Starring Lee Dong Wook (Tale of the Nine Tailed (1983), Bad and Crazy, Tale of the Nine Tailed, Touch Your Heart, Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, Single in Seoul, A Year-End Medley) and Kim Hyejun (Connect, Kingdom Season 1 & 2, Into the New World, Sinkhole, Metamorphosis), A Shop for Killers is Disney+‘s latest 8-episode drama which is set in modern-day Korea. A Shop For Killers sees college student Jeong Jian (played by Kim Hyejun) diving for cover in her childhood home after a series of highly skilled assassins get her in their sites. Desperately fighting to survive, Jian will begin to remember invaluable lessons her uncle, Jeong Jinman (played by Lee Dong Wook) taught her before his apparent suicide, drawing on them to help her stay alive. Confused and cornered, Jian will have to work fast to uncover her uncle’s hidden past and figure out why so many people are desperate to gain access to the house and the extensive arsenal hidden inside.
Jeong Jinman: A quiet and guarded man who disappeared for eight years only to reappear in his family’s lives shortly before his mother’s death, Jinman raised his spirited niece Jeong Jian following the sudden deaths of her grandma and parents. Seemingly scarred by their deaths, Jinman closely watched over Jian as she grew up, moving her to a remote location and installing a number of security measures in the house to help keep her safe.
While not much is known about Jinman’s past, his specialized survival lessons, eccentric acquaintances, and the influx of assassins attempting to kill his niece immediately following his suicide suggest there’s a lot more to him than his agricultural supply business suggests.
Jeong Jian: A spirited girl from a young age, Jeong Jian’s childhood came to an end on the day her parents died. Brought up in a household without emotion, Jian’s teenage years were punctuated by a series of specialized survival lessons given by reserved uncle, Jinman.
A college freshman, Jian’s world is once again turned upside down at the start of the series when she receives a call from a local police station informing her of her uncle’s suicide. Unable to believe that her uncle was capable of taking his own life, Jian returns home after the funeral and begins digging into Jinman’s past. However, just as she starts to uncover a nugget of information, a medley of highly skilled assassins and murder drones begin to open fire on the house.
A Shop for Killers is directed by Director Lee Kwon (Save Me 2, EXO Next Door, Flower Band, Door Lock, Attack on the Pin-Up Boys) and do read on for our exclusive interview with him!
Question: This series is adapted from the novel The Murderer’s Shopping Mall by Kang Jiyoung. How did you discover the book and what made you want to direct the series?
Director Lee: It’s rather a long story. My wife Lee Eonhee, is also a director. She recently directed a series called The Killer’s Shopping List. It was also adapted from an original novel, and after reading the book, she decided to do further research on the writer. During her research, she stumbled upon The Murderer’s Shopping Mall, which sounded similar to the book her series was based on. My wife enjoyed Kang Jiyoung’s novel, and recommended that I check it out. It was such a great read that I contacted the publisher afterwards. In that sense, my wife and I discovered the original novel together. Both my wife and I love action series and films, and my wife suggested it would be a great challenge for me to create a stylish action series before I get too old. After working with Kang Jiyoung to adapt the screenplay, I eventually decided to direct the series.
Question: How does the series differ from the original book?
Director Lee: The original book was the perfect length for a two-hour film, but during my conversations with the writer, I suggested we may need to add in some backstories that are not part of the original novel. After some back and forth, we decided to include Jinman’s backstory as well as the stories of some of the supporting characters. As our discussions continued, we realised that a series would be a better format than a film and ended up creating an eight-episode arc.
Question: The series frequently shifts between the past and the present, what made you decide to structure the narrative this way?
Director Lee: To be honest, I’m not particularly fond of narratives that shift between the past and present in a film or series. I had to think carefully about how to structure the story in that way because it often demands extensive explanations and disrupts the natural flow of the story. I was also concerned about having to provide lengthy explanations about the past timeline. Eventually, I opted for a show-and-tell approach, which may not be the most viewer-friendly way of presenting details, but I decided to reveal the past in fragments, almost as a way of foreshadowing. The audience may feel confused and go “What? What is this about?” But as the story progresses, the gaps are slowly filled.
Question: What was Lee Dong Wook like on set?
Director Lee: I think Dong Wook in real life is quite different from the version of him you see on TV. He takes time to become close with someone. He is easy-going and would generally agree with you on many things. He’s more introverted that you might assume but he is incredibly professional. Film production often involves the production crew and cast talking about ideas over drinks, but Dong Wook doesn’t do that much. He arrives on set on time, well prepared, and then leaves work on time, He has a very professional and neat work style.
Question: How did you cast Kim Hyejun as Jian, and what’s she like as an actor?
Director Lee: When we first offered Hyejun the role, she actually declined. She was already booked for Disney+ series Connect, and was unavailable. But after a few months spent casting for other roles, we learned that she finished filming Connect. When we reached out to her again, she gladly accepted the role. I was relieved she accepted because I thought she was a perfect fit for the character. I could see the fierce energy in her eyes in some of her earlier works and she’s always impressed me with her intense energy.
Catch A Shop For Killers coming your way on 17 January on Disney+!