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Lim Ji-yeon from ‘The Glory’ does not want to understand her character

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Actor Lim Ji-yeon [NETFLIX]
Actor Lim Ji-yeon [NETFLIX]

Is Yeon-jin, the main antagonist in Netflix’s hit drama series “The Glory,” forgivable?

Though her masterminding of indescribable crimes and violence against her schoolmates was certainly evil, she may have earned some sympathy from soft-hearted viewers for having been rejected by her own mother, who no doubt played a large role in making her that way.

Actor Lim Ji-yeon, who played the character in the series, says her answer, however, is still a big “no” and that Yeon-jin should absolutely not be forgiven.

Lim came into the spotlight with her near-perfect performance of showing what pure evil is through Yeon-jin in “The Glory.” The series released its final batch of episodes on March 10, but Yeon-jin’s character and Lim’s portrayal of her, still are the talk of the town.

Actor Lim Ji-yeon as Yeon-jin in Part 2 of ″The Glory″ [NETFLIX]
Actor Lim Ji-yeon as Yeon-jin in Part 2 of ″The Glory″ [NETFLIX]

Lim finds her own character to be “pure evil,” someone who does not invite any sort of justification or sympathy from viewers and who has no right to receive any.

“I cannot understand Yeon-jin, and do not try to,” Lim said during a roundtable interview with local press on March 17. “When I first received the script, I thought to myself, ‘How could someone like this exist?’ ‘How could someone without a single shred of remorse or regret be?’ And I tried my best to act out the character, even though I could not understand her.”

Lim says the director and producers of the series told her that they decided to cast her as Yeon-jin because she seemed to have the necessary diverseness in expression and emotions for the character of Yeon-jin, according to Lim. This is Lim’s first antagonistic role; previously, she had played smaller supporting roles as downtrodden or vulnerable characters in works including “High Society” (2015), “The Treacherous” (2015) and “Welcome 2 Life” (2019).

“They told me that they wanted someone who looked kind, almost, someone you would not expect to be so evil,” said Lim. “And I think I fit that description, but I also could bring an evil side to that.”

Actor Lim Ji-yeon [NETFLIX]
Actor Lim Ji-yeon [NETFLIX]

Lim found that she did not want to reference any particular famous antagonist or study other evil characters for the role of Yeon-jin, but focused on bringing originality.

“I thought about mimicking evil characters from other well-known films or dramas at first, and pondered who I should pick to reference. But in the end I thought to myself that I should just do what only I can do,” said Lim. “After I made that decision, it all became very easy. It opened up the possibilities for portraying this character on my own, without any boundaries.”

Playing an antagonist or a “purely evil” character was always a goal for Lim, though she said she never had the chance to play one before.

“The reason I have always wanted to play an antagonist is that I wanted to play all kinds of characters,” said Lim. “I do not want to limit the kinds of roles I take. I think I would like to play someone like Song Hye-kyo’s character Dong-eun, who is the victim and plots an intricate revenge against the perpetrators of school bullying, and I would also like to play Sa-ra, played by Kim Hieora. They are all very interesting characters and I hope for a wide scope for myself.”

Actor Lim Ji-yeon as Yeon-jin in Part 2 of ″The Glory″ [NETFLIX]
Actor Lim Ji-yeon as Yeon-jin in Part 2 of ″The Glory″ [NETFLIX]

Regarding specific habits and acting exercises that Lim pulled in order to get into character for Yeon-jin, the actor described in detail how she practiced profane language and pretend-smoking for the role.

“I even tried to differentiate between how Yeon-jin swears when she is alone, when she throws profanity-laced tirades at other people and when she uses derogatory language with people who she regards as friends,” said Lim. “It is all in the details. There are a lot of scenes where Yeon-jin is smoking, and I researched how people take out a cigarette and how they bite onto one and all of that as well. I wanted to make the character very real.”

While Lim “always knew” that “The Glory” would be a huge success based on the quality and strength of the script and pre-production, she never imagined that the drama series would bring about as much social change as it did.

“I knew our drama would be an entertaining series to watch and that people would be fascinated by it, but I did not think it would cause such change,” said Lim, referring to how “The Glory” has instigated social dialogue on school bullying in Korea and even spread to social movements overseas — such as in the case of the #TheGloryThai hashtag movement calling out perpetrators of bullying and violence.

When asked about the ending of “The Glory,” in which Yeon-jin faces her past and is brought to justice, Lim said that she expects a person like Yeon-jin will never realize exactly what she had done wrong and that that in itself is the worst punishment of all.

Actor Lim Ji-yeon [NETFLIX]
Actor Lim Ji-yeon [NETFLIX]

“Yeon-jin will never know, never atone for her sins,” said Lim. “She will keep thinking that she does not deserve punishment, and that, I think, is the worst kind of punishment. She cannot be forgiven by anyone and she cannot make due redress for her wrongs. Yeon-jin will forever be cursed in that way.”

As a whole, “The Glory” has been “the glory of my life” for Lim, according to the actor.

“It was an honor to have been able to work with the likes of screenwriter Kim Eun-sook and my fellow cast Song Hye-ko for this drama,” said Lim. “I just want to say how big of a leap it was for me to take on the role of Yeon-jin. I hope to become an actor who can climb above this character and show audiences all that I can do.”

“The Glory” Part 2 premiered on Netflix on March 10 and swept streaming service charts globally, reaching number one in 38 countries worldwide.

BY LIM JEONG-WON [lim.jeongwon@joongang.co.kr]