I think it’s quite obvious to state why there has never been a K-Drama (or any Asian Drama for that matter) with loud yee-haw cowboys riding their horses, chewing dirty tobacco and drinking alcohol from sunrise to sunset. In fact, I was surprised that there is a clickable option for ‘Western’ as a genre, due to the no results when clicked on, and when hearing that it could be removed perhaps one day in the future, why not embrace the genre now with the question: What would the Western Genre look like if made into a K-Drama?
In this article, I thought it would be nice to look at this underrated and now less-popular genre, and see how a K-Drama with ‘western genre’ influences could work in fantasy: exploring the best locations in South Korea in which it could be filmed, who could handle directing such a unique drama, and which actors would suit the main roles that are needed in a great western: Sheriff, Outlaws, Gunslingers, Rancher and Bounty Hunter.
I personally like the western genre because of the conflict and characters. A great western will always get these two things perfectly, it should keep you guessing on who would come out on top if ever in a Mexican standoff. The dynamics and relationships between each and every character is a great thing to watch, and the bromance can become really strong and heart-warming. The story is always interesting and action can come onto your screen instantly. It’s the unknown of what’s next.
For People a Little Unfamiliar with this Genre
When it comes to story, common plots in this genre include: conflicts over resources such as water and food; revenge stories that emphasise that someone was wrongly killed; plots that are centred around an outlaw gang causing destruction wherever they go, and anything and everything between – oh, and don’t be surprised if you see some sort of railroad either.
All great western television needs these roles: ‘Sheriff(s)’, ‘Outlaw(s)’, ‘Gunslinger(s)’, ‘Rancher(s)’ and ‘Bounty Hunter(s)’. Other characters such as a ‘Saloon Owner’ and ‘Lawman’ for example are also normally casted too, which make for a great dynamic respectively. I’ll briefly outline what these roles are about.
Sheriff: The ‘head’ of the town in terms of law enforcement (when in a rural town). You may know this role from your familiarisation of the ‘Sheriff’s Badge’, which is a star-shaped badge that is worn on-duty. This role can either be played with negative and corrupt ideals, or as the hero, helping the town in its fight against criminals.
Outlaw(s): Outlaws are the characters that are “Wanted: Dead or Alive”. These are the ‘bad guys’ that have been proven guilty of a crime and are on the run from the law. They will do anything to stay alive, and expect them to try and corrupt any law official in order for their freedom.
Gunslinger(s): The hero. The good cowboy. They are very good at keeping their cool in a standoff and shooting when needed. They fight for what is right, help anyone in trouble, and stick to their morals and beliefs. In most cases they don’t start the fight with the outlaws, but if/when attacked by one, they are never a coward in returning the violence.
Rancher(s): A high-class person who owns a huge amount of land that normally raises animals such as cows and sometimes other animals such as sheep and chicken. They usually employ staff to maintain business operations. This role can either be played one of two ways: as a vulnerable owner who is the victim of a gang of outlaws, or is a part of the outlaw gang themselves.
The Bounty Hunter(s): A person who makes their living by looking at those “Wanted: Dead or Alive” posters and decides to hunt the person (or people) down, and is the most diverse role that can be played: from being a villain, anti-hero, hero, glory-seeker hunter etc. In many eyes, people believe this role to be as villainous as the outlaw itself.
Fun Fact: Both the western genre and samurai genre took inspiration from each other, in terms of style and themes throughout their golden years. In fact, a western movie, perhaps one of the most famous of all time, known as The Magnificent Seven, was actually a remake of Seven Samurai, a film created by legendary Japanese filmmaker Kurosawa Akira.
Great Locations Where It Could be Filmed
Which Actors Would Suit ‘Western Genre’ Roles the Most?
Actor: Ma Dong Seok
Ma Dong Seok, one of the most lovable tough guys in the industry. I think Ma Dong Seok would play the role of ‘Sheriff’ perfectly because of his empowering energy. His great action/fighting/shooting scenes he would bring with him would also be a great thing to watch, especially with a different theme than what we may be used to. He could portray a no-nonsense and just Sheriff perfectly, or he could portray a no-nonsense corrupt Sheriff perfectly too: it’s Ma Dong Seok, he can do anything!
He’s tough, brutal, smart, strong and can fight to survive. What else do you need a Sheriff to be?
Actor: Heo Sung Tae
His face just screams evil intentions, doesn’t it? I believe Heo Sung Tae would play the perfect villain in a western drama, as whenever I see him in a drama, I am just astonished at how perfectly he plays the bad guy. He makes you want to slap him every time he appears on that television screen. Now, combine that with the fact that he would be dressed as an evil cowboy, shooting every innocent person in his way in order for his freedom to remain intact, chugging down whatever he could find.
He looks evil, he acts evil so well to the point that you believe he is pure evil. He also portrays his emotions of anger and insanity perfectly. These are great characteristics which are needed for such a villainous role of Outlaw in the western genre.
Actor: Im Shi Wan
Some of you may be surprised that I am picking such a baby faced, handsome young man to play the role of ‘Gunslinger’, but when it comes to versatility and making things work and making them work so much better than when you don’t expect them to, it’s due to the tremendous professionalism of Im Shi Wan. I believe Im Shi Wan could portray a cool and confident Gunslinger who doesn’t melt under the pressure, even if it’s right in his face. Whether that’s the face of an Outlaw or corrupt Sheriff.
I would also be curious as to how he would handle the action scenes, whether that’s riding his horse to catch up with a train full of bad guys, or in a Mexican Standoff in front of a bunch of drunkards.
He’s versatile in his acting, and versatile is also an important characteristic that a Gunslinger needs to have in order for him to be believable to the viewers. Cool. Calm. Collected. Brave.
Actor: Kim Da Mi
This was the role in which I had the most difficulty choosing the right person for, as there were so many choices. However, I have chosen Kim Da Mi here mainly because I am a fan of how she expresses emotions that are of the crazy side, and while this role of ‘Rancher’ here doesn’t normally have this – who said it has to be? This is just fantasy-land, remember! Let Kim Da Mi evolve this role into how she sees fit, as I believe that’s when she is at her best. If needed, let her go off script a little, or let her act a little more crazy than needed. I believe she is so interesting to watch, if you let her just do her thing.
Dramas that have the western genre don’t have many women who are strong and independent, so let Kim Da Mi be a strong and independent Rancher who doesn’t need a male cowboy or businessmen to make her decisions for her.
The Bounty Hunter
Actor: Shin Ha Kyun
When it comes to having experience nailing the performance of unstable and unpredictable characters, and the fact that the main characteristic of the ‘Bounty Hunter’ character is to be unstable and unpredictable most of the time, it was a no-brainer choosing legendary actor Shin Ha Kyun to be the first choice in portraying the ‘Bounty Hunter’ character. He can trick you into believing he is a psychopath, he can trick you into being a righteous human just collecting some money. Being the Bounty Hunter may not always put you into the main story, but it definitely can be one of the more mysterious roles that always keeps the viewer guessing and intrigued – as long as the acting is believable. With Shin Ha Kyun however, you don’t have to worry, as all of his performances are always wonderful.
Unpredictable. Unstable. Hero? Anti-Hero? Villain? He plays them all so well.
Who Could Handle Directing Such an Unique Drama
Director: Hong Jong Chan
Why I chose: Life (2018)
After a long and hard thought, I decided to choose Director Hong Jong Chan as the most suitable director – mainly from his work in the medical drama Life. For this drama, he managed to perfectly direct the two main things which are the most important details when talking about and making Western Genre television: tension and characters. He is also very versatile and experienced, directing twelve dramas (two yet to be released) in many different genres, so I believe he could do great work in the Western Genre too.
I hope everyone that reads this article has enjoyed the journey from start to finish!
Do you enjoy the western genre?
I hope you are having a great day, xoxo
Edited by: Tine (1st editor)