Not gonna lie, this is the post I looked forward to writing the most. Not just because it meant recognizing a whole bunch of people I thought were fantastic this year, but… no, mostly because of that. And it was a chance to reminisce all at once. ^^ Let’s get to it!
Best Actor: Namgoong Min, Ahn Dan-Tae, Beautiful Gong-Shim. Nobody stole my heart with their acting this year so much as Namgoong Min, he of the crazy smile and the daebak Zamboni driving skills. What’s even more impressive is the uphill battle he fought to take first in my heart—I wasn’t even going to watch Beautiful Gong-shim at first, but his antics and heart were why I did. As an aside, I later looked up acting clips from his immediate previous drama and rewatched Girl Who Sees Smells… and dear heavens the man can act. He really gives his all to his role, and you can’t see him trying. Try out this and this and tell me I’m wrong.
Honorable Mentions: Seo In-Guk, Louis, Shopping King Louis; Gong-Yoo, Kim Shin, Goblin
Best Actress: UEE, Hye-soo, Marriage Contract. I am so proud of UEE, as an actress. She was… barely passable in You’re Beautiful. This is the next drama of hers I saw—and she absolutely blew me away. She really struck me as more than a heroine falling in love—UEE made her into a woman struggling with death and a mother trying to raise her child alone, too. She made her strong, bright and gentle. It was the way she spoke, the way she held herself, and the little movements that really clinched it. And the way she cried—it made me bawl.
Honorable Mention: Kim Hye-soo, Soo-Hyun, Signal
Best Child Actor: Shin Rin-Ah, Eun-Sung, Marriage Contract. If the industry doesn’t ruin this little gem, she has a very bright future ahead of her. Child actors are my worst nightmare usually—because they can’t act. Well, she can. And I can’t tell she’s trying, and she made me cry. Her mature heart, her young mannerisms, her temper tantrums and her thoughtful moments—I bought it all and loved her.
Daesang: Lee Jong Suk, Kang Chul, W: Two Worlds. I really had to think about this one. Honest. This and this and this didn’t just get him a free pass. Because in the end I looked at the actors this year and tried to recast their roles. If I could find someone who would do a passable job, then they didn’t get the award. And I couldn’t find anybody—not anybody—that could have played off Kang Chul the way Lee Jong Suk did. He had the range of emotions—the broken puppy, the charismatic self-made man, the newfound lover, the enraged self-aware fiction. But he also had the mannerisms—the confident, main character stride. The manhwa man dazzle stance. And I don’t think anybody—not Song Joong Ki, not Lee Joon Ki, not Seo In Guk (and he came the closest) could have pulled them off the way he did.
Honorable Mention: Cho Jin Wook, Lee Jae Han, Signal
Best Supporting Actress: Xu Yue, Yao Meng, When a Snail Falls in Love. This woman was a great supporting actress. She added to every scene she was in and she made her own arc believable. But this isn’t the only reason I chose her. I chose her for what she was not—a caricature. Which happens too often to second leads. And so I applaud her for standing out and making the role her own. I also think it says something, coincidentally, about the rising quality of Chinese dramas… and the lack of good Kdrama supporting ladies.
Best Supporting Actor: Lee Tae-Sun, Yeon-soo, Entertainer. Tae-sun really struck me this year as the single father caring for his son. The single, never married father. That’s a difficult character to play and a challenging role to accept. And while I wouldn’t agree with the decisions his character made earlier in his life, I love the character he became, and the way Tae-sun portrayed him. He had heart, he was vulnerable, he was manly, he was adorable. I hope this guy gets more screentime in dramaland next year, because he deserves it.
Honorable Mention: Shin Won-Ho, Tae-O, Legend of the Blue Sea
All-Star Cast: Signal. Out of every drama I watched this year, I could think of none that had a more committed, talented cast than signal. Every character, even those only there for an episode or two, made the role shine. I think a part of it was yes, due to some talented cameramen. But largely I think the actors took what they were given and ran with it in a beautiful, beautiful way.
Honorable Mention: W: Two Worlds
These next awards have less to do with actors and more to do with the characters themselves.
Best Character: Kim Shin, Goblin. I looked at everything I’d watched this year, and there were unfortunately very few that I had never seen before. Many were spin-offs or classics done well, but I didn’t see many truly original characters. Among them, Kim Shin the goblin god stands out as the most original. I’ve never seen a drama make its main character a god before–I’ve seen them as supporting characters and enemies, but never a main character going through main character emotions and depth. And it’s fascinating to watch. Major kudos to Kim Eun-Sook for doing that, I don’t normally like her dramas.
Honorable Mentions: Kang Chul, W: Two Worlds; Faceless Nazgul, W: Two Worlds (especially him)
Zaniest Character(s): Gong-Shim, Beautiful Gong-Shim. Lol we had some serious ‘out there’ roles in dramaland this year. Even so, it was our wig wearing, self deprecating little misanthrope who stole the show, with her entirely unheroine-esque attitude… throughout the entire drama (nearly. she softened up at the very end). Minah did a stellar job with her, too, and I hope it’s a launching point for a solid acting career.
Honorable Mention: Mermaid Chung, Legend of the Blue Sea; Louis, Shopping King Louis
Dark Horse Character: Louis, Shopping King Louis. The deck was seriously stacked against this character. There’s perhaps nothing that bothers me more than laziness and people just expecting to be helped. But through the writer’s magic (and Seo In-Guk’s hard work, let’s be honest) he became a fun, naive amnesiac that I could root for. Most of the time. When he wasn’t complaining too much or losing all her money.
Honorable Mention: Bong-Pal, Let’s Fight Ghost (everybody has got to stop hating on Taec! He rocked this role!)
Biggest Letdown Role: Choi Yoo-Jin, The K2. I blame you, drama. I’ve decided to cut Song Yoon-A break this time for her acting and ask how the drama took such a potentially icon making villain and turned her into an overdramatic princess. Although, on second thought, part of that really might be Song Yoon-A’s fault still. But really, drama. Why. I had such high hopes for Yoo-Jin at the beginning. I thought she’d go down as one of my favorite villains. Instead… I got whatever that was.
Biggest Jerk: Lee Hwa-Shin, Jealousy Incarnate. Dear heavens, that drama leaves a bitter taste in my mouth now. Not only did the leading lady have insane chemistry with the second lead and then decide to cheat on him for the lead, her end-game man was a consistent jerk throughout the drama. No lessons learned that I saw, consistently petty, and pretty much only good for a laugh. All of my good feelings midst-drama have completely left me, and I just… wonder where the funny went. If I’d been able to redeem him in my mind I might have loved them together—but I really just didn’t.
Best Man: Bong-Pal, Let’s Fight Ghost. Oh, Bong Pal. I’d date you if I could. He was really the best man in dramaland this year—a bit tsundere at times, but that never stopped me from liking someone. Always thoughtful of his leading lady, adorably awkward, confident in what he knew, hardworking, and sympathetic. Gotta love this man, and I want to thank Taec for making him come alive in a special way. I couldn’t imagine him without Taec—or at least not as adorably as he turned out.
Honorable Mention: Ko Jung-Won, Jealousy Incarnate
Cattiest… lady…: That lady in Neighborhood Hero. What was her name again? Seo Ahn. Ooooh she drove me up the wall. And he still loved her. She was like some faux leading lady. But enough, I shan’t dwell on it.*takes away her raspberry chocolate*
Best Woman: Hye-soo, Marriage Contract. I can’t think of anybody I’d rather be when I grow up than her. Maybe not in her situation (definitely not, no loan shark, cancer or single parenthood trials for me please), but I can’t think of anyone who could have handled the lot she was given with more grace and lovability than Hye-soo did. She was just… admirable. She was always generous, kind and positive for others, even when she was struggling. She was independent to the point of a weakness at times, but I always admired her courage to keep going and figure things out, rather than relegate it to someone else. Really, she’s just my #womangoals.
Honorable Mention: Eun-Tak, Goblin; Yeon-Joo, W: Two Worlds
Favorite Bromance: Sundae Soup triad, Let’s Fight Ghost. The Duo was comedy gold, and I loved them. But the triad, when Bong-Pal showed up and they both worked on lightening him up–that was my favorite. They had each others backs, they made trouble for each other and they were the best exorcist front-men team ever (nobody got to see Hyun-Ji, laaaame).
Favorite Romance: Kang Chul and Yeon-Joo, W: Two Worlds. Can I pick two? because they only barely made first. Still, in the end it was the instant connection that shot them to the front. They had immediate chemistry, didn’t beat around the bush about it, and he fell in love with her again. Their first comic-style romance thrilled me, but that second time falling in love broke my heart.
Honorable Mention: Ji-hoon and Hye-soo, Marriage Contract
Most Dysfunctional Family: Comic character Chul, his life’s inspiration and wife Yeon-Joo and god-creator/murderous monster Daddy Oh, W: Two Worlds. Not only are they both his “children” in a sense, he also tried to kill both of them. Multiple times. (albeit Yeon-joo while in a murderous character haze). And technically, Yeon-Joo inspired her own husband’s creation. Awkward.
Honorable Mentions: Sometimes stepdad and his girlfriend-daughter Na-Ri, The Man Living in Our House
Most memorable family: Ddanddara band, Entertainer. They weren’t related by blood, but this underdog bad took my heart by storm and took first as a family this year. They may have started out as strangers and even rubbed each other the wrong way–but they pulled together like nobody else this year in dramaland. They accepted each others faults, rooted for each other and sacrificed a lot. Plus they could sing.
Aaand that wraps it up! Thanks for reading, let me know if there’s anything you agree with, were surprised by or rage quit at. And tune in tomorrow for another day of Christmas!