How Showrunner Soo Hugh Adapted The Novel – The Hollywood Reporter

It’s evident inside PachinkoThe opening moments of the Apple TV+ adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s bestselling 2017 novel of the same name feature major departures from the source material. The opening sequence cuts between Japanese-occupied Korea in 1915 and New York in 1989, unlike the book, which unfolds its multi-generational family saga in a linear fashion.

What is less obvious is that the production on PachinkoThe first season of also ran out of order and sometimes simultaneously in multiple locations, including Canada, Japan, and seven Korean cities. With two separate timelines set half a century apart and directors Kogonada and Justin Chon dividing the eight episodes, the Pachinko The team, made up of a multinational and multilingual crew of 300, was able to operate two units that worked in tandem to complete the ambitious project, which follows the Sunja family matriarch as a young woman (Minha Kim) who left Korea for Osaka in 1931 and caught up with it almost 60 years later as a grandmother (Yuh-Jung Youn) in Japan, where her grandson, a Western-educated banker, Solomon (Jin Ha), works to sign the biggest contract of his career.

Yuh-Jung Youn (center) took down Pachinko in Korea and Vancouver last spring between promoting minari on her way to winning an Oscar for her supporting role in the film.
Courtesy of Juhan Noh/Apple TV+

While each director retained his signature style – actor Inji Jeong compared Kogonada and Chon to Monet and Basquiat, respectively – Chon also used different equipment to shoot the different scenarios. “We shot everything from the early 1900s on handheld anamorphic cameras – a widescreen, so you can see more – and on vintage lenses,” he says. “There is an elegance to [Solomon’s business deals], so I used Steadicams, Technocranes, dollies on a very clinical German lens. Everything for older Sunja [Solomon’s grandmother] there was no camera movement, as she is much more introspective and constantly thinking about the past. We put him on sticks for stability.

PachinkoThe commitment to authenticity began with presenting the story in the appropriate languages ​​— executive producer Michael Ellenberg says that at no time did the team stage an all-English period re-enactment – which for Korean-American Ha meant not only learning to speak Japanese from scratch, but also working with the dialect coach Yu-Mi Kang to master several accents for trilingual Solomon: the Kansai dialect of his hometown of Osaka, the more standard Kantō of his working life in Tokyo, and even a specific way of speaking Korean that is different from that of the actor. “I used my coach’s Japanese-accented Korean as a model for Solomon because he wouldn’t have spoken in an American accent like me,” he explains.

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Pachinko pinball parlors became closely associated with Zainichi (ethnic Koreans living in Japan) as it was one of the only businesses they were allowed to own.
Courtesy of Robert Falconer/Apple TV+

Production designer Mara LePere-Schloop, art director Cho Kim and prop master Dong-man Joo all worked together to construct period sets and locations, including recreating 1923 Yokohama on two continents (interiors in Korea and outside Vancouver) for episode seven, an all-original story part of the television adaptation centered around the historic earthquake that rocked the region. “We built this interior piece on a gimbal to mimic the earthquake. We could have charged people money because it was a great race,” jokes showrunner Soo Hugh. LePere-Schloop worked closely with special effects coordinator Minjae Lee to ensure that the color of the atmosphere-suffocating debris remained consistent across both sets. “Do you know how much dust we talked about for this show?” adds Hugh.

“There was definitely a boldness to think that we could even do something like this,” admits executive producer Theresa Kang-Lowe, who first brought the novel to Hugh nearly five years ago. “The idea of ​​doing a trilingual series with a predominantly all-Asian cast, those are all hard things to pull off. But while it was a deeply Korean story about real Koreans living in Japan, it’s also an incredibly universal family story. All of these things fall into place once you have a creative vision, and having this cast, crew, and Soo lead it all gave us confidence.

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Hansu’s (Minho Lee) pristine white suit is a symbol of the fish broker’s wealth as well as the person he represents in Sunja’s life. But is he angel or demon?
Courtesy of Ante Cheng/Apple TV+

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Minha Kim (third from left) says her proudest scenes in the first season were when Sunja said goodbye to her mother and her home: “That whole scene was so powerful and so beautiful.”
Courtesy of Juhan Noh/Apple TV+

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Soo Jin Kim of Food and Culture Korea Academy served as the culinary director of production to ensure ingredients and cooking techniques were historically accurate.
Courtesy of Juhan Noh/Apple TV+

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“Right away she got something,” Hugh says of Kim’s first audition tape. “She was very raw, emotional and powerful.”
Courtesy of Juhan Noh/Apple TV+

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“If that doesn’t make me emotional behind the camera, there’s something wrong,” says director Justin Chon, who is also an actor. Adds actor Jin Ha, “Justin understands what we do on camera, and there’s a sense of acting too.”
Courtesy of Ante Cheng/Apple TV+

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Director Kogonada, whose father is Korean Zainichi, directed the first three episodes as well as the penultimate installment, which is set entirely in Yokohama in 1923.
Courtesy of Juhan Noh/AppleTV+

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“Chapter Five” features a cameo from Kim Young-ok (right), known as Korea’s “National Grandmother” for her iconic roles, as a childhood friend who reunites with Sunja after more than 50 year.
Courtesy of Ante Cheng/AppleTV+

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Soji Arai, who plays Mozasu, is himself a second-generation Korean Zainichi.
Showrunner Hughes.

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Showrunner Hughes.
Courtesy of Juhan Noh/AppleTV+

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Pachinko’s surprisingly upbeat main sequence, on American rock band The Grass Roots’ “Let’s Live for Today,” not only underscores the theme of resilience in the face of adversity, but marks the only time the different generations of the family meet.
Courtesy of Ante Cheng/AppleTV+

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Pachinko’s producers joked that the multilingual, multinational crew had more performers per capita than any other show.
Courtesy of Juhan Noh/AppleTV+

This story first appeared in a standalone June issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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