Baffled. That’s what you may feel when you first watch Netflix’s original K-series The School Nurse Files.
But the plot quickly unfolds into a refreshing and surreal fantasy world that follows the story of lead character Ahn Eun-young (played by actress Jung Yu-mi), a school nurse with a supernatural ability to see “jellies” or monster-like creatures that others can’t see.
She comes across these jellies in the new high school she’s just started work in and battles them with, of all things, a rainbow-coloured toy sword and a BB gun. She also meets Hong In Pyo, a teacher who possesses a unique and protective aura. He later joins her to fight the monsters that endanger the school and its students.
Lead actors Jung Yu-mi and Nam Joo Hyuk, as well as director Lee Kyoung-Mi and author Chung Serang shed light on the series during a press conference yesterday morning (Sep 24).
It’s adapted from a book
The series is a live-action adaptation of award-winning novel School Nurse Ahn Eun-young by author Chung Serang.
It’s directed by filmmaker Lee Kyoung-mi, making it her first foray into creating a TV series. “It was a new challenge for me in every aspect. Until now, I have been the creator of my own stories.”
“The School Nurse Files is based on an original novel, and I was able to bring that imagination to life as a director — it gave me the opportunity to go deep into the writer’s mind. When I make movies, the story has to have a start and an end and be able to touch people within two hours. With the series, we had to fabricate each episode so that it would leave people wanting to watch more.”
A world of jellies
The premise of the series is based on the notion that people leave slime-like jelly wherever they go. “What I first thought of was the slime of a snail when it travels. I imagined there must be something leftover from all living things. And I wondered how it must be in a world like this. That is how it all began,” says writer Chung Serang.
What was a figment of Chung’s imagination has been turned into an imaginative and visually arresting world in The School Nurse Files. Said Director Lee, who was also inspired by real-life creatures, “When bringing them to the screen, I had a lot of thoughts about making them look convincing. Jellies have in fact been a part of our culture from a long time ago, with books and movies portraying jellies. I wanted to make them more fun for the audience, and to add character to them.”
In fact, she also took inspiration from SCP Foundation, a fictional organisation that is entrusted by governments around the globe to contain and study anomalies that violate the boundaries of the natural law.
Meet the lead characters
The role of Ahn Eun-young is played by Jung Yu-Mi, who is known for her roles in box office hits like Train to Busan and Kim Ji-young: Born 1982.
“Eun-young has a very ordinary name, but she has an extraordinary ability to see these jellies that other people cannot see. She’s a school nurse who starts working at this school, and she feels that there’s something mysterious there. She always carries a BB gun and a plastic sword with which she can defeat these jellies. She is in constant battle with the jellies and also because she was born into a destiny of having to see things that other people cannot see, she has to fight them,” Yu-Mi shares.
Nam Joo Hyuk plays Chinese characters teacher In-pyo, who is also the grandson of the founder of the school. He tells us, “He is surrounded by a unique aura, which can be used to “recharge” Eun Young’s power. He will be facing amazing and incredible events that happen at the school. And my character does something that unleashes a huge amount of jellies at the school and so he partners with Ahn Eun Young — he is like a helper to her — to fight this event at the school.”
The actors also divulged more about their first perceptions of the script.
Says Yu-mi,” When I first approached the story itself, it did seem very strange. But I loved the way it was bubbly and quirky, with many subjects dealt with in the story. I felt a lot of warmth, and really wanted to see how it would translate in live-action. I was very honoured and thankful, and wanted to make sure it touched the audience as the original novel did.”
For Joo Hyuk, it was the new and fresh subject matter that appealed to him. “I really wanted to take on the challenge of bringing this interesting character to life. I also wanted to work with Director Lee, and see how this could be brought to the screen.”
Jung Yu-mi wasn’t just at the top of the casting list for fans, she was favoured by writer Chung Serang, too. “It’s almost as if the role was made for her. It felt unreal to know she was cast. I couldn’t believe it when I saw them (the lead actors) in the series,” the writer says.
As for what they hope the audience would remember and take away from the series, they had this to say:
Yu-mi shares “As I was shooting the series and bringing the character to life, there were many things I enjoyed. Physically, there were many challenges. But when I stood in her shoes and tried to understand her, I felt empathy. I felt her loneliness in seeing things other people can’t see. Despite that, she takes bubbly steps to overcome it all. It has helped me in my life; when I face challenges, and when I think of Eun Young, I think of her as a friend who’s there for me.”
Director Lee adds, “After the first season, I’ll want the audience to question what adventures would be in store for the characters. There will be some trouble ahead, and the audience will get to see how they will work together. And as what Yu-mi said, as you live your daily life, when you feel stressed or fatigued, you will see Eun Young striding ahead even with the challenges she faces. And I hope seeing her will make the viewers feel comfort in their daily lives.”
All six episodes of The School Nurse Files air on Netflix today, Sep 25, 2020.