ENGD Company producer talks about BL experience in Korea through Where Your Eyes Linger, possibility of a new season and next Korean BLs

Anyone who is part of the Asian drama universe has probably noticed the popularity of the BL (Boy’s Love) genre on the continent and its lack of examples in South Korean entertainment. 

With a history that goes longer than 20 years of acclaimed productions inside and outside the country, Korea received what many consider its first BL drama only now in 2020: Where Your Eyes Linger.

Producer Chang Jae-eun, part of Energedic Company, which was at the forefront of WYEL’s drama development, talked exclusively to K4US about how it was the experience of working with the genre: from its challenges to the surprising global reception.

Can Where your eyes linger get a new season? Can we expect new Korean BLs? Check out the interview to know what is to come!

Where Your Eyes Linger Interview

Firstly, we would like to thank ENGD for the opportunity and your availability in talking to K4US about Where Your Eyes Linger. This was South Korea’s first Boys Love drama, right? How did you get to know this story and what convinced you to turn it into a K-Drama?

First of all, thanks for the interest in Where Your Eyes Linger and the request for this interview.

As you know, globally, there are already high appraisals of the value of K-drama and popularity. Besides, BL genre have made sure of the various and solid fan bases in not just our country, but in Southeast Asia and the Americas as well. I have wished for these two elements to be combined, and then there would be much bigger far-reaching power. Especially, I thought that if the BL genre was based on a Romantic Comedy style, that was preferred in K-Dramas, and produced it like that, it would be more enjoyable. So I started to make a plan from 2019.

Even though I predicted that, [the story] came to have high synergy effect, I had a little difficulty on looking for BL references in Korea. Meanwhile, I came to meet a producer and a writer who had the same idea as us [ENGD Company] about the topic. The writer wrote about the master-servant relationship, which is romance world’s fantasy material. And the director dramatized and produced it. Finally the present WYEL (Where Your Eyes Linger) came into the world.

Where Your Eyes Linger had amazing outreach and big support, especially amongst internacional fans. Did you already expect this reception from outside of your country? What about in Korea, how did the public react?

I hadn’t anticipated gaining global love like this. On this occasion, I would like to tell fans who have loved WYEL: thanks again. The reaction within-country was also hot. Frankly, I didn’t expect a lot of fans who love BL in the country.

Although we couldn’t heavily promote it on our own, internal and external fans did it on their own through SNS, Youtube and blogs. By going viral, more people could be exposed to WYEL and as a result, WYEL has come to be loved.

We know that Boys Love has been a genre deeply explored in other Asian countries in the past few years. Do you believe that Korea had any type of resistance to portray this kind of narrative until now?

There was no such thing like resistance while planning and preparing for this drama. Actually it was natural that Korea sentiment made it a little hard to have conditions of production and approach to the BL genre. But I think these parts will improve fully in a few years. I believe BL will get approval and much bigger love from the public.

Because it’s an unusual genre in Korea, did you, who took part in this starting point, had any different preparation process for the development of the drama? Did you have to search about homoaffective relationships, about making this more accessible for the public, and about how to represent those issues in a respective way?

Our biggest worry and issue for making scripts was how excellent Korean romance would fuse into BL genre. We got to grasp BL fans needs and also worried about the broadcast levels a lot. On each occasion, we keep agonizing.

As a result, we decided to aim not ‘BOY LOVE’, but ‘Korean boys’ romantic comedy love’. And the story was required for this possibility. Thanks to that little aim, love and skinship could have come more naturally.

If people consider WYEL like this, I think we can intend to focus on good script and direction and hit the bull’s eyes.

The drama approaches the LGBTQIA+ issue in a very light way, showing the evolution of the romance between the characters, but also shows the difficulties they face in order to live this love freely. This story can represent the experience of a lot of queer people that, untill now, didn’t get to see themselvels on media. Do you think that exploring the story in a human and natural way can help breaking those social prejudices?

I didn’t make this work to break the prejudice of people in the beginning. Lots of people recall romantic comedy as the love between males and females. But I just changed the subject as a relationship between male and male. As I mentioned earlier, we moved toward boys’ romantic comedy love, and we emphasized on fresher, sweeter, and funnier scenes than the existing works [dramas]. 

I think if then, the public could come closer to the genre, and when the see it positively, they could naturally form a bond of sympathy and then see the social issues differently.

Besides the good chemistry between the production crew, we know that it’s also important to have a good cast for the drama’s performance. How was the casting for the protagonists and their other scene partners?

The leading actors Jang Eui Su and Han Gi Chan who were selected from several auditions were matched up with the role of ‘Gook’ and ‘Taeju’. It was possible for them to feel uncomfortable*, but they consistently communicated with the director at the set all the time. They did wonders in their roles as I expected.

*It’s good to remember that in an interview to Dazed Korea, the actors have both talked about the experience in acting on a gay romance. And the answer couldn’t be more positive.

Jang Eui Su was perfectly ‘Gook’ from appearance to body shape. After auditioning with long hair at first, Jang Eui Su had a haircut. And then he became the perfect ‘Gook’. I remember that he was the one who was the most passionate at the set.

Han Gi Chan was self-confident and very similar to ‘Taeju’ as a basic tendency. He showed us the feeling that we expected without anxiety in front of cameras, even though it was his first audition.

Choi Yeon Cheong as ‘Hyemi‘ is the one who got a recommendation. Hyemi’s role was not the four-dimensional character from the beginning, but after repeated script readings, her four-dimensional character was made. It helped the character to be more attractive because she fit in with the actress.

Chun Jae Young as ‘Philhyun‘ who belongs to our company did not care about casting at the start. The early script contained the story of two men and somewhat a sad melodrama but the director gave an opinion that this drama should have a more upbeat and light tone. And then ‘Philhyun’ character was added. At first, the character didn’t take charge of the comic part. But through the meetings, the character was finally born. 

Even though the casting of ‘Philhyun’ was crucial as much as leading roles, there were no satisfying actors in the auditions.

We had carried on a discussion until we decided on the actor. On searching for the adequate actor, we carefully recommended Chun Jae Young to the director. She was pleased with him at the first meeting. And then the casting was completed.

It had gone well with the atmosphere of the work thanks to Chun Jae Young to play a funny and indispensable role at the film set. I think no matter who does see Chun Jae Young, they would cast him in for the role of ‘Philhyun’ even if Chun Jae Young doesn’t belong to my company.

You might also like: LGBTQIA+ representation grows in the Korean indie scene

After the drama release, the story was compiled into a movie. Is it true that this movie version is also available on Netflix Korea? For you, what is the significance of this story getting into such important catalogs such as Netflix and Viki?

After the drama was released, the movie version was proposed at the 24th The Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival. The director’s cut version is possible to watch on Netflix. It is an honor as a producer to have the work airing powerful platforms such as VIKI and NETFLIX. Isn’t it so attractive for more people to watch our drama?

As a producer with big desire, I only appreciate that the work I have no regrets has been distributed throughout many sites like this. But more importantly are all the moments of the production process, such as completing the scripts, casting, and visual beauty. I’m just very proud for everything.

On social media we can see a lot of fans asking for a second season of Where Your Eyes Linger. Is that a possibility that we can dream about?

Our company would like to communicate with more fans. If a lot of fans wish and hope for Season 2 isn’t it possible that this day will come?

Korean BLs: What’s coming?

Besides amusing and entertaining, we understand that WYEL also has the power to represent a whole community that is not often seen in the Korean media. How do you feel about taking LGBTQIA+ issues to a global public?

As I mentioned before, we don’t think we can take some roles in LGBTQIA+ issues to a global public. If WYEL and the next works also get love consistently, maybe we can. And I think that’s enough. Maybe such social issues will naturally fuse into the global public.

Speaking on behalf of the public that much supported WYEL, we can assure you that there is an anticipation regarding next ENGD projects. Are there more Boys Love coming? Which other drama genres can we expect?

There are works of planning and preparation. Simply speaking, the script being completed which genre is a romantic comedy, a school life genre is in the stage of planning, an office genre is on script, and we’re ambitiously preparing for the story of an high school band. The high school band’s story is especially ready not only for a drama production but also to debut as real singers. Indeed every work is BL genre.

Now, all the referred works are trying to attract investment. We anticipate the day we will meet again.

We have appreciated your love of our first work Where Your Eyes Linger. We will promise you higher completion of works and we are supposed to meet you with varied results. And then, we hope you send the love invariably to all these works as well. Especially from new works. We will meet you with ENGD exclusive OTT [content] for the global public.
I want to ask you to anticipate them a lot.

Chang Jae-eun – ENGD Company

K4US appreciates the availability of ENGD Company to talk to us, bringing a honest perspective on the growing Korean Boys Love amongst the K-Drama universe.

Interview by Bea | K4US Editorial team.
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