The TV show Dramaworld may be the next big hit for Korean drama fans who still want the riveting storyline and tropes that made them fall in love with the genre. The two-season series, which premiered in 2016, takes it further and combines Korean storytelling with an American twist. Leading male actor and Dramaworld executive producer Sean Dulake wanted to create a series that “celebrated” K-dramas and its now global fan base.
‘Dramaworld’ takes fan-favorite tropes and gives it a fan perspective
Despite Dramaworld having originally premiered in 2016, the storyline still holds up today with the boom of K-dramas. The story centers on a die-hard K-drama fan and college student Claire Duncan (Liv Hewson). She would rather spend her time immersed in a made-up world than her own reality. In a twist of events, she gets sucked into her phone into Dramaworld and her favorite drama.
She learns she is a “facilitator” and is aided by another facilitator named Seth (Justin Chon). Her goal is to make sure her favorite drama stays on its storyline path. But along the way, Claire finds herself experiencing the same tropes and plot elements from second-lead characters, a heinous villain, unexpected love, and guest cameos.
Alongside Claire is the one person she always wished to meet in real life, Joon Park. Played by actor Sean Dulake, Joon is the epitome of a male lead in Dramaworld. He is also the lead in Claire’s favorite drama. As executive producer of Dramaworld, Dulake wanted the series to be for the fans.
‘Dramaworld’ Sean Dulake and Chris Martin did not plan to make a typical K-drama
While Dramaworld embodies the same characteristics of a K-drama and can be titled as one, it was not the intention of Dulake, Chris Martin, and Josh Billig. As a fan of K-dramas himself, Dulake saw an opportunity to expand an already existing world.
“Now the genre’s so broad that there’s a lot more for everyone. It’s not just for the hopeless romantics,” explained Dulake in an interview with Showbiz Cheatsheet. When conceptualizing the original story behind Dramaworld season 1, the K-drama fan base had not yet reached the level of global fame it has in recent years.
“The function, I think, of Dramaworld is we didn’t set out to make a Korean drama. When we did season one, it was to celebrate the genre for the time when it was a subculture,” said Dulake. “It’s not just a parody of Korean drama. I feel like we’ve done well in telling an endearing story that celebrates the genre, but we use the tropes in a way where it organically plays into moving the story along.”
K-dramas have crossed the boundaries of subculture into becoming a global phenomenon. The first season of the series has shifted to be much more than Dulake imagined. “It’s now kind of transformed into this introductory gateway series where we’re not just celebrating the genre with existing fans. We want to introduce the genre to new viewers who’ve never, ever seen a Korean drama to get them acclimated to,” said the actor
There is another reason why Dramaworld embodies elements of South Korean culture with an American perspective.
Sean Dulake wanted ‘Dramaworld’ to resonate with a bigger audience
Besides wanting to celebrate K-dramas and the fan base, Dulake and Martin saw a piece of themselves in Dramaworld. Dulake explains he and Martin did not grow up in South Korea but wanted to tell an “authentic” story.
“So we had this hunch that maybe there’s a space for storytellers like us to tell stories that weren’t just directed to the local Korean audience,” said Dulake. He and Martin wanted the series to appeal to the entire fan base, regardless of whether or not they are Korean.
“We wanted to make a show for them and through that make it for us as well. A show that we could actually make through our perspective, which ended up becoming what we’re coining now, the third culture perspective,'” said Dulake.
He explains it is an exciting time to be in the industry. In the beginning, he and Martin felt like “outsiders,” the same way Claire does when she first enters Dramaworld. With the success of K-dramas and Dramaworld gaining more recognition, “Now we actually feel at home, you know? Cultural lines are being blurred, and it’s exciting because we don’t know what’s next.” Dulake and Martin are excited to see where the series and K-dramas take them.