'Pyramid Game' star Jang Da-a hopes to be known as more than a K-pop idol's sister

Jang Da-a as Baek Ha-rin in Tving's ″Pyramid Game″ [TVING]

People knew her as the older sister of IVE’s Jang Won-young well before she debuted. While many aspiring artists crave such an easy path to fame, Jang Da-a has a goal of her own: to prove herself, independently, as an actor. Her first role — as Baek Ha-rin, in the recently concluded Tving original drama series “Pyramid Game” — is certainly a step in that direction.

The psychological thriller centers on class 2-5 of an all-girls high school where classmates vote for each other based on popularity through a mobile app called the Pyramid Game. Each rank, from the highest A to lowest F, is treated differently with the F rank subject to harsh bullying. “Pyramid Game” is a live-action adaptation of Dalgonyak's Naver webtoon of the same name.

Jang plays Baek Ha-rin, a popular and top-performing student who is admired by her peers on the outside but turns out to be the malicious creator behind the Pyramid Game. She rarely participates in the physical violence that publicly takes place in the classroom, acting instead as a discretely manipulative bystander.

Capturing that aspect of the character was one of Jang's biggest challenges.

Jang Da-a spoke to reporters at a cafe in Jongno District, central Seoul, about her debut role in the Tving series ″Pyramid Game″ on Thursday. [TVING]

“The fact that I know my character is the one behind all what’s happening was difficult to bear,” Jang said in an interview at a cafe in Jongno District, central Seoul. “I would sometimes cry because Ha-rin was just so terrifying and cruel.”

In contrast to Ha-rin's icy persona, Jang is a ray of sunshine in real life. It wasn't easy to play her complete opposite, especially since Ha-rin is a complex character.

“I couldn’t simply be evil because it would make Ha-rin a boring character,” Jang said. “Ha-rin was all about having this complicated childhood that gradually turned her into a monster.”

Jang frequently ran the program's showrunner, Park So-yeon, through various ways she could act out each scene before settling on a direction. “It was important to perfectly portray the buildup of Ha-rin's emotional change,” the actor said.

Jang Da-a as Baek Ha-rin in Tving's ″Pyramid Game″ [TVING]

The journey to proving herself as more than a K-pop idol's sister wasn’t easy, but Jang felt that her efforts have paid off — as evidenced by the audience's reaction to some of her character's quirks.

“People actually thought I had magnesium deficiency because of the way my eyes twitched,” she recalls. “They called me a tomato when I was extremely red and angry in some scenes.

“Some even said that they didn’t want to mess with me because my eyes were sparkling and still managed to look so hollow.”

Jang Da-a as Baek Ha-rin in Tving's ″Pyramid Game″ [TVING]

Like any other budding actor, Jang plans to keep her debut work in her heart. In part, that's because of how much she's learned from the show's cast and crew. But the role also represents, in her words, “a dream that I've kept to myself for so long.”

“I found that I had written in my journal in elementary school that my ultimate goal was to become an actor even though I had planned a future of becoming a dancer,” said Jang, who studied dance in school before pivoting to an acting path.

Jang recalled practicing her favorite movie lines as a child, and even filming herself at home. “It was when I graduated from high school that I realized I could never live without becoming an actor.

“Acting is as hard as dancing,” she said. “But I know I can find happiness with acting because it’s what I’ve always wanted to do."