Playing the role of the main antagonist in a popular TV drama or movie can be a double-edged sword for young actresses: It can launch them to stardom, but also pigeonhole them as villains for the rest of their career.
However, the gambit seems to have paid dividends for Baek Jin-hee, who recently appeared as the vicious Tanasili in the MBC soap "The Empress Ki."
The role has finally established her as one of the most sought-after actresses among her peers, and has garnered her more publicity than certain risque choices made earlier in her career. Notably, she once exposed her rear end in the MBC sitcom "High Kick 3: The Short Legs Strike Back."
"We've been receiving offers for her to star in main roles for several TV soap operas and shows," said a spokesperson for her agency Snowball Entertainment.
Actresses who have successfully launched their careers by playing wicked women on screen have usually had at least two things in common. First, they picked the right script, as the respective dramas have all proven hugely popular. Second, the role has been greatly at odds with their previous on-screen persona.
In the case of Baek, who is known for her round face and cute looks, it would have been difficult to picture her as a cold-blooded, merciless woman before she inhabited the role in such an animated and credible manner. But her attention to detail has brought Tanasili to life and won over audiences.
Han Hee, the producer of "The Empress Ki," said, "I think people found it surprising and unexpected that she could do so well playing such a bad character."
Actresses must also add a new layer of depth to the role to make it a success. Audiences no longer find it credible to see two-dimensional characters driven purely by jealousy or a naturally malicious nature. If the actress can convince viewers that the character has a good reason for the questionable decisions they take, then viewers will be more willing to go along for the ride.
Cho Hoon-yeon, the casting director for "The Empress Ki," said, "People have had enough of seeing women yell and scream with murderous looks in their eyes."