Chief Detective 1958 shows the origins of an iconic TV detective

Enjoy a taste of old-fashioned crime solving with Chief Detective 1958, the newest crime drama series on Disney+ Hotstar. The retro investigative drama is a loving homage to a classic Korean show that shaped an entire generation.

The original series Chief Inspector (1971-1989) ran for 880 episodes, and followed police lieutenant Park Young-Han and his team as they solved crimes across Seoul. The character was known for his brash yet empathetic manner when dealing with criminals and ordinary citizens, as well as his unique crime-solving skills.

The new series is a prequel to the original show, and takes place in 1958 during a time of great social and political upheaval in South Korea. Lee Je-Hoon (Taxi Driver, Signal) plays a young detective Park Young-Han, newly transferred to Seoul and just beginning his career.

Lee Dong-Hwi plays Kim Sang-Sun, a ‘mad dog’ police officer with a strong sense of justice and penchant for biting criminals. Choi Woo-Sung and Yoon Hyun-Soo are their rookie teammates Cho Kyung-Hwan and Seo Ho-Jeong, who bring brawn and brains respectively to the investigation.

Lee Dong Hwi (left) and Lee Je-Hoon. – MBC

Advice from the original Park Young-Han

At a press conference in Seoul this week to promote Chief Detective 1958, the cast paid tribute to the show. Lead actor Lee Je-Hoon called Park Young-Han “the Columbo of Korea”, comparing him the iconic Hollywood TV detective from the same era.

He also spoke about getting advice from Choi Bool-Am, the legendary actor who originated the role. The two met during the table read for the series. Lee Je-Hoon said that he felt “very nervous” when reading his lines in front of Choi.

Lee Je-Hoon later spoke with Choi about the role. He said: “Mr. Choi told me that Detective Park has a lot of rage inside him, because he wants to tackle all the bad guys and protect the weak.” He added that Choi Bool-Am spoke about the humanistic aspects of the show and the character, which also helped him to flash out his performance.

A younger, angrier Detective Park

Lee Je-Hoon decided not to copy the look of the character, but instead focus on emulating his personality and his feelings. He explained: “Inspector Park is a very good, competent detective. But I think that he wouldn’t be so experienced when he was young, because he was just getting started. So, I wanted to show that personal growth within him in this prequel.

“The young Park Young-Han would be rash, and you would worry about him, because he’s being too rash. But he has the passion and grit to [take down] bad guys, and I think if you watch him grow, you will want to cheer for him.”


An inspirational character

The other actors also shared their thoughts about being cast in the much-anticipated series. Lee Dong-Hwi was a child when the original show aired, but learned about original series when he became an actor. “I thought it was such a cool show,” he said.

“They had amazing performances back in the 70s and 80s, and even now watching it, it’s so refined and you can’t believe it’s been 30 or so years [since it aired]. We really wanted to take after their philosophy and the way they portrayed their character.”

For Seo Ho-Jeong, starring in the prequel had an extra special meaning for him. His grandfather was a huge fan of the original series. He added: “When I was doing the audition, my family was so happy for me. I told my grandfather I thought I did well, and he gave me a big hug.”

Capturing the nostalgia of the era

Helping to bring the series to life is director Kim Seong-Hoon (Confidential Assignment, Rampant). He explained that he wanted to highlight the humanity and empathy of Park Young-Han during his investigations. Chief Detective 1958 would show detectives using their wits and instincts to solve crimes, instead of relying on the technology as in modern detective shows.

He also wanted to focus on Park’s team, comparing them to a ‘superhero team’ of police officers. “These were heroes who were needed in their time,” he said. “We started asking questions, like were they born heroes? What was the process like as they tried to preserve justice, where did that motivation come from? And I thought that would be an important aspect to creating a prequel to tell their story.”

Stream Chief Detective 1958 every Friday and Saturday on Disney+ Hotstar.

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