and watching them grow season after season.

Chul-woo’s eldest sister

Chul-woo’s second eldest sister

As an adult he’s decided to live at home because even though he and his mom aren’t very close, he knows she’s lonely as she fights off a forced retirement and he doesn’t want her to be alone. Even though his sisters have vowed never to step foot in their family home again (“It’s such a cold place,” his eldest sister once said), Chul-woo has reached out to both of them, and now the three share a warm friendship.  

Ae-yeon & Lee Geun

♫♫ Listening suggestion: Paul McDonald & Nikki Reed’s “Watch Me”

The only reason Ae-yeon let her sister set her up was because she was sure it would never work out. She was wrong. Lee Geun isn’t afraid of how intense she can be, and he never asks her to be quieter or less angry. He gives her the space to be herself, and doesn’t question her when she makes abrupt, deliberate changes to her life. But she likes him for more than what he allows her. He’s kind and dependable, he’s a remarkable filmmaker, and he has a quiet and subversive sense of humor that only came out after they’d dated for over a year. And, he’s like, *really* hot. And great in bed, definitely the most satisfying lover she’s ever had.

Moon Ae-yeon

Things started out cautiously between them. They slept together the first night they met, but it took a while for them to build a friendship and to find something that was their’s, outside of their connection to Ae-jung. What Lee Geun likes best about Ae-yeon is that she never asks people around her to perform. She has a way of breaking down the expectations of social niceties, and for Lee Geun that comes as a relief. She’s abrasive, but he can tell that comes from having been hurt, and he loves how honest she is. 

Two years ago, on the day he was going to propose, Ae-yeon dumped Lee Geun out of the blue. She gave him no reason except, “I guess I really am my father’s daughter,” and then left S. Korea to go on tour. Lee Geun was heartbroken and bewildered, but he still has hope she might still love him.

Two years ago, Ae-yeon made a discovery: while in Busan preparing to open for a bigger act, she saw someone who looked like her father. She followed him, and after some searching, found out he really was her dad—after abandoning her, Ae-jung, and her mom, he’d started a whole new family, and they’ve been living happily in Busan.

Ae-jung & Lee Geun

Ae-jung and Lee Geun have known each other since she was in college. He would come into the chicken restaurant where she worked and point at the menu to order. Lee Geun took an immediate liking to her, because even though she loved to swap anecdotes with other customers, she never pressured him into talking when he didn’t want to. As they grew to know each other and became real friends, he learned that she was just as comfortable with silence as she was with conversation, and his appreciation for her deepened. Ae-jung is one of very his few close friends. He values her judgement, even though her shows couldn’t be more different from what he likes to create and consume.

Lee Geun

Ae-jung decided Lee Geun was her favorite customer on his very first visit, when he came in on a Wednesday day night the day before one of her midterms, ordered a plate of food, and didn’t once interrupt her while she reviewed for her test. He’s always seemed like a bit of a lost pup to her, a little awkward and a little shy, and the impression deepened when she learned he grew up in an orphanage. She admires how serious he is about the truth, which is something she immediately noticed he had in common with Ae-yeon, though it manifests in them very differently. She suspected Lee Geun would like how easily Ae-yeon stated her mind, and she knew Ae-yeon would eat Lee Geun up, so she set them up.

Extra Notes

  • Kim Hye-eun is Ae Jung’s senior. She’s one of the few people who know Monster Min-hee’s real identity. She took Ae-jung under her wing when Ae-jung first got out of college, and would invite her over for dinner at her place with her, her wife, and her dog. Ae-jung’s dog is an offspring of Hye-eun’s.
  • Chul-woo thinks Ae-jung is the cutest, and his favorite thing is to make her laugh.

 


My Inspirations

—Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo, which is so cowardly and shallow that it didn’t have the balls to cast a fat actress to play a cute, relatable romantic heroine, but was exploitative enough to attach itself to a real-life fat woman who is a successful athlete

—Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, where she talks about how all the people she looks up to the most are fat, but she’s always taken refuge in how small her own body is 

—Aurora Princess, the infamous makjang kdrama whose writer killed off not just its hero, but the dog!

How unbelievably hot Hong Jong Hyun is

—Shop Around the Corner/You’ve Got Mail, which are the ultimate secret identity romcoms 

 

someone like you

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About ladida

lasagna enthusiast ♡✿

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