Jaejoong (Triangle, Dr. Jin) is turning to espionage for his next role. KBS has decided to remake an Israeli drama called Gordin Cell, which has recently also sold remake rights to the U.S. under the title M.I.C.E (which stands for Money, Ideology, Coercion, Ego), and put Spy in the Friday night lineup with Jaejoong as a genius analyst with complicated allegiances.
The source material is very interesting. Gordin Cell is about a Russian-Israeli Air Force officer whose family had emigrated from Russia before he was born to Israel. He has no idea that his parents are spies. When his parents’ past comes back to haunt them, they are forced to hand their son over to the KGB, which puts him in a very conflicted position: will he have to betray his parents or betray his country?
In Spy, the focus will be more on the mother-son relationship. The story has also been adapted to be a fictional account of Jang Sung Taek, a leading North Korean government official who was executed by order of Kim Jong Un in December 2013. Talk about dramatizing current events; there is no doubt Spy is going to be one heavy drama. Jaejoong will play NIS agent named Sun Woo, whose mother Hye Rim (played by Bae Jong Ok of That Winter the Wind Blows), is a former North Korean spy. Yoo Oh Sung (Joseon Gunman) will play a North Korean agent who was Hye Rim’s former lover, and will find himself at odds with Sun Woo.
I’m really pleased with the cast if it weren’t for Jaejoong. Then again, I have to admit that he did show improvement in acting over the course of Triangle but the script also ruined him and his character. But hopefully being with Bae Jong Ok and Yoo Oh Sung he will up his acting game even more and hold his own against the two of them. I’m particularly interested in seeing Bae Jong Ok as a spy since that’s not really her image. While she will have plenty of maternal scenes, I’m hoping to see more of her being a heartless agent.
Another thing that’s pretty cool is how Israeli dramas are really kicking up a storm in the remake world. Prisoners of War has become the highly successful Homeland series, and two more shows – Yellow Peppers and Reaching For Heaven – have been picked up by BBC and Sundance respectively for remake purposes. America has been remaking so many international dramas, from Nordic dramas (like The Bridge) to French dramas (Les Revenants becoming Resurrection) to even Korean dramas (none made, all in development stages), so it’s nothing new as an American viewer to discover that they’re remaking Gordin Cell. On the other hand, it’s kind of cool to see Korean broadcasters jumping into that game and adapting stories outside of Asia. We’ve seen Korea adapt Japanese and Taiwanese dramas, as well as mangas, webtoons, films, and books. But it’s not often you find Korea adapting an Israeli drama.
Spy is slated to air in January after High School Love On, which should have ended weeks ago but hasn’t thanks to countless of broadcast changes and delays. It’s kind of maddening that that drama has gone on for so long, and one hopes the same doesn’t happen to Spy. Considering it’s an action-spy thriller, momentum and pace is integral to telling a good story too, and broadcast delays are quite the enemy. I am left to wonder if Friday nights are really a good night to air dramas considering all the possible broadcast interruptions that could happen – sports games, awards shows, etc. But no one can stand in the way of KBS trying to monetize one more night with dramas and keep up with the competition from cable channels.