Before the coronavirus pandemic brought the global entertainment industry largely to a standstill, the world watched as the ensemble cast from Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite took the stage at the 92nd Academy Awards to receive the Best Picture award. The dark comedy-thriller made history as the first non-English language film to take home the big prize.
“Even now, when I recall that moment, I’m extremely grateful that I got to be a part of that glorious occasion,” says Park So-dam, who played the cunning and crafty Kim Ki-jung (also known as art therapy teacher “Jessica.”) Her charismatic performance—which yielded viral moments including the “Jessica Jingle” and a GIF capturing that ingenious peach fuzz plot—received international recognition.
Park is now starring in the new Korean drama Record of Youth as another ambitious young woman—though instead of a con-artist, she plays makeup artist An Jeong-ha. The television series, which premiered on Sept. 7 on Netflix in addition to local network tvN, follows three 20-somethings—An Jeong-ha, Sa Hye-jun (Park Bo-gum) and Won Hae-hyo (Byeon Woo-seok)—as they pursue their dreams in the entertainment industry. Romance blossoms, but at a refreshingly relaxed pace, as the story centers on the characters’ career goals being challenged by the realities of the entertainment industry.
This resolve is familiar to Park, who tells TIME that she decided to become an actor at 17. “I began to learn who I was, what exactly I wanted to do, and started running toward this goal from that moment,” Park, now 29, says. She starred in a number of films and television series before Parasite, and first gained critical acclaim in South Korea for her performances in the 2015 thrillers The Silenced and The Priests. Now, as recent shows like Crash Landing on You and Itaewon Class usher in a new wave of K-drama devotees, Park is returning to the small screen for the first time in four years.
Park talked to TIME over email about her life since Parasite, her portrayal of Record of Youth’s An Jeong-ha, and, in a nod to her celebrity-obsessed character, who she is fangirling over in real life.
This translated interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
TIME: Since Parasite’s big win at the Oscars, how has the film’s global recognition impacted your life?
Park So-dam: It was an experience that gave me a lot of pride in Korean culture and art. And because that memory is so unforgettable, it’s become a driving force for me to work even harder as an actor.
One of the most noticeable differences is the number of Instagram followers, messages and comments from overseas fans. I’d occasionally received supportive messages before, but it seems I’m receiving much more love after Parasite. That makes me very happy every day.
What were your main reasons for deciding to take on a television series after a few years of working on movies?
There was no intention of differentiating genres or fields. I was always involved in a variety of projects—depending on timing and circumstance. I’d like to continue challenging myself in various ways, such as movies, dramas and plays.
What role do you hope to play in bringing greater attention to Korean entertainment to the world? Would you also like to book Hollywood roles?
I often think to myself that I don’t want to be satisfied with being one of many Korean actors—that I’d like to work hard to be the best actor I can be. I received a lot of love and interest through Parasite. If opportunity permits, it would be an honor to work in Hollywood. (I will work harder, of course!)
Some have touted you as a contender for the role of Cindy Moon in the forthcoming Marvel series TV Silk. How do you feel about the superhero genre?
It’s an honor to even be mentioned for the role of Cindy Moon in Silk. The superhero genre is among the genres I’d like to try. It’s a thrill just to imagine.
An Jeong-ha, your character in Record of Youth, is all about a stable life. She talks about the importance of routine, and even named her YouTube channel “I Like Stability.” In your life, how important is stability? Or do you like change?
There’s a side of me that seeks a stable life, but I tend to not fear change. And as time passes, rather than settle for one thing, I’m growing more inclined to challenge myself and try new things.
Record of Youth‘s first episodes address the tension between pursuing personal goals and fulfilling family expectations. An Jeong-ha even argues of South Korea that “our country is too family-oriented.” Does that resonate with you?
While it was more family-oriented before, now, I believe times are changing. Of course, it’s important to value family, but I think the most stable life is one that also values personal life and seeks balance.
Each of the main characters in Record of Youth has a different idea of what success is. In your own career as an actor, how do you measure success?
I believe anyone who knows what they want to do, enjoys it, and does it consistently is a successful person.
In the show, Sa Hye-jun and Won Hae-hyo are models working hard to become famous actors. Have you experienced any downsides to fame?
When I go out to eat with my family, I am thankful but sometimes shy at the same time that many people recognize me and say hello. My family also shows signs of embarrassment. Sometimes, as a person who’s part of an ordinary family, getting so much attention from people can feel a little awkward.
Record of Youth’s original soundtrack (OST) features high-profile artists including Baekhyun from EXO, Seungkwan from SEVENTEEN, Wheein from MAMAMOO, Lee Hi, Chungha and more. How do you think a drama’s soundtrack enhances a show?
I was excited to hear the lineup. I believe nowadays many fans listen to OSTs and enjoy them, instead of just watching dramas and movies alone. OSTs play an important role in elevating tension, making scenarios stand out, helping viewers immerse themselves and enriching the plot.
In the first episode of Record of Youth, An Jeong-ha is fangirling over Sa Hye-jun. One of her first lines is, “fangirling over you is what keeps me going.” Who are you fangirling over in real life?!
Kim Hye-soo sunbaenim [a veteran actor with more than three decades of experience in film and television; Park used the honorific term for someone who entered the industry earlier]. I’d love to work with her at least once and talk to her about a lot of things. I’ve only met her at awards ceremonies, but I’ve always been grateful for her support and holding my hands warmly each time. I’ve always been inspired by her energy, so I’d love the opportunity to work with her, see and experience her acting firsthand before anyone else, and learn from her.
One of your most famous moments from Parasite was the “Jessica, only child, Illinois, Chicago” jingle. What will be the scene from Record of Youth that reaches viral status?
It’d be no fun for me to spoil it!
—with reporting by Sangsuk Sylvia Kang
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