When Shin Min-ah’s character in Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha moves to the town of Gongjin, she’s quickly misunderstood by the locals. They think her character, Yoon Hye-jin, is coldhearted and superficial, but it’s Hye-jin’s efforts to protect a patient that force her to leave Seoul and seek a less expensive location for a dental clinic.
“Yoon Hye-jin is a perfectionist who is extremely frank and has clear values,” said Shin. “She may come across as cold and stuck-up at first, but in reality, she is clumsy and soft-hearted. I find that really adorable about her and that’s what attracted me to the role.”
The actress admits that she shares quite a few traits with her character.
“I would say I’m 90% similar to Hye-jin,” Shin says with a laugh. “I may not be as straightforward as her, but I would like to see myself as soft-hearted and kind like her.”
Shin has appeared in the many popular dramas, including My Girlfriend Is a Nine-Tailed Fox, Arang and the Magistrate, Oh My Venus, Chief of Staff and Tomorrow, With You, playing such interesting characters as a gumiho (mythological nine-tailed fox) and a Joseon-era ghost. Challenging roles offer her a chance to move out of her comfort zone.
“I think there are times when I’m drawn to such roles, especially when I want to show a different side of me,” said Shin. “But I don’t always go for challenging roles. The most important question for me is how much I can relate to the character and how effectively I can portray the character.”
Whether she’s playing a gumiho or a dentist, the actress devotes considerable time to thinking about her character before shooting starts.
“When I first read the script, I try to find things that I can relate to,” said Shin. “After that, I spend the preparation period trying to better understand the story to develop deeper emotions about the role.”
Shin’s meticulous preparations sometimes involve physical training. She learned to dive for her recent film Diva and went to action school for the film My Mighty Princess. While playing Hye-jin in Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha did not require physical training, she did visit dental clinics to observe dentists and patients.
“How they interact with the patients, what kind of facial expressions they have, their actions, and so on,” said Shin. “I also got a lot of advice from the dentists that I know. Apart from that, I spent a lot of time trying to really understand Hye-jin, since her emotional development plays a key role in the plot.”
Shin began her career as a model for a teen magazine and quickly became one of Korea’s most in-demand commercial models. After appearing in several music videos for the k-pop band g.o.d, she made her acting debut in 2001 in the melodrama Beautiful Days, then appeared in the martial arts comedy film Volcano High. Despite acting for 20 years, she still occasionally feels nervous.
“As an actress, I can’t avoid feeling nervous and under pressure in front of the camera,” said Shin. “But there are moments when I find myself having a blast experimenting different ways on set. It makes me realize I’m more relaxed than I used to be and it thrills me. Putting the pressure aside, I feel happy when I’m able to focus on finding better ways to portray the role.”
In Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha her character encounters Gongjin’s ubiquitous handy man played by Kim Seon-ho. She doesn’t trust him at first, but he’s hard to avoid and it’s easy to see these characters are destined to find common ground. Kim attracted attention in 2020 when playing the second lead in the drama Start Up earned him loyal followers, as well as the nickname “good boy.”
“When I first saw Seon-ho on TV, he left such a refreshing impression on me and I became curious about him,” said Shin. “So I couldn’t have been more excited to get to work with him. He is brilliant in so many ways and also very thoughtful. He really put me at ease working together on set.”
Shin hopes that viewers will be as charmed by the story of Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha as she was.
“Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha sets itself apart because you get an intimate look at the colorful lives of the people living in Gongjin,” said Shin. “It’s also fun to watch the story of the main characters unfold through their interactions with their neighbors. That’s definitely something you can look forward to on our show.”