Nia DaCosta rediscovered her love of Korean dramas during the Covid pandemic, picking back up with a TV genre that she’d especially been a fan of during her teenage years. Friends told the future director of The Marvels that she needed to check out Itaewon Class — a 2020 Netflix series with a David vs. Goliath story about an ex-con and his friends who try to get a diner off the ground and make it a success in Seoul’s trendy Itaewon district. The lead actor, Park Seo-joon, ended up wowing DaCosta so much that she remembered him when her opportunity to direct The Marvels arrived.
“Seo-joon’s acting in [Itaewon Class] really impressed me,” DaCosta told South Korean film magazine Cine21. “When I was offered to direct The Marvels, I thought hard on who to choose for the role of Prince Yan. Then, suddenly, Park Seo-joon came to my mind.”
For those of us who are constantly devouring the latest K-dramas on streamers like Netflix, that’s a feeling we have no trouble understanding. Ask any fan of the genre to list their favorite actors, and I guarantee you that PSJ, as he’s sometimes affectionately referred to, will be somewhere on that list — and most likely near the very top. He’s been in everything from Bong Joon-ho’s 2019 film Parasite to the drama series Record of Youth, as well as Zen-inducing reality shows like Jinny’s Kitchen and In the Soop: Friendcation.
His most recent roles include this year’s Netflix movie Dream, in which he stars alongside Korean pop star IU as a soccer coach.
In The Marvels, his character Prince Yan has been a bit shrouded in mystery. “We very purposefully didn’t give much information [about Prince Yan],” the director said, speaking with Korea JoongAng Daily. “He is the sovereign ruler of a foreign planet, and he and [Captain Marvel] have a deep history. They both care a lot about the people that they are protecting, and that’s where they connect.”
It’s certainly easy to see why she chose him for the role.
PSJ has a combination of movie star good looks, charisma, and a boyish smile, all of which have allowed him to play everything from romantic leads to heartthrobs, friends, and much more. After watching him in The Marvels this weekend, fans can also check him out in new episodes of Jinny’s Kitchen, which are coming to Prime Video on Nov. 12. For that show, he joined a group of Korean celebrities (including Tae-hyung of BTS) in opening a Korean street food restaurant in a beautiful town in Mexico. That formula, at least for me, turned the show into one of the most feel-good and relaxing of the year.