Following the success of Nam Joo Hyuk’s role in Start-Up and Kim Tae-ri in Mr. Sunshine comes a new highly anticipated drama uniting the two K-drama stars. Ahead of the drama’s Netflix global premiere, we had the chance to watch their press conference graced by its director and five leads.
Twenty-Five, Twenty-One showcases the late ’90s in all its glory: hunchback TVs, baggy pants, vivid colored tops, and a whole lot of retro aesthetic. The result is a drama brimming with nostalgia. It centers around a group of five young adults who navigate a life void of opportunities, but each with a determination to pursue their dreams against all odds.
Nam Joo Hyuk takes on the role of Back Yi-Jin, the eldest son who is set to become a reporter. But with his family gone bankrupt, he’s left without a choice but to shoulder the responsibility of fending for them.
Meanwhile, Kim Tae Ri plays Na Hee-do, a high school prodigy fencer resolved to compete in the nationals. While mismatched in their current life stages, both carry a burning passion to get to where they want to be. On their second meeting, at the ages of 25 and 21 respectively, they fall in love with each other, true to the drama’s title.
Created by Search: WWW’s writer and helmed by Jung Jee Hyun, the same director of You Are My Spring, they offer a new drama that will warm the hearts of viewers and a storyline that will resonate with the youth. It’s a coming-of-age drama that also reflects the reality of living during the financial crisis, a time that buried South Korea’s economy in a deep recession.
Despite its heavy overarching setting, the cast exudes an air of hopefulness. Expect the show to be a vibrant reflection of what it is to be young. In the trailer, the five friends show up together dressed in crop-tops and wide-legged pants, with their chins up. It gives off that familiar idealistic, wide-eyed version of ourselves: one that’s prepared to take on the world.
Kim Tae-Ri, returning to the small screen three years after Mr. Sunshine, shares, “Whatever you think of the youth, no matter what you wanna see, that will all be in our drama series.”
With the drama set in the ’90s, Kim also touches on how working on the elaborate set turned into a way to reminisce over her own childhood. Asked more about her character, Kim describes Hee-Do as a bold woman who knows exactly what she wants and is teeming with ambition. This is made clearer in the highlight reel, which momentarily transports you back to a time of simplicity. It starts off with Na Hee-do flipping open a fencing diary decorated with stickers. There’s a photograph of a group of friends on the front page, arms around one another.
The reel ends with a collage of refreshing scenes: the group sitting by a beach, the girls holding a sparkler as if to commemorate a new beginning, and Na Hee-Do and Back Yi-Jin playing together on the school grounds. It’s accompanied by a soundtrack that elicits a feeling of innocence. It leaves you pensive yet hopeful, which encapsulates the tone of the drama’s time period.
Nam’s character, just entering his early 20s, is often seen dragged around by his high school friends. When asked what his character must have felt, navigating a different life stage than his peers, he shares their contagious energy makes Back’s concerns lighter, and allows him to unload the weight on his shoulders.
Nam discusses some of his preparations for the drama: “I did a lot of research on fashion from back then, and visited the vintage market myself. I was actually surprised, I was trying to look like someone from the ’90s, but learned that the fashion is still in vogue in Korea now.”
He shies away from sharing a particular scene from the show, smiles, and says he usually makes the mistake of giving out a spoiler — but asks us to wait and see how their endearing story pans out. With a show focused on growth amid challenging times, Nam reveals the kind of mindset he himself had in his early 20s, one that allowed him to grow to where he is now: “I wasn’t afraid of taking on challenges, and that became the biggest resource in my life” — a piece of advice that he also wants to impart to the youth.
Twenty-Five, Twenty-One is an ode to restoring possibilities to a life where hopes and dreams have been snatched away, to which director Jung concludes: “Anyone can fail, anyone can succeed. Bring back the memories of the past, but also appreciate the present.”
Twenty-Five, Twenty-One premieres on Netflix on Feb. 12.