All roads lead to ruin in Death’s Game. The Seo In-guk and Park So-dam-led fantasy-drama, which is adapted from a webtoon of the same name, follows Seo’s downtrodden Choi Yee-jae who attempts suicide after facing a string of failures in both his career and personal lives. But little does he know that his misery is far from over as his decision is met with the wrath of Park’s Death herself.
The eight-episode series takes viewers on a wild ride as Choi is brought back to life for a sadistic game of death where he lives 12 different lives and is tasked to stop their imminent deaths. It’s a form of punishment that leads to several heart-racing sequences including the fight scenes—all of which were filmed sans special visual effects, according to director Ha Byung-hoon.
Death’s Game is especially poignant given Park’s own experience battling papillary thyroid cancer a couple of years back. She spoke briefly about that particular moment in her life, “Honestly, the recovery was difficult. I think people who have had the same experience as me will understand what it’s like.” Read on for more as we sat down with the actors during a recent virtual interview.
What about this drama and the characters that made you want to sign on?
Park (P): Usually when I get a script, I tend to focus on the role I’d be playing. However, with this one, I was immediately immersed in the narrative as it was extremely relatable. I found myself following Choi’s emotional arc very closely and intensely—and crying without even noticing—when I read the script. I just wanted to give him a big hug. So I was very eager to play the character who is capable of making him understand and express those feelings.
Seo (S): I was a fan of the original webtoon series when it came out, so I was excited when I heard it would be turned into a live-action series—and of course when I was cast in the leading role. I was drawn to how the series carries a message and I liked how Choi goes through 12 lives and deaths—the way he just faces it and experiences them all, and how he brings out such extreme emotions.
How is your role in Death’s Game different from the other roles you’ve played?
S: All of the other characters I’ve played in my career were living in the present. Choi, on the other hand, goes through the afterlife. He goes through 12 different lives in 12 different bodies and he becomes someone who yearns for life. So while I was able to portray a wide range of emotions up to now, it’s even more extreme this time around.
P: It wouldn’t be right to say that this is my first non-human character. I’ve had multiple evil spirits living inside me in The Priests and I played a vampire in Let Me In. But, it is my first non-human role that teaches and enlightens a human being. Death is a vessel for Choi to learn a lesson and seek help. So I’d say in that sense, this is the first character of her kind that I’ve portrayed.
How did you prepare for your roles?
S: I found that all the answers to understanding and portraying the extreme emotions were within the script. I’m the type of person who sticks to the script anyway. I also had a lot of conversations with the director and Park on set.
P: With my character, you can’t tell what age she is or what kind of capabilities she has, so I tried to focus on the script and understand the emotions of both characters. Death doesn’t necessarily experience human emotions but she is still receptive and responds to the emotions expressed through Choi.
Which storyline particularly captured your attention?
S: It would be the character played by the actor Kim Jae-wook. I thought that this character was the most intense and there was a lot of charm and appeal to him that we could bring to the screen.
What are some of Choi’s qualities would you say you admire?
S: I would say the way he carries himself through the 12 rounds of judgement and the fact that he has a strong desire for life towards the end.
Death appears to be a character that instils fear in people. Are you more approachable in real life?
P: I don’t know if you’ve seen The Priests but even my friends told me that they were scared of me in that show. I’m very curious to see how people react to my character this time around. I don’t think I’m the type of person to instil fear. Rather, I get scared very easily. I’m a coward but no one will believe me.
If you were to meet Death in real life, would you accept the challenge?
S: Death is not someone you can say no to. What I’d probably do is just do my best to make it through so I can overcome whatever challenge is given to me.
P: I agree. What Death presents to you is absolute, so Choi is given no choice other than to say yes. I’d just focus on doing my best and think about how to live in the body I’m reincarnated in.
Which cast member would have the best chance to survive these games?
S: It’s definitely me.
P: I agree.
If you could be reincarnated into anything you want, who would it be?
S: For me, because I’m quite happy with my life, I’d love to be reborn as myself. If not, I’d like to be reincarnated as a bird.
P: That’s a tough question but I have the same answer. I’d want to be reborn as my dog, though.
What lessons did you learn from these 12-death experiences?
S: I’d say that one of the strong messages conveyed here is that we should all look back on our own lives. The days that we have…some of them are good, some are bad, and some are just ordinary, and I think we tend to remember only the good and the bad, but not so much the ordinary. We just let those days pass by. But through this drama, we’ll see that those mundane days are precious. I think that this is the message the viewers are going to resonate with.
Death’s Game is streaming on Prime Video now, with episodes 5 to 8 releasing on 5th January 2024.