By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Yonhap) -- The Netflix drama series "Mask Girl" tells a tragic and ironic story featuring flawed characters whose bad choices lead to catastrophic consequences to explore the complexities of human nature, its director said Wednesday.
The crime thriller is based on the eponymous webtoon by writer Maemi and illustrator Hee Se. It follows Kim Mo-mi, an office worker who thinks she is not "beautiful" enough and moonlights as a masked internet personality to pursue her long-held dream of being in the spotlight.
But she confronts a series of ill-fated events and receives plastic surgery to hide her identity.
Her epic story is depicted by three actors -- rookie Lee Han-byeol for Mo-mi before her plastic surgery, singer-actor Nana for Mo-mi after the surgery, and veteran Go Hyun-jung for Mo-mi after spending several decades in jail.
"Mask Girl" ranked No. 2 on Netflix's non-English TV show chart for last week, recording 2.8 million views in three days since its release Friday.
In a group media interview, director-writer Kim Yong-ho said "Mask Girl" not only deals with lookism in Korean society but also delves into the complicated human nature through the rich narratives of its different characters.
"I first thought that the original webtoon took issue with lookism, but the underlying theme dealt with a more universal theme of duality and duplexity of human nature," Kim said. "I think how beauty is perceived may vary depending on different perspectives."
While Kim Mo-mi is the main protagonist, some episodes are dedicated to other characters, such as Ju Oh-Nam (Ahn Jae-hong), her co-worker who becomes a victim of a murder case, and Kim Kyung-ja (Yeom Hye-ran), and his mother who plots an elaborate revenge scheme.
The director said each episode tells the story of Kim Mo-mi with different faces and people around her in order to show the process of the characters' transformation.
"Were these people born this way? I wanted to show the journey," Kim said. "Was Mo-mi's transformation solely her own issue? What about Joo Oh-nam? I wanted to shed light on their motivations and tell their stories, rather than just focusing on their actions."
One of the challenges for the project was finding the right actors for Mo-mi in different phases of her life.
Newcomer Lee was selected from 1,000 applicants and went through intensive physical and dance training sessions. Go, who has mostly taken leading roles, accepted the three-in-one character to have a new experience, he said.
"I wanted them to feel like both one person and different characters. I thought Mo-mi would transform into a different personality after the murder and undergo further changes after spending several decades in prison. So I decided to cast three actors for the character," he said.
Kim, known for the 2020 crime thriller "Beasts Clawing at Straws," said he is naturally drawn into stories that put an unflinching eye on complicated human nature as people have both good and evil in them.
"It is confusing whether Mo-mi's life in the workplace is real or the life behind the mask is real," As I am also a person of ambiguity, I take interest in these kinds of characters."