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‘I was acting against myself’: Jeon So-nee of Netflix’s ‘Parasyte: The Grey’ on playing both human and parasite

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A still from Netflix's ″Parasyte: The Grey.″ Jeon So-nee, shown here, stars as protagonist Su-in and her parasitic inhabitant Heidi. [NETFLIX]
A still from Netflix’s ″Parasyte: The Grey.″ Jeon So-nee, shown here, stars as protagonist Su-in and her parasitic inhabitant Heidi. [NETFLIX]

All eyes were on “Parasyte: The Grey” even before its release on Netflix. The new sci-fi horror series is a live adaptation of the popular Japanese horror manga series “Parasyte” by Hitoshi Iwaaki.

It had big shoes to fill and in less than a week after release, the show delivered.

Ever since all six episodes finally landed on Netflix last Friday, “Parasyte: The Grey” is and continues to be the globally most watched TV show on the platform.

The series also introduced a fresh face in the horror genre — actor Jeon So-nee, who plays a double role of protagonist Su-in and her parasitic inhabitant Heidi. Jeon, who debuted in 2017, has usually starred in romance television series like tvN’s “When My Love Blooms” (2020) and “Our Blooming Youth” (2023), but “Parasyte: The Grey” is arguably Jeon’s most successful piece as of yet.

“Parasyte: The Grey,” directed and cowritten by showrunner Yeon Sang-ho, introduces a new plot and elements that set it apart from the original manga. Most notable is the addition of The Grey, a task force team whose goal is to exterminate the parasites. Jeon stars alongside actors Koo Kyo-hwan, Lee Jung-hyun, Kwon Hae-hyo and Kim In-kwon.

Jeon, who received the script before deciding on her role, was already a fan of the original “Parasyte” and was curious how Yeon would unravel the scenario, she told press during an interview at a cafe in Jongno District, central Seoul, on Tuesday.

Taking on two roles wasn’t easy for Jeon, because of how vastly different Su-in and Heidi are in terms of personality and appearance. The duo is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and are forced to learn to coexist. But there’s a catch.

Su-in and Heidi are never “awake” at the same time — they rarely interact with each other simultaneously.

Jeon recalls acting as Heidi as “embarrassing” and “awkward,” because the tentacles protruding from her face wasn’t actually there while filming and were just visual effects. Still, she describes Heidi as a “repulsive-looking, yet so beautiful” creature.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

A still from behind the scenes of Netflix's ″Parasyte: The Grey.″ Jeon So-nee, shown here, stars as protagonist Su-in and her parasitic inhabitant Heidi. The tentacles protruding from Jeon's face were created with visual effects. [NETFLIX]
A still from behind the scenes of Netflix’s ″Parasyte: The Grey.″ Jeon So-nee, shown here, stars as protagonist Su-in and her parasitic inhabitant Heidi. The tentacles protruding from Jeon’s face were created with visual effects. [NETFLIX]

Q. The tentacles were never really there when you were filming as Heidi. What was the process like?
A. It was so awkward having to pretend that they existed, when they obviously didn’t, especially in action scenes. We did put green dots on half of my face and pulled my hair away from where the tentacles are supposed to be. While it was embarrassing, after a couple of tries I didn’t feel as embarrassed anymore.

What were some parts in “Parasyte: The Grey” that were different from the original manga series?
The relationship between Su-in and Heidi and Kang-woo [played by Koo] is new. Kang-woo is like a mediator between Su-in and Heidi, which I think was for the better, rather than having Su-in and Heidi confront each other directly. Kang-woo helped Su-in develop as a person and helped her realize that the world isn’t a place where you can survive on your own. People need to depend on others as well. It was also interesting to see how humans perceive parasites and vice versa, because [the relationship] showed how everyone’s survival instincts varied; some live the way they are, and some decide to plot against each other.

A still from Netflix's ″Parasyte: The Grey.″ Jeon So-nee, shown here, stars as protagonist Su-in and her parasitic inhabitant Heidi. [NETFLIX]
A still from Netflix’s ″Parasyte: The Grey.″ Jeon So-nee, shown here, stars as protagonist Su-in and her parasitic inhabitant Heidi. [NETFLIX]

Su-in and Heidi are eventually able to interact in the subconscious. What was filming that like? 
It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Usually in a scene, the acting depends on how in sync you are with your co-star, but in this scene I was acting against myself. It was difficult for me because I already knew what both characters were going to say. The fact that I had to act alone and ping-pong lines by being two separate characters was pretty pressuring for me. But the thing I love about acting is that once a scene is done, I can never go back — I always know that it was the best I could do at the time.

A still from Netflix's ″Parasyte: The Grey.″ Jeon So-nee, shown here, stars as protagonist Su-in and her parasitic inhabitant Heidi. [NETFLIX]
A still from Netflix’s ″Parasyte: The Grey.″ Jeon So-nee, shown here, stars as protagonist Su-in and her parasitic inhabitant Heidi. [NETFLIX]
 

Are there plans for a season two?
Nothing has been decided yet, but Koo has said that he wants to add some romance if there’s ever a next season. I think [showrunner] Yeon has been contemplating whether he wants to connect Kang-woo with Su-in or Heidi, because they’re both so close to him. I’m also curious if Su-in will ever join The Grey. We’ll have to wait and see.

BY SHIN MIN-HEE [shin.minhee@joongang.co.kr]

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