Things seem pretty simple at the start of the Disney k-drama The Worst of Evil. Jun-mo, played by Ji Chang-wook seems like a good guy, a police officer who has managed to rise above the circumstances of his birth and is willing to go undercover to vanquish a vicious gang. The person he must get close to is Gi-cheul, the charismatic gangster played by Wi Ha-jun. It’s dangerous because Gi-cheul is a criminal with no compunctions about killing those who get in his way or betray him. But it’s not that simple, really.
Jun-mo’s motives are less about doing the right thing than they are about impressing his wife’s family. His wife is a fellow police officer, played by Lim Se-mi. To prove himself to Gi-cheul and succeed at his undercover mission, Jun-mo must engage in violent and criminal acts that slowly change him. Viewers may be surprised by how far he’s willing to venture into the criminal underworld, but Ji never thought of Jun-mo as a good guy.
“I set aside the thought that Jun-mo is a nice guy and a righteous person,” said Ji. “This complex entanglement of relationships and emotions is what eventually pushes this guy to change. When I leave out his sense of duty and justice as police, I think all there is left of him is pure instincts. He seemed all nice and kind-hearted, but I later filled him with strong feelings like instinctive desires and selfishness.”
Jun-mo pretends to be Seung-ho, a cousin of a dead gang member Gi-cheul was close to. Ji plays a remorseless gangster with conviction, all the while letting some of Jun-mo’s anxiety, resentment and jealousy shimmer through. It’s a multilayered performance that effectively relays a truth about his character.
“Since Jun-mo goes undercover as Seung-ho, I wanted some facets of Jun-mo to show through in my portrayal of Seung-ho,” said Ji. “That I thought was key to portraying these dual roles. I totally agree with you that people have different sides to them and harbor many ‘layers.’ I kept communicating with the crew to make sure those layers and facets would show through in passing moments.”
The two men develop a complex relationship further complicated by the fact that Jun-mo’s wife turns out to be Gi-cheul’s first love. Jun-mo lies and manipulates Gi-cheul to earn his trust. As Gi-cheul comes to rely on him emotionally, it’s easy to see how much Jun-mo despises him. They would never have been friends in real life.
“It seems like Gi-cheul trusts him and respects him,” said Ji. “But that was partly because Gi-cheul was a target to Seung-ho, or Jun-mo, who had to gain that trust. If they were on the same side, Gi-cheul wouldn’t be someone Seung-ho would be after, and we can’t be sure Seung-ho would have earned so much trust from Gi-cheul.”
Part of the way Jun-mo gains that trust is by fighting on Gi-cheul’s side in the drama’s many vicious gang battles. That meant many action scenes for Ji. He’s no stranger to action scenes having done quite a few in previous dramas such as Healer or The K2. His past dramas have included many fast and furious chase scenes, duels and gun battles.
“Action sequences are really challenging so I dare not say I like filming them,” said Ji. “Still, I don’t not like them! For action sequences, it’s critical to get that choreography right to stay safe so we put a lot of effort in rehearsing the scenes and talked a lot among ourselves. I wasn’t too surprised at the final output because I kept monitoring my takes on set. The corridor scene in episode nine was very difficult to shoot as it was a long one-take shot, and I was a bit disappointed since you can’t really see the action up close in the show. Still, I think that way it really shed light on the entangled relationships among the characters.”
Lately Ji has expanded his repertoire with varied projects, such as The Sound of Magic, Backstreet Rookie, and If You Wish Upon Me.
“I wouldn’t say my standards for choosing a role have changed, but it’s fun for me to find a new side of me through different roles,” he said. “I think I would keep trying something, and probably something new.”
Ji can soon be seen playing a weather forecaster in the romantic comedy Welcome To Samdalri, co-starring Shin Hye-sun. It airs in December. His long resume of dramas also includes Empress Ki, Lovestruck in the City, Melting Me Softly, and Suspicious Partner.
The Worst of Evil is shown on Disney internationally and can be seen in the US on Hulu.