Actresses Lee Eun-saem & Red Velvet's Yeri in singapore

SINGAPORE – They may face off as rival schoolgirls engaged in a fierce power struggle in the suspenseful K-drama Cheongdam International High School.

But off-screen, South Korean actresses Kim Ye-rim, 24, better known as Yeri from K-pop girl group Red Velvet, and Lee Eun-saem, 23, who played a foul-mouthed delinquent battling a zombie outbreak in her school in the hit Netflix K-drama All Of Us Are Dead (2022), are best friends.

In Cheongdam International High School, rich and powerful queen bee Baek Jen-na (Kim) targets and bullies transfer student Kim Hye-in (Lee), who comes from an underprivileged background and aims to climb the social ladder.

The two end up as enemies in the titular elite school, complete with physical altercations and verbal assaults.

The series is showing on Wednesdays at 8pm on tvN Asia (Singtel TV Channel 518 and StarHub TV Channel 824), with the final two episodes airing on June 28.

Despite the seething hatred between Jen-na and Hye-in, the co-stars – who are in Singapore to promote the show – ended up bonding during filming.

At a press conference held at InterContinental Singapore on Friday to promote the show, Kim expressed gratitude for their close friendship.

“Since we’re of the same age, we got close quickly and we relied on each other a lot while shooting the drama. We’ve actually met a couple of times off the set as well. Recently, we went to eat and take (photos at the) black-and-white photo booth in Korea. I always have a fun time whenever I hang out with her.”

Lee said she had trouble holding in her laughter with Kim on set, especially when she saw such a stark contrast between Kim and Jen-na’s personalities.

While Kim describes Jen-na as “princess-y”, Lee calls Kim in a separate interview with The Straits Times “small, cute and excitable”.

South Korean actresses Kim Ye-rim (left) and Lee Eun-saem speaking to the media during the press conference at InterContinental Singapore on June 23, 2023. ST PHOTO: BRIAN TEO

The two actresses could not be more different from their characters, explained Lee, who won Best New Actress at the SBS Drama Awards for the television series Cheer Up (2022).

“Hye-in and I have totally different personalities. When I first read the script, I felt that a lot of her actions were illogical and irrational. I think the audience would think so too. But I had to remind myself that this is her logic. This is what makes the show more interesting too, just seeing what she does next.”

The shoot was full of physical demands as well, as it took place during winter. Filming extended into the wee hours of the night too, in order to avoid peak crowds at popular locations.

Kim had also been concurrently preparing for her global tour, Red Velvet 4th Concert: R To V, with her band. But she said it was not too difficult to balance her dual roles as actress and singer, as she viewed them as two separate, different worlds.

Lee Eun-saem in Cheongdam International High School. PHOTO: TVN ASIA

Last in town in April for the Singapore leg of Red Velvet’s tour, she will be making a special appearance at B4 Ion Station, Ion Orchard, on Saturday at 2pm for a fan meet, alongside Lee.

“This is my first evil role,” said Kim, who starred in dramas like Blue Birthday (2021) and variety shows such as Secret Unnie (2018) and Law Of The Jungle In Thailand (2019).

“I wanted to take on the challenge to show my fans a variety of sides, and I hope to continue receiving love and support from them.”

She added that fellow Red Velvet member Shon Seung-wan, better known as Wendy, has been supporting her through her acting journey by watching all the episodes of Cheongdam International High School and other shows she has been in.

“She thought I was suitable for (this) role,” said Kim, who would like to dabble in the fantasy genre next.

Kim Ye-rim in Cheongdam International High School. PHOTO: TVN ASIA

Lee, who hopes for a chance to act in more action shows and possibly play an athlete, said one of her most memorable moments on Cheongdam International High School comes in the finale.

“It’s when Hye-in finally smiles, for the first time in the show. I’m glad she finally got a chance to do that.”

Cheongdam International High School is showing on Wednesdays at 8pm on tvN Asia (Singtel TV Channel 518 and StarHub TV Channel 824), with the final two episodes airing on June 28.

Text: Deon Loke/The Straits Times