Lee Young-ae shatters the glass ceiling in 'Maestra: Strings of Truth'

The stars of tvN's upcoming television drama series ″Maestra: Strings of Truth″ pose during a press conference at the Ramada by Wyndham Seoul Sindorim hotel in Guro District, western Seoul, on Wednesday. From left: actors Kim Young-jae, Hwang Bo-reum-byeol, Lee Young-ae and Lee Moo-saeng. [TVN]

In the orchestra scene worldwide, only 5 percent of conductors are said to be women.

On top of that, Korea has never made a drama series that centers around a female conductor, despite churning out drama after drama on all sorts of different topics.

Veteran actor Lee Young-ae said she was immediately captivated by the role — a female conductor — that she plays in tvN’s upcoming television drama series “Maestra: Strings of Truth.” She was ready to break the glass ceiling.

“It was the music,” Lee said, when asked why she chose to star in the show, during a press conference at the Ramada by Wyndham Seoul Sindorim hotel in Guro District, western Seoul, on Wednesday.

“It’s important to note that although there were Korean movies and dramas about classical music conductors, I don’t think they’ve ever been centered on a female,” Lee continued. “So as an actor, I was intrigued. The plot is interesting, and I wanted to work with my co-stars and production crew — everything just fell into place.”

The poster for tvN's ″Maestra: Strings of Truth,″ starring actor Lee Young-ae, pictured above [TVN]

“Maestra,” which premieres Saturday at 9:20 p.m., follows Lee’s Cha Se-eum, a former violinist and world-renowned orchestra conductor. Se-eum returns to Korea for the first time in 20 years after working in the United States and Europe but struggles with numerous rumors that surround her in the conservative classical music industry.

Se-eum is described by tvN as a charismatic leader and a genius, though also shrouded with mystery. Such characteristics are depicted through her relationship with other lead characters: her ex-lover Yoo Jung-jae (played by Lee Moo-saeng), her husband Kim Pil (Kim Young-jae) and violinist Lee Ru-na (Hwang Bo-reum-byeol).

Despite starring as prominent figures in the on-screen philharmonic orchestra, both Lee and Hwang struggled with practice for roughly a year, going through intense training and practice.

“I started learning conducting last year around this time,” Lee said. “Se-eum is also a famous violinist, but she had to return to conducting after experiencing some complications. There are some scenes showing Se-eum playing the violin in the early and later scenes, which is why I had to start learning the violin as soon as I could; I had never played it before.”

The same goes for Hwang, who had “never even touched a violin” prior to getting her role as Ru-na, the youngest concertmaster in Se-eum’s orchestra.

“I practiced for about eight months: from the moment I was cast as Ru-na and until the last day of filming,” Hwang said. “I was overwhelmed by how many songs I had to play because I even had solo performances. On days off, I think all I did was practice. I even pulled a couple of all-nighters just to practice.”

Teaser stills from tvN's “Maestra: Strings of Truth″ [TVN]

The crew had nothing but good things to say about each other, and all of Lee’s co-stars expressed how in awe they were to be able to work with the A-lister Lee.

Lee Moo-saeng was “starstruck” by Lee Young-ae, saying that he had never seen an actor that looked exactly the same in real life as they did on TV.

“I kept gazing at her, even while filming — and it makes sense because even my character [Jung-jae] is obsessed with Se-eum,” he said.

Kim agreed, adding that Lee had helped make filming comfortable for everyone.

“I was nervous at the beginning, but after seeing how well she played Se-eum, I realized that I have nothing to worry about regarding her — it’s me who needs to get it right,” he said.

Lee said she was flattered, but it was her family and acting as a role model to her children that mattered the most. Lee is married with two children.

“After having kids, I have been more deliberate in choosing what pieces to act in,” Lee said. She last played the lead in the JTBC television drama series “Inspector Koo” as an investigator in a murder case.

“I became cautious in starring in something too gruesome, so there were some contemplations on being an actor,” she continued. “It’s my intention to be a mom and actor that thinks of my children’s future — after all, I’ve noticed that if I show how their mom works hard, my children will tend to follow in the same path.”

“Maestro” is like an “assorted gift set,” according to Kim, in that viewers will get a glimpse of relationship dynamics according to human instincts, which will be sure to “elicit empathy.”

“From Se-eum to the rest of the characters, everyone has their own different color,” Lee added. “I believe that the classical melodies are what makes the show much richer.”