By Lee Gyu-lee Singer-actress Kim Se-jeong, who rose to stardom as a member of K-pop girl group I. O. I after competing in Korean broadcaster Mnet’s hit audition show Produce 101 , took her first step into romantic comedy with her role in the recent series Business Proposal . “My emotions toward the series’ wrapping up is ‘relief’. We went through a lot, from the pre-production to its production … with the coronavirus and such,” she says. “Going through plenty of issues, we finally came to an end on a pleasant note.” Based on popular webcomic The Office Blind Date , the romcom series follows a woman named Shin Ha-ri (Kim) who goes on a blind date on behalf of her best friend and meets her CEO, Kang Tae-moo (Ahn Hyo-seop). Faced with the unexpected encounter, she juggles the dates with her boss while trying to hide the fact that she works for him in order to keep her job. The 12-part series produced by Korean broadcaster SBS garnered popularity on Netflix, topping the platform’s top-10 weekly charts for non-English TV shows for three consecutive weeks. The actress, who previously played a brazen teenager in School 2017 and a tough demon hunter in The Uncanny Counter , says she took the role of Ha-ri because she wanted to accept the challenge of playing a different type of character. The more I read the script, the more complicated it felt Kim Se-jeong “It started out simple, like I want to take a stab at romcom. I’d been playing tough, high-spirited characters so my previous work genres were usually drama and emotional, which I liked. But I felt the need to take a challenge with different stories. I wanted to show a different side,” she says. Ha-ri makes up a different persona as she goes on a blind date, using the alias Shin Geum-hee. Kim says she liked how she had a lot to show through the character of Ha-ri. “There are different images to the character, which I thought was appealing. I liked how this is a romcom series yet there are so many aspects I could portray with the character and decided to take the role,” she says. “But that was the part that made this character difficult … the more I read the script, the more complicated it felt.” Soundtrack #1: Han So-hee, Park Hyung-sik romance a letdown The actress says she put in a lot of effort studying her character and how she can portray Ha-ri in different situations, from trying to ruin the blind date for her friend to struggling to stay under the radar at work from Tae-moo. “There’s a portrayal of Geum-hee and also of Ha-ri. So I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I had to set the tone (for each portrayal) and needed to spend a lot of time studying the character,” she says. Despite the series being based on the webcomic, Kim says she tried to avoid studying the character from the original work so as to create her version of the character. I knew that the global audience would respond to the series. And I hoped the Korean audience would feel the same way Kim Se-jeong “I felt like I wouldn’t have a chance to create my own character if I read the original work and see how she is portrayed in it,” she says. “But I did need to grasp why the original piece became a hit. I felt I needed to carry a sense of responsibility to keep the elements that made its fans like the original work.” The series has made a buzz with its comical scenes and cute romantic stories of the two leads and supporting characters, despite the cliché-ridden Cinderella plot. Kim says she knew that the series would find popularity with global audiences. “What I was more worried about was whether the Korean viewers would like the series. “The reason K-romance is popular abroad is that it follows everyday life. Rather than involving some big, dynamic plots, Korean romcom stories revolve around small, daily parts of our lives,” she says. “And Business Proposal did a good job in capturing those stories so I knew that the global audience would respond to the series. And I hoped the Korean audience would feel the same way and I’m grateful that we got such great responses from both locals and people abroad.” She adds that her great chemistry with her counterpart, Ahn, contributed to the quality of the series. “Our romance chemistry worked really well. A lot of the romantic scenes that made a buzz were improvised on the set,” she says. “He’s very considerate so we would work out the scenes that either of us felt uncomfortable with. We were able to come up with such lovely scenes by sharing our opinions.” Referring to the series as her “spring”, she says it has marked the end of her 20s. “So when I get into my 30s and … 50s, when I think of my 20s, I feel Business Proposal will be the first thing that will come to my mind.” Read the full story at The Korea Times.