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[Herald Interview] Actor Byeon Woo-seok says he loved Seon-je in 'Lovely Runner'

June 4, 2024 - 15:38 By Lee Yoon-seo
Byeon Woo-seok (VARO Entertainment)

The tvN romance series "Lovely Runner," which aired its last episode May 28, has taken not only Korea but also the world by storm.

The show, topping the charts in 130 countries on the global streaming platform Rakuten Viki, also made history in the Korean streaming services sector.

On the day of the series finale, Tving, the exclusive domestic streaming platform for "Lovely Runner," surpassed Netflix in daily viewing hours for the first time. According to Mobile Index, Tving's total viewing hour logged 2,500,010 hours on May 28, surpassing Netflix (2,408,179 hours) by 91,831 hours.

This marks the first instance in Korea where Netflix, the nation's most-watched streaming service excluding YouTube, has been surpassed in terms of daily total viewing time.

Basking in the immense popularity of the series, the series' lead actors have risen to prominence. Byeon Woo-seok, the male protagonist, now enjoys a rock-star status, with tickets to his fan meetings priced at 77,000 won ($56), selling out and scalped tickets fetching 45 times their original value.

A scene from "Lovely Runner," starring Byeon Woo-seok (left) and Kim Hye-yoon (tvN)

The success of "Lovely Runner" came as a surprise for several reasons: It aired on Mondays and Tuesdays, days which are traditionally associated with lower viewership ratings. Also, the series cast relatively lesser-known actors in the lead roles, Byeon and Kim Hye-yoon.

In a recent interview, Byeon attributed the soaring popularity of "Lovely Runner" to its aesthetic mise-en-scenes and a plot that fulfills the fantasies of its target audience. In "Lovely Runner," Byeon plays the main lead role of Seon-jae, an idol group member who commits suicide. To change this fate, his fan, Im Sol (played by Kim Hye-yoon), embarks on a journey through time to save Seon-jae.

"I think the series became popular because the staff really worked hard in their respective fields in filming the series. Everyone, including the filming director and the lighting director, put in a lot of effort to create beautiful mise-en-scenes," said Byeon in an interview with reporters in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, on Thursday.

"Additionally, despite being somewhat fantastical, I believe the drama gained popularity because it helped the audience fulfill the desire of having someone I like liking me back and sacrificing himself or herself for me until the end," he added.

A scene from "Lovely Runner," starring Kim Hye-yoon (left) and Byeon Woo-seok (tvN)

Byeon said he saw himself in Seon-jae, especially when Seon-jae is in love.

"Seon-jae's greatest charm lies in his resilience. His readiness to sacrifice himself for his loved ones, to initiate contact with them and to exercise patience are all facets of his charm. I think I also love deeply like that when I like someone," said Byeon.

"But, Seon-jae is also quite clumsy in expressing such emotions, whereas I think I express them better. I'm more clear about communicating my feelings, so in that way, we are a bit different," he added.

He added he loved playing Seon-jae during the 10 months of filming.

"I love Seon-jae so much. It went beyond liking; I truly loved the character," he said.

"Saying goodbye to Seon-jae is very difficult for me. Whenever I miss him, I plan to rewind 'Lovely Runner' and watch the series again. This is a piece that I think I will look back on throughout my acting career without forgetting, until the end," said Byeon.

A scene from "Lovely Runner," starring Byeon Woo-seok (tvN)