Released by Netflix on June 17, the South Korean sitcom So Not Worth It caught the public’s attention for the diversity of actors in the cast. Among them, there were the trio Carson Allen, Joakim Sorensen, and Terris Brown. The actors opened their hearts in an exclusive interview for KoreaIN to talk about their lives and experiences adventuring into the entertainment industry in South Korea and much more!
26-year-old American model and actress Carson Allen has worked on other shows before ‘So Not Worth It’. Some of those dramas – such as ‘The World of the Married’, ‘When The Camellia Blooms’, ‘Spring Turns to Spring’ and ‘The K2’ -are also available on Netflix. So it’s very probable that you’ve probably seen her before. She plays the strong-willed American Carson.
Joakim Sorensen is Swedish and graduated in Software Engineering before deciding to become an actor. He has previously been cast in the South Korean TV show ‘Love of 7.7 Billion‘. In ‘So Not Worth It’, he plays Hans, a Swedish student who brags about being an expert in Korean culture.
Terris Brown is an American singer and actor. He was in ‘Vocal War: God’s Voice’ – a singing TV show to reveal amateur singers – and had roles in ‘True Beauty’ series and the movie ‘Jazzy Misfits‘. Terris Brown plays Terris, from Trinidad and Tobago, perhaps the most twisted character in the series.
KoreaIN had the opportunity to chat with the cast in an exclusive interview, who told all about how they arrived in South Korea, how they reached the level of Korean they have today – which was highly praised by fans of the series – and even shared about the experience of working for Netflix and even acting alongside well-known k-pop idols.
Check the complete interview with the cast of ‘So Not Worth It‘, Carson Allen, Joakim Sorensen, and Terris Brown, with all the affection and attention by the fans of the series.
KoreaIN: How and when did you decide to learn Korean and move to South Korea?
Carson: For me, this is actually a very unique situation in comparison to most foreigners who come to Korea. I first moved to Korea with my family when I was in middle school because of my father’s job and therefore it wasn’t really my choice or idea to move there. But although it wasn’t my idea to move to Korea I did end up falling in love with the country and culture so much that in 2013 when it was time for my family to return to the U.S. I decided to come back to Korea all on my own the following year in 2014 for university. I first started learning the Korean language at my middle school and then continued to learn the language throughout the years by hanging out with friends and also watching a lot of Korean media like TV variety shows and dramas.
Joakim: I got interested in South Korea during secondary school when I started watching Korean variety shows after a friend recommended them to me. The show I watched was called ‘Family Outing’ in English and it showed Korean culture very well which then, in turn, sparked my interest. I first came to South Korea for vacation maybe 9-10 years ago, but after visiting I really wanted to learn the language so I came here to study at a language school for a year, before entering university in Sweden. This was about 8 years ago I think. I then went back to Sweden, entered university, came back here as an exchange student, started working in entertainment, and never went back to Sweden. I think I’ve been here for 5-6 years all and all by now.
Terris: I didn’t know much about Korea before I started college, but during my first year at school I became close with a couple of Korean exchange students. They would always share Korean food, snacks, and bits of the culture with me. Slowly I found myself becoming more and more interested in the culture, so I decided to take a beginner’s Korean course the next semester. After that one semester, I was even more interested, so I decided to come to Korea for a year as an exchange student. During that first year here I absolutely fell in love with the country. The people, food, language, it all was so interesting and drove me to keep studying. In total, I think I’ve been here for about 10-11 years, and now Korea is more like a home to me.
KoreaIN: You’ve been living in South Korea for a few years and are probably already adapted to the country. Did you have any problems with the adaptation or any culture shock when you arrived there?
Carson: I was so lucky in the sense that when I first moved to Korea it was with my entire family and therefore I didn’t experience too many problems and was able to slowly adapt to the country at my own pace. Not only that but I also lived in Japan for 5 years before living in Korea so I was already from a young age used to living in a foreign country. If anything I felt more comfortable living abroad than I did living in the U.S. at the time because I had spent so much of my childhood abroad.
Joakim: There were some aspects that were hard to get used to definitely. Me, being from a remote Swedish forest, found the number of people and lack of personal space was a bit hard to get used to. Living in the forest all you have is space! So the transition from living in such a remote place to living in a big metropolis took a while. I like it here now very much though, and will probably feel lonely going back to Sweden.
Terris: I also grew up in a city, so I was already used to the busy atmosphere of Seoul, but there were definitely challenges. It was hard to feel included when I didn’t know the language, so there were times where my life did feel lonely. Korea is a very collectivist society, so I think a lot of the culture revolves around that idea. Coming from a country like the US, I think certain aspects of that mindset took time to get used to.
KoreaIN: We noticed that all of you speak Korean very well! How long did it take for you to achieve the level of speaking that you have today? Did you find the process of learning a new language hard?
Carson: Even though I have lived in Korea for more than ten years now I am still studying and learning the language every day! I think it took me a total of 2 years before I was confident enough to actually have a full-on conversation with someone completely in Korean. While I was attending an international middle and high school in Korea I would speak a mixture of English and Korean with my friends and classmates and that helped me a lot at the beginning with learning new vocabulary words and phrases. I find that when you are trying to learn a language it’s best to find fun ways in which you can study it like hanging out with friends. I also think that real-life interaction/situations with people using the language will really help with making it stick and stay for good! I’ve noticed that after spending a long period of time with my family back in the U.S. only speaking English my Korean will immediately get rusty and so I think repetition is definitely key!
Joakim: I’m still learning, learning a language never ends and every day is a language class! The best way to learn a language is always to live or spend time in the country where it is spoken. I studied at a language school for a year and the rest I learned while living here. I love learning languages and new cultures so even though there are always some challenges, as long as you have an interest in the language and culture, studying is a blast. I really miss the days of first starting to learn a new language, it reminds me of falling in love. I will definitely try to study another language as well in the near future and I am open to suggestions!
Terris: It’s hard to say exactly when I started to feel comfortable speaking in Korean, but I think I was able to have basic conversations after living in Korea my first year. The hard part about Korean is that the deeper you get into it, the more complicated it tends to get. Even though I am comfortable with my speaking ability at the moment, the learning never stops. I remember going back home for a year and I was so shocked how quickly I started to forget things. Consistency and a drive to learn are key. Force yourself into uncomfortable situations and learn from your mistakes, but also remember to have fun while you do it.
KoreaIN Did you notice any particularity in the experience of working for Netflix compared to other companies?
Carson: In the beginning, I definitely didn’t know what to expect coming into this project since it was my first time working with Netflix. But to my surprise, the filming process wasn’t much different from my previous work on other Korean productions! Although I would say that the biggest difference with working on a Netflix original was the amazing opportunity to have so many people from different countries be able to easily watch and enjoy our show once it was released. For me, this was the biggest blessing and the best part about becoming a part of the Netflix family. I also felt that it was much easier for us to touch on subjects that are normally a bit taboo for Korean tv/cable such as sexuality due to the fact that it was a Netflix production. I hope Netflix continues to use its platform in Korea to touch on more subjects like this one!
Joakim: Netflix was my first proper acting job so I was just amazed at the scale of production. Like how nice the set was and how good the food was. I don’t have anything to compare it to, but for me, it was very exciting and I had a great time!
Terris: The filming process wasn’t much different from other production teams I had worked with before, but the scale of the project was really outstanding. We had such a nice set and it was great to work with such a diverse cast. We also didn’t have the same limitations that standard tv stations here in Korea face. Also, just knowing that the show would be shown all around the world was mind-blowing. I’ve done lots of other shows here in Korea, but I usually can’t show my family because it never has subtitles, so this definitely was a life-changing experience for me.
KoreaIN: By working at a huge platform like Netflix, of course, you had a lot of public feedback. How are the audience’s reactions and their feedback coming for you?
Carson: The reaction to our show has been so positive and everyone has been so kind that I feel as though I’m in a never-ending dream. During the filming process, since I knew this series was going to be globally released, I worried a lot about how the jokes and dialogues would be translated into other languages and wondered if the humor would still make sense. But to my own surprise the global response to the series has just been so phenomenal I couldn’t be more relieved. And after reading a lot of the international fan’s comments I’ve come to realize that the university experience is such a universal thing that although we made very “Korea” specific jokes everyone was able to relate to something in the show in one way or another.
Joakim: I’ve received so much love and support that I feel overwhelmed sometimes. People are so nice to me and I just wish I could meet and thank everyone! It is very nice to hear that so many people can relate, and also that it makes them want to come to Korea to study. I’ve also gotten messages from friends that enjoyed the show and forgot that I was in it. Hearing that they forget that it is me playing a character is one of the best feedback possible.
Terris: Originally I thought our audience would be mainly coming out of Korea, but to my surprise, we’ve gotten so much love from fans all over the world. I was scared of how my character would be received because he starts questioning his sexual identity toward the end of the show, but to my surprise, it was met with nothing but love. I’m glad so many people seem to relate to certain aspects of the show and I hope we get to continue and show the fans even more. It’s still hard to believe how lovely and supportive everyone has been, but I really appreciate every single fan and I hope they all know that I am so thankful.
KoreaIN: Many situations shown on the series are possible to happen in real life, like someone coming when you were talking about that person, being cheated on, or falling in love with the same person that your friend has a crush on. Has any of these situations happened with one of you? How did you handle it?
Carson: Fortunately for me I haven’t had to deal with the same kind of breakup as my character did in the show. But I did have a lot of experience with people stealing things from my dorm’s community fridge! I remember if I ever bought a drink of some sort I would draw a line where the liquid ended and then stamped it with a stamp only I had in order to tell if someone had been drinking my stuff. I remember this was such a serious topic back then and everyone complained about people stealing other people’s food from the fridge but now looking back on it I just laugh because it’s such a small thing to be so upset about!
Joakim: Some of the situations have indeed happened to me in real life as well. The most relatable one for me though has to be running to the toilet. When I first came to Korea I fell in love with Korean food, but it was very spicy compared to Swedish food. The result was that my mouth loved it and my stomach hated it so I had to urgently find a toilet to run to in some really inconvenient places.
Terris: I have been approached by religious cults here in Korea, but I knew the warning signs, so, fortunately, I didn’t get scammed like Hans. Also, I have not slept with a person my friend has had a crush on, but I have been on the receiving end of that situation. It felt terrible, so I understand Hyunmin’s character quite a bit. However, I did learn that you can’t force relationships. If someone doesn’t like me, I shouldn’t take it to heart if they like someone else that is close to me, as much as that situation may hurt.
KoreaIN: During the recording, you had the opportunity to work with some top stars in entertainment, like Hyun-min, GOT7’s Youngjae, and (G)I-DLE’s Minnie. How was your relationship behind cameras?
Carson: Before going to set and the start of filming we spent a lot of time together working and rehearsing the scripts so by the time the cameras were rolling we were very close. I remember when I met Minnie and Youngjae for the first time I was a little bit nervous because I wasn’t sure how open they were going to be about becoming friends and hanging out with us. But they couldn’t have proven me more wrong. They were the most down-to-earth people I have ever met and we all got along so great. And working with them really inspired me to work even harder because they are so hard-working and such professionals. During filming, they were also both still working on their music careers as well and so that couldn’t have been easy. Definitely have so much respect for them.
Joakim: Even though they’re top stars they are so humble and down to earth that you forget just how big they are. We all just became friends and we joked around a lot and had some really nice times together. It was a privilege to work with them and I am proud to be able to call them my friends.
Terris: At first I was nervous about meeting them because they are so famous, but they were all so down to earth. I never really felt like they had put up a wall in between us. Behind the scenes, it was just like I was hanging out with my normal friends. The thought that they were stars didn’t even cross my mind when we were together, because everything just felt so natural and relaxed. Minnie and Youngjae were both so professional and were great at snapping into character when the cameras were on. Hyunmin was the youngest on set and I’m the oldest, so he really felt like my little brother. I always wanted to make sure he was okay and hoped he wasn’t causing trouble for anyone. Not that he was, but just an older brother instinct I guess (laughs).
KoreaIN: Your characters have very strong personality traits. Do you have anything in common with them?
Carson: I would say me and my character are very alike in our mindset and our overall values. We both are very protective of our friends and tend to act more rationally in difficult and tough situations. I would also say that we are very similar in that we both don’t care what we look like while on our school campus. I don’t think I have ever once gotten “dressed up” or purposely went out of my way to look nice just for going to class at school. In both high school and university you could catch me in the classrooms with my glasses on, unwashed hair in a messy bun, and a hoodie with sweatpants of some sort on! But as much as we are a lot I think we are equally different! I am much more of a quiet person in comparison to my character in the show and I don’t usually yell or argue with people nor do I intimidate anyone in any way shape or form lol.
Joakim: At first I thought that Hans and I would be complete opposites, but to my surprise, I came to realize that we do have a lot in common. I too am very rule-oriented and I think it is because of the way I am raised. I remember one time on set Terris borrowed my toothpaste and squeezed it from the middle. A new toothpaste tube. FROM THE MIDDLE! I’m getting upset just thinking about it, but I remember they just laughed and called me Hans instead of taking me seriously. I am also quite invested in environmental issues and try to be very conscious about what I consume. For example, I always try to avoid palm oil and Tiger Prawns because they have a really bad impact on the environment.
Terris: I think I am similar to Terris in some ways. While I don’t dress as nicely, and I’m definitely not a casanova, I think we both care about our friends a lot. Terris sometimes is bad at expressing that, but he is a loyal friend at heart. (maybe except for the beginning of the series) In real life, I’m much more outgoing and don’t pick on my friends as much! I’m also not afraid of change like Terris. I don’t reject something just because I don’t fully understand it. I like to be honest to my heart and I think that’s what Terris the character is like as well.
KoreaIN: We noticed that your characters were named after you. Were you inspired by someone rather than yourself to play them?
Carson: I remember one day randomly while we were in the early stages of our script readings and rehearsals we were all asked by production if we wanted to change our character names to our own names. And at first, I thought this was a great idea because it would be so natural to respond to people calling me by my actual name as well as it would be good for the audience to remember me by my real name. But as the filming went on I realized maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all. I definitely think I won’t ever use my real name again for a character because it really does make it hard to fully get into character as well as differ the character from myself. Overall I don’t totally regret doing it, I just definitely wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else!
Joakim: My character is not named after me, and the reason I chose to go with a different name was to keep a bit of separation between my character, me, and work. I was afraid the lines would get blurry if I went with my name. Also, I just really liked my character named Hans. It was just right. For me, Hans just sounded right.
Terris: We were asked one day if we would like to use our real names, and I saw it as a way for my name to be remembered forever, so I was excited to do it. Sometimes it’s hard to separate myself from the character when I’m reading comments online, but for me personally, I don’t regret the choice. Terris will always be a special character in my heart.
KoreaIN: What are your plans and projects for the future?
Carson: Unfortunately, as of right now, I’m not currently working on another project 🙁 But I am always working hard to prepare myself for whatever role may come my way someday! For example, I have been training in stunt choreography for a little over a year now and I also take acting lessons online from coaches in Hollywood. I plan on going to the U.S. later this year to visit my family and while I am there, also get some intensive training in acting as well as audition experience.
Joakim: Currently, I don’t have any ongoing projects. But, as for plans and dreams, I have a lot! I am always working hard to be a better actor and to get better at the craft. It is my goal to be the best I can be. I would love to try out some more serious roles in the future and I am working hard to make that aspiration become reality. You haven’t seen the last of me yet, that’s for sure!
Terris: Currently, I am not working on anything at the moment, but I am always getting ready for the next audition. For now, I will just work on my skills and hope that some opportunities come knocking soon!
KoreaIN: What kind of challenges did you have in pursuing your career as a foreigner working in the Korean entertainment industry?
Carson: Pursuing the career of an actor is never easy no matter the country. And trying to pursue it in a country that is not where you are from and in a language that isn’t your mother tongue just adds another layer of difficulties to the job. Some of the difficulties I have faced in the past were having to play roles that were very stereotype-based as well as having very limited options for what kind of roles I can audition for. And although this is nothing in comparison to what it is like trying to pursue acting as a person of color in Hollywood it is still an obstacle that I have faced here in Korea as a foreigner. I think what made our series “So Not Worth It” so special was the fact that half of the main cast were foreigners but never once in the show did it emphasize that fact that we were foreign. We were all just people in the series and none of our personalities or characteristics came from what country we were from. I think this is a good step for what other future shows can be like with foreign characters.
Joakim: The entertainment industry is always a hard industry no matter the country. Pursuing it in another country from the one you were born and raised in will be especially so. One thing that I found very challenging at first was to make jokes and be funny. To be able to make jokes you need to really know the culture, and that takes time. Some things might be universal, but a lot of jokes can be very culture or pop-culture specific and it took years of indulging Korean music, variety shows, dramas, movies, and books for me to be able to achieve enough knowledge to make jokes and try to be funny.
Terris: Being a foreigner in the Korean Entertainment Industry is sort of a double-edged sword. On one hand, sometimes you are the only person who can do a certain role, but on the other hand, the roles you can do tend to be limited. I think also as a person of color, I have been typecast a lot into very stereotypical roles, but thankfully, just like in our Netflix show, these trends seem to be slowly changing. I hope to continue breaking barriers and show more people that we foreigners have a lot to offer!
KoreaIN: What kind of dream – personal or professional – would you like to achieve living in Korea?
Carson: I personally would love to just continue acting to the day I die and be able to support myself and live comfortably. I honestly don’t care about fame or becoming a celebrity, I just want to continue doing what I love in the country I call home.
Joakim: I would love to be able to continue and make a real living out of what I love. Working in entertainment is not very secure and I have had a lot of very rough and hard times. So someday it is my dream to be able to make a steady, secure living out of entertaining people. That would be amazing. I just love making people laugh, it just brings me such joy and makes me the happiest I can be.
Terris: Honestly, I just want to be able to act and have a successful career in Korea. Hopefully, more roles that I can audition for will be written in the future, so I can continue on the road of making a name for myself.
KoreaIN: Could you give some tips for those who would like to have a career in entertainment in Korea?
Carson: Of course the first step to take if you want a career in Korean entertainment would be to study the language as much as you can! But I also encourage you not to wait until you get to Korea to start pursuing your dreams in whatever field that may be in the entertainment world. If you want to be a dancer, singer or actor then definitely pursue those in your home country first and get all the necessary training you need right away. Because if you wait until you come to Korea to start your career from scratch it’s going to be very difficult and stressful. If you come to Korea already with the knowledge and the skills sets of the job you want to do then the only step left would be to start networking and getting in contact with companies to support you and work with you. But you can’t do that unless you are already a professional in the field you want to work in and have confidence in your talents and skills.
Joakim: There might be some that are very lucky and kind of “get chosen”, but for us, that is not, a lot of hard work is required. The only real tip I can give is to get in real deep into the Korean language and culture. Not just watching your favorite drama, but watching old dramas, movies, old variety shows and eventually read books. Just consume everything. I found that really helped. And also to have fun doing it! It has to be fun. If I can do it everyone can, so just give it your best!
Terris: If you would like to work in Korea, language skills are a must. Even if you are doing a role in English or another language, being able to speak with the other cast members, and staff is very important. However, there are many fluent Korean speakers already living in Korea, so you have to look for a way to make yourself stand out. If you know what type of work you’re interested in, start honing your skills now. Practice and get as much experience as you can before you come. Also, be determined. Living as an entertainer is unstable and you will face a lot of rejection. You really have to want it if you want to pursue a career in this field. However, as difficult as it may be, it is also just as rewarding. So, if you are sure this is what you want, get started now, and don’t let anyone stop you.
The Netflix series has high approval ratings among viewers, 97% of people who watched So Not Worth It liked the program. If you blinked and missed it, check out the official trailer!
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