Jeon Do-yeon is single mother by day, assassin by night in 'Kill Boksoon'

Jeon Do-yeon as the female assassin Gil Bok-soon in the new Netflix film "Kill Boksoon" [NETFLIX]

Imagine a K-pop entertainment company, like SM or YG, but instead of dolled-up idols, the place is full of professional and wannabe assassins. And this agency's top-rank killer is Gil Bok-soon, portrayed by the equally legendary Jeon Do-yeon.

Jeon is the first Korean actor to win an award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, 16 years ago.

“Bok-soon and I have many similarities, like our hobbies and the fact that we are both mothers, all made intentionally so by the director [Byun Sung-hyun] who also wrote the screenplay,” she told reporters during an interview in central Seoul’s Jongno District on Wednesday. She then bashfully, yet with grounded confidence, added that she, also, was “top-tier” in her field, like her latest part.

“Kill Boksoon” is a blood-splattering action thriller about ace assassin Gil Bok-soon as she leads a double life as a high-stake killer and a single mother to a teenage daughter. It premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February before being released on Netflix last week.

The movie is proving to be a smash hit, becoming the most-watched non-English film on Netflix for the week of March 27. It also landed at No. 1 on Netflix’s Top 10 most-watched film chart in Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam, and ranked in the Top 10 in 82 countries including Canada, Germany, Spain, Brazil and New Zealand.

From left, actor KIm Si-a, director Byun Sung-hyun and actor Jeon Do-yeon at the Berlin Film Festival on Feb. 18. [NETFLIX]

Hearing this news from reporters during Wednesday's interview, Jeon couldn’t help but hide her relief with a wide, endearing smile.

“I am so incredibly thankful,” she said. “You need wins like this occasionally, and I couldn’t be more glad that it is here today.”

Being her first serious action film, there was a lot of pressure riding on this role for her, and she said she had to put in a massive amount of effort, both physically and mentally.

“The action scenes — and there was an endless amount — were beyond difficult,” she said, adding that she had to go to the hospital at one point. “But I needed to do it well, if not just for the cast and crew of the film, but for myself.”

Jeon Do-yeon on the set of "Kill Boksoon" filming an action scene [NETFLIX]

Jeon is known in the movie industry for being a relentless perfectionist who may be petite but bears a mighty soul. Director Byun was inspired by this side of Jeon and wanted to incorporate her as a person into the fictional Bok-soon character.

“The director came to my house, and observed me and my relationship with my 15-year-old daughter,” she said. “The three of us spent a lot of time together. He saw me at my best and my worst with her.”

A fierce predator on set and a learning mother at home, “I try my best in both of those positions, like Bok-soon,” she said.

Jeon Do-yeon as the female assassin Gil Bok-soon in the new Netflix film "Kill Boksoon" [NETFLIX]
Jeon Do-yeon as Gil Bok-soon, who is also a single mother to a teenage daughter in the new Netflix film "Kill Boksoon" [NETFLIX]

“Kill Boksoon” comes just a few weeks after the finale of the rom-com “Crash Course in Romance,” in which Jeon also starred, but as a cheerful and innocent banchan (side dish) store owner who falls in love with her niece's math tutor, portrayed by Jung Kyung-ho — a stark contrast from Bok-soon.

Though she wasn’t given much time to revel in the success of the drama series, which recorded the 10th-highest viewership ratings in local cable television history, Jeon said that she was grateful for the opportunities to tackle different roles.

“Ever since my Cannes win, I’ve been craving more diverse roles,” she said. “Everyone, including myself, thought that after winning that award, I would get to play whatever I wanted to, but the reality was the opposite. I was offered only very serious roles because I guess the producers and directors assumed that I would only want to do sophisticated, award-winning films.”

Actor Jeon Do-yeon [NETFLIX]

Before Jeon, a Korean actor winning at Cannes was unprecedented. Not only that, but she was also only the fifth Asian actor to achieve the feat. Jeon won Best Actress for her performance as a grieving widow in “Secret Sunshine” (2007).

Jeon debuted as an actor in 1992 through the television series “Our Paradise” and rose to popularity through films “The Contact” in 1997 and “A Promise” in 1998.

Over 30 years into her career and at the age of 50, Jeon said that she doesn’t think about how long she’s been at this job.

“There are still so many more things that I haven’t done and want to do as an actor. I want to continue breaking myself through trying new roles. That’s what I look forward to.”