The Fangirl’s Kdrama Roundtable: What Makes A Drama Character Memorable?

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The Fangirls are back and discussing what makes a great memorable drama character and why some are so forgettable?  Did your favorites make our list?  Come join us as we chat and fangirl about some of our favorite characters of all time.

What characteristics does a drama character need to make a long lasting impression?

CLKYTTA: It’s so easy for a good character to go meh, so I think one of the most important characteristics is to be consistent. Character growth is always good, but they still need to still be the character we met. Bravery is a must, bravery always gets remembered, the characters who coast through with no strife or challenge to overcome are always forgettable.  It helps if they have a catch phrase or gesture that is a key part of the character.

Drama Geek: Dimensions. I want to feel like they are a living breathing human being, not just a plot device or paper thin construct of the writer’s imagination. Now, I think characters have become memorable to me despite what the writer creates because of the actor or actress, but usually it’s a team effort.

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CLSunbae: I agree with the above answers. Dimensions and consistency are important. Also, there are times when an actor just clicks with a role. Ji Sung as Cha Min Ho in Kill Me Heal Me was AMAZE (as my daughter would say) but Ji Sung as that guy in Entertainer was much meh. Part of it was good writing versus bad writing but you could also tell the actor enjoyed the KMHM role much more. I think when an actor is excited about a character or role, it shines through because they’re putting their best effort into it.

KMUSE: I agree with everything my co-fangirls have said.  Although, for me personally, I am a total sucked in when a character goes full alpha… and if they are a little messed up because of it, all the better.

What do you think makes other character’s forgettable?

CLKYTTA: Aside from bad writing?  I think it’s when the completely wrong actor is cast for a role. We need to believe that our hero is a hero, he needs to have hero qualities and he needs to be believable.  Some people will watch a drama and love it simply because “Oppa” is in it, but if there’s no spark, I don’t care who the actor is, it’s going into the “I’m going to just forget he played that role” pile. You can always tell when a role doesn’t fit even if the actor is trying hard to make it fit.

KMUSE: Oooh!  I totally agree.  Nothing is worse that an actor that can’t succeed in bringing a character to life.   Yoona in K2 comes readily to mind.  Unlike a lot of other kaddicts I am not anti-Yoona.  However, the character was written poorly and Yoona wasn’t the actress that was going to bring it to life and save the show.  The opposite can also be true.  I find that Strong Woman Do Bong Soon is horribly written but Park Bo Young is such a great actress I love the character regardless.

CLSunbae: Amen, CLKYTTA! I loved Lee Hong Ki in You’re Beautiful so I was excited to see him in Bride of the Century but no matter how good his acting chops, that sweet baby face could not pull off brooding chaebol. I hated to hate him, but I did because I think the show would’ve been pretty good if they hadn’t cast a bunny as a wolf.

Drama Geek: Dramaland is littered with the characters that fit the same description. Seriously, I laugh when I read the synopsis for new dramas. And the characters I forget are the ones that never manage to go move outside their description. If you’ve seen one handsome chaebol, candy girl, or devoted secretary you’ve seen them all. But I great story and/or actor go beyond that and make the character come to life.

Does a character have to be the lead to make your top character list? Why or why not?

CLKYTTA:  No, they don’t have to be the lead.  Sometimes it’s the side characters who really stand out for one reason or another.  For instance, in Cheer Up/Sassy Go Go, Ji Soo totally stole the show and became the memorable character for me. His story had the hook that interested me more than the main male lead.  I still think of that character every time I see gummy bears.

Drama Geek: Some of my favorite characters aren’t the leads. A good example of a drama filled with amazing characters was Goblin. There wasn’t one person that was on the screen that didn’t make me sit up and take notice. Also, a good bad guy can be the most memorable character of all. Liar Game and My Love From Another Star are examples of the same actor burning his character into my brain. So much so, that if someone asks how my health is I get a mini panic attack.

.;a2.pngCLSunbae: One of my all time favorite Kdrama characters is Secretary Ko in Blade Man. That show was pretty awful, but I still rewatch some episodes because Secretary Ko was such a delight in it! In fact, when done well, the long-suffering side secretaries are often my favorites. Protect the Boss, HMKM, Cinderella and the Four Knights, Incomplete Life, Love Me If You Dare, Oh My Venus and Goblin all had secretaries I fell in love with.

KMUSE: A well-written character is a well-written character.  I still wish I could have full dramas from most of Kim Seul Gi’s side characters.  She is one actress who is always memorable.

Who are your 3 most memorable drama characters?

CLKYTTA

  1. Joo Joong Wong from Master’s Sun.  No one is better at dismissing people than President Joo.  His little dismissive wave as he says “Get Lost” is part of his charm.
  2. Chae Young Shin, Healer.  Even when she’s scared so much that she can’t breathe, she’s worried more about someone else.  Her caring heart and the way she fights her fears by facing them head on make her memorable.
  3. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo.  I loved everything about this character.  She was strong and strong hearted and her facial expressions sealed the deal.  Every emotion that Bok Joo had showed up on her face and made you laugh, cry, and worry with her.

Drama Geek:

  1. Cheon Song Yi from You From Another Star. She is a larger than life character and almost everything she did made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants, or cry my eyes out. And even though the character she played in Legends of the Blue Sea was similar, I don’t think there will ever be another Cheon Song Yi.
  2.  Kim Bong Do from Queen In Hyun’s Man. His character was a nice guy in dramaland before they were a thing. He was intelligent, caring, and funny. I loved his smile (back before Ji Hyun Woo got his teeth fixed) and I loved how much he loved his lady.
  3. Goblin and the Reaper from Goblin. You can’t list one without the other. In a cast full of memorable characters they stood out. They were both well-developed characters that will stay with me for a long, long time. They were beautiful to watch together and I wish more dramas put two veteran leads together like that.

CLSunbae: As soon as you ask this question, my brain goes blank! Gah! Okay, let me think…

  1. Choi Yeong Do (Kim Woo Bin) from The Heirs. Gotta give this guy props. I HATED him at first. I thought he was ugly and mean and just awful. By the end of the show, I had serious second lead syndrome. When I think of Heirs, he’s the first face that pops into my mind. I hated the show overall but loved him in it.
  2. Goo Yong Ha (Song Joong Ki) in SungkyunKwan Scandal. There was a lot of pretty in this show. A lot of great characters and chemistry. But even before Joong Ki was a thing, I had a major crush on him from this role. He was so quietly charming. The character could’ve easily been over done and cheesy but Joong Ki played him with such charisma that I found myself with … what would you even call it? Third lead syndrome?
  3. This is me cheating a bit but all the cellmates in Defendant (Ji Sung, Woo Hyun, Oh Dae Hwan, Yun Yong Hyeon, Kim Min Suk and Jo Jae Yun). The entire cast of this drama was amazing, but the chemistry of this group was especially on point. I mean, if you told me one of my favorite things about a Korean drama would be a couple of old dudes in a prison cell together, I’d tell you you’re nuts. But each man had his own story, his own personality, his own depth. None of them were caricatures and I found myself really caring about every single one of them. Plus they had me laughing out loud in some more lighthearted moments, during much-needed laugh breaks. I especially loved how they ended up becoming life long friends.

KMUSE: I am going to try and go into my classic drama vault to answer this question.  I also want to choose some characters that are not my go to answers anytime the question of favorites comes up.  Thankfully, after watching over 500 dramas, I have a lot to choose from.  So in no specific order….

  1. Lee Kang To and by association, his bestie turned nemesis Kimura Shunji, from Bridal Mask.  To this day I tear up just thinking of various scenes.  It is also my favorite drama of both Joo Won and Park Ki Wong to date.  I know those of you who have already watched this drama are screaming GASKITALLLL in your heads as you read this.
  2. BIDAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Queen Seon Deok is an epic tale of a fated queen who grows up outside of the country only to find her way back to political intrigue and power.  But it is a character that doesn’t even show up til episode 19 that steals the show.  The power of Kim Nam Gil’s performance as the sociopath Bidam is beyond epic.  I did mention that I like my memorable characters to be a bit twisted and Bidam is all that and more.
  3. I didn’t want to be totally male-centric in my list, because women can be totally bad ass alpha characters as well.  So for my final pick, I am choosing Lan Yan Zhi played by my all time favorite Chinese actress Zhao Zanilia in the drama Rookie Agent Rogue.  Lan Yan Zhi was a brilliant, strong-willed, and an around well-developed character.  Not to mention her stunning wardrobe made sure that she was memorable.

Who are your favorite characters that you feel will win the test of time?  Let us know in the comments and check back soon for more memorable Fangirl roundtables.

Til next time,

The Fangirls

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0 thoughts on “The Fangirl’s Kdrama Roundtable: What Makes A Drama Character Memorable?

  1. For me that has to be Yoon Yoon Jae! Seo Inguk played a lot of memorable characters, say Lee Min Suk, Lee Hyun, Yang Jung Do and the shopaholic amnesiac Louie but Yoon Yoon Jae come on top! I have seen many actors played as the high schoolers in Kdramas, but YYJ remains the most closest and relatable to me, and the fact that Seo Inguk is good looking too are one of the major factor, haha. If I need to make the list of the rest, then its got to be Seo Inguk another notable characters; I would say it again, Lee Min Suk, Lee Hyun, Yang Jung Do, Yang Jung Do, Louie, etc etc. 💕💕💕

  2. Hmm, this was a difficult one because you have to separate a favorite actor from the role. Despite this, I still have to put my favorite actress (Ariel Lin) role (Cheng You Qing) in my favorite drama (In Time With You) because it was just the perfect fit for me.

    Ariel can be a bit of a lightening rode, in my opinion, because of her early work in It Started With a Kiss where she played a perfect fool of a girl. Since then, she generally does nice girl roles and I think that’s what gets her pigeonholed. However, in In Time, her natural sunny optimism combined with her role as a modern woman balancing work, love, family and the general regret we all have as we grow older was just perfect. The writing, the actress and the general mood of the show made this the perfect character for me. Just a hint – my favorite characters usually have something that they are totally behind – whether it’s work or love or revenge – and Ariel was such a great employee here!

    I’m almost embarrassed to bring up my second choice of a favorite character, Kawee – played by Ken, aka. Wonpuapan Theeradeth – in Sawan Biang, a Thai lakorn from 2008. This is one of the last of the old-timey slap/kiss lakorns with a lot of verbal and physical violence so it’s totally not for everyone. It’s also based a book from the 1970s so the male and female roles are quite old-fashioned and almost stereotypical. However, Ken’s work as broken, betrayed boy hiding inside the skin of an alpha male playboy was fantastic. Part dialogue (one of the best written lakorns I’ve seen) and part simple physicality, the horrible, sexy beast was really hard to like and then eventually, hard to let go. I think in this case, the character bloomed because of the very good ensemble cast, a decently written script and – I’m guessing here – a director who let the actors grow into the role instead of forcing them into the “I man, you woman, do bad things, you love me” mold of many lakorns. I especially loved that his character was determined to tramp down his path of self-imposed revenge even when he knew he was wrong, even when he knew he was driving away the woman he loved, and even when elders he respected pointed out that he was doing wrong. I think this intense concentration must be part of the show’s whole vibe as I’ve never seen Ken do such good work again.

    My third favorite character is much simpler and easier to justify – Enrique Geum, played by Yoon Shi Yoon, in Flower Boy Next Door. He is sunshine in the face of adversity personified. A smart, determined guy who is driven to succeed in work and in love even if it doesn’t always turn out as he hoped. He hides this drive and sometimes his sadness under a smile and a desire to make the one he likes smile as well. I don’t think all the characters in FBND were well written so I think this character is just the perfect storm of writing, acting and character.

    Well, this is one long comment – but I just wanted to point out that while all these characters are the hero/heroines of dramas, they all have sad aspects as well. A really great character has light and darkness, sun and shadow and these three just happen to be my favorites. I almost included the villain role of Min Seok Hoon (played by the fabulous Yeon Jung Hoon) in Mask except that I felt the role relied too much on Jung Hoon’s intensity and charisma while the rest of the plot and acting was sub-par. A great character has to be more than a fabulous pair of eyes and the ability to lie your face. Min Seok Hoon was all darkness, no light and so he didn’t make the cut!

    What a great roundtable!

  3. My favorite memorable characters hmm let’s see. Right now I am really in love with Kim Won Hae from Strong Woman Do Bong Soon because he makes me laugh so hard over and over. I agree with the ajhumma from Healer being super memorable and I love that it was an unconventional role for Ki Mi Kyung to play in a world of mother/stepmother roles for her age range.
    I love the male lead character from Last Cinderella, he was such an interesting person who made bad and good choices but I felt like his pain was real and I loved that.
    And always and forever both leads from Secret Garden left indelible impressions on me for being unique, quirky characters with mannerisms that have made them one-of-a-kind characters for me. Though honestly Oska probably belongs in there as well.

  4. Eun Sol – Protect The Boss. Funny, Smart, Living, Kicked Ass and took names. Loved her so much in PTB.

    4th Prince Wang So – Lee Jun Ki just stomped all over that role. So was such a damn emotional mess and I routed for his happiness so hard. When the dust settled, he was the only character I truly cared about in Moon Lovers.

    Ahn Min Hyuk – SWDBS. Quirky, Complex, Passionate, Perceptive, Intelligent and so very in love with our heroine. I’m glad she returns the feeling because listening to him beg and plead for her affection was not the business!

    Hello everyone! 1st time commenter. Love the site!

  5. I’m not good at commenting.. But I have to because….
    GAKSITALLLLLLL!!
    My all-time favorite Korean drama even after all these years. It was so suspenseful and Kang To is definitely a character to remember, as well as Shunji. My heart aches thinking about it, even now. I even rewatched it, which my attention deficit ass never does (it’s a miracle when I even finish anything ONCE).. and I know I will rewatch it again, probably soon, cause it’s been awhile. I fell in love with Kang To, and Joo Won because of his great acting. Such an intense character. Such great development. Definitely my number one.

    My number two has to be Goo Yong Ha. Such a great character. SKKS was the first Korean drama I ever watched, and they could not have chosen a better actor to play that character.

    I’ll leave it at that..

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