Exclusive Interview: How K-Dramas like ‘Gangnam Project’ Show The Hardships of The Korean Entertainment Industry

Credit: Gangnam Project, CBC

With K-Dramas continuing to dominate streaming services like Netflix and gaining more and more attention abroad, it is no surprise to see more Korean-based content arising in other countries.

Classic dramas like Itaewon Class or the latest crazes such as Queen of Tears enticed fans with their formula-driven storylines and well-executed plot twists that kept us engaged and wanting more. Now, a new series by the name of Gangnam Project is here to take the K-Drama baton and lead the way.

Released by CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), Gangnam Project tells the story of a spirited Canadian/Korean teen with dreams of becoming a K-pop star and connecting with her Korean heritage. We expect it to be much more engaging than the spectacle that was Netflix’s XO, Kitty. But don’t just take my word for it, watch the official trailer below and dive right into our exclusive interview with the cast lead Julia Kim Caldwell and musical producer August Rigo who has worked with BTS and SEVENTEEN.

Q. What was it like working with the Gangnam Project cast and creating music for a unique series?

AUGUST RIGO: “It was so much fun. They all had varying degrees of experience in the studio but whether it was their first time or not, the whole cast really excelled at their performances. I was so pleasantly surprised. It was such a pleasure to work with them because they were so receptive and humble and allowed me to really help them mold the performances to their characters.”

Q. Can you tell us more about your experience of working with other artists such as BTS, SEVENTEEN, and more?

AUGUST RIGO: “My experience working with BTS, SEVENTEEN, and other K-pop artists has been amazing. An absolute privilege to work with them first off. K-Pop in general has allowed me to work a lot of creative writing muscles because of the varying subgenres within the overall K-Pop field. It’s also been a great learning experience writing for the various artists and groups.”

Q. What is your favorite song from this series? Can you reveal which song was the highlight of all the tracks?

AUGUST RIGO: “My favorite song from the series is ‘Butterfly.’ Written by Romeo and produced by myself. I like the juxtaposition with a soft romantic song and a slightly jungle/drum and bass beat. The highlight though is the finale song ‘We Found Each Other.’ I love that it’s like Voltron when they come together and each one of the characters has their moment to shine.”

Q. For Julia Kim Caldwell, can you tell us how you felt about acting in Gangnam Project? How did you prepare for the role?

Credit: Gangnam Project, CBC

JULIA: “I loved acting in Gangnam Project. This is my first TV show so I admit I was pretty nervous when we started filming! But everyone in the cast and crew was so incredibly kind and so generous with their knowledge. After the nerves, stepping into the role of Hannah Shin came easily. I have a background in musical theater so I loved the dancing and singing. Since auditioning for the show, I’ve felt such a deep connection with my character. I’m such a massive K-Pop fan and honestly, Hannah is just me at 16 – if all my trainee dreams had come true!”

Q. How do you feel about the story and character Hannah in Gangnam Project?

JULIA: “I honestly keep saying I wish I had a show like Gangnam Project when I was young. Everything – the story, the characters, the songs and the dance – is just so much fun. I think the story has so much heart because the show’s creator Sarah Haasz added so much of her personal experience into the story. Also, all the characters feel so tight-knit and I think a large part of that comes from the fact that we became such a family on set.”

Q. What was it like working and recording with August Rigo?

JULIA: “I am a total August Rigo fangirl, I can’t lie. I feel so fortunate to have gotten to work with him. For years, I’ve been listening to songs he’s composed so getting to sing original pieces of his was absolutely incredible. But beyond being a lyrical genius, he’s just so kind and so humble about his work – he makes you feel like a superstar when you’re recording.”

Q. Is there a deeper message you want fans to see or understand from the show?

Credit: Gangnam Project, CBC

AUGUST RIGO: “The deeper message I’d like for fans to see is the amount of work it takes for these artists. I’ve seen it firsthand and the show does a great job of depicting the experience of a trainee, though in a very condensed form. There is also a very human and personal aspect of the artist’s journey that you get to see in the show that we don’t necessarily see once a polished act gets released.”

JULIA: “I’m so excited for people to get to watch our show. Beyond being an incredibly fun show that you’ll want to sing and dance along to, our show shines a light on how difficult it can be to be young and feel like you don’t fit in anywhere. At the end of the day, Gangnam Project transcends just talking about K-Pop or even Korean culture – it’s about embracing your roots and being true to who you are.”

Q. How do you feel about Korean entertainment becoming a global phenomenon? How has K-Pop changed your life?

AUGUST RIGO: “Korean entertainment has definitely changed my life and my workflow. When I first started going to Korea and doing K-Pop, the music was in a very different place (K-Pop 10 years ago). I love that it’s become a part of the mainstream. I feel like on a human level, it’s really broken down some barriers. I’ve focused a lot of my energy now into the K-Pop industry and have been enjoying my own personal growth in it along with being able to see firsthand its evolution.”

JULIA: “It’s been so surreal to see the rise of Korean entertainment in the West. It’s absolutely changed my life, especially as an artist. Seeing how much people embrace Korean culture has given me so much self-confidence. And having grown up with it my whole life, it’s so fun to watch people discovering it for the first time – and seeing it again through their eyes.”

With that, the cast of Gangnam Project was excited to share a final message with their long-time followers and viewers of their show!

Credit: Gangnam Project, CBC

AUGUST RIGO: “Everyone involved worked really hard and really gave top-notch performances. From the top down, it’s an amazing cast and show. I encourage everyone to go watch it. You won’t be disappointed.”

JULIA: “This show has been such a labor of love. Everyone has put their heart and soul into this project because we all so deeply believe in what we’ve created. We all have loved making Gangnam Project and I hope everyone out there will love it too!

For anyone who loves K-pop and has a dream of being an idol, Gangnam Project is truly a show that shouldn’t be left unnoticed. Perhaps more and more series will be able to run because Gangnam Project took the first big steps of highlighting the Korean Entertainment industry in a unique and positive way.

Don’t forget to follow the cast to keep up with their personal projects and learn more about the show. The series is now currently available on CBC and BBC iPlayer since February 26th of this year and on CBC Gem as of March 8th.

Follow us for more content and stay tuned for our next exclusive interviews!

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