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Taking risk or targeting global fans? Netflix pushes ahead with 'Goodbye Earth' release

Actor Yoo Ah-in, charged with illegal drug use, plays the lead character

By Kim Da-sol

Published : April 14, 2024 - 15:12

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“Goodbye Earth” (Netflix) “Goodbye Earth” (Netflix)

With Netflix set to release its original dystopian drama series “Goodbye Earth” on April 26, media and viewers are curious how frequently Yoo Ah-in, the lead actor, will be seen in the 12-part series.

Some argue that it is too early to see him on-screen as the 37-year-old actor is set to appear in a fourth court hearing over charges of illegal drug use on Tuesday.

In a trailer for “Goodbye Earth” released on Friday, Yoo is clearly omitted in the 2-minute video, which tells the story by focusing on Se-kyung (Ahn Eun-jin), a middle school teacher. She is the long-time lover of Yoon-sang (Yoo) and goes out to save people stranded on the Korean Peninsula with only 200 days left before an asteroid is expected to hit. The story is based on Japanese fantasy novel “Shumatsu no Furu” by Kotaro Isaka.

While Netflix typically offers a media preview of the first two episodes of upcoming series, that was not available for "Goodbye Earth." Yoo's name was not on the list of actors provided to the media or on Netflix's website, either.

A Netflix official told The Korea Herald that scenes showing Yoo were edited following discussions between the director and staff to avoid ruining the overall storyline.

“Goodbye Earth” was originally planned for release at the end of 2023, the shooting having been completed in the first half of 2022. But the release was delayed after the prosecution requested an arrest warrant for Yoo, suspecting the actor of breaching the country’s Narcotics Control Act, tampering with evidence and fleeing the scene of a crime.

“The release plan (of a series) is in sync with other schedules for dubbing and subtitling, so we don’t normally put a title on hold,” a Netflix official told The Korea Herald.

Actor Yoo Ah-in (UAA) Actor Yoo Ah-in (UAA)

While there are those critical of the drama series' release at this point, others argue that it should be released, regardless of the charges against Yoo, considering the situation of the other actors and production staff.

Actor Kim Young-woong, who starred in “Goodbye Earth,” wrote on his personal social media account last year that it was a shame to think that the hard work and sacrifices of the staff and the actors may come to naught. “Everything seems to end in tears,” he wrote, expressing regret over the teamwork between ensemble actors, the director and the writer for “Goodbye Earth.”

This is not the first time that Netflix has pushed ahead with releasing works featuring an actor embroiled in a controversy.

The final two episodes of the 2023 Netflix action series “Bloodhounds” had to be completely rewritten after lead actor Kim Sae-ron was charged with drunk driving.

“It was an agonizing time for me, the actors and all of the other staff because we had to shoot the scenes immediately after writing. The more time we spent on rewriting, the more money we were wasting,” the series director Jason Kim told The Korea Herald when the show was released.

Despite the drunk driving scandal, the series topped the Netflix charts in 22 countries and was included in the top 10 in 88 countries, proving that global fans did not care that the actor had been charged with a DUI.

Industry watchers say that global streaming platforms opting to star actors embroiled in a controversy has to do with a "phenomenal change" in the local entertainment landscape.

“With Korean content going global, it has become a new trend and part of this phenomenal change (of watching works that feature such actors), although it might not seem like good timing for releasing ‘Goodbye Earth,'” pop culture critic Kim Hern-sik told The Korea Herald.

“For Netflix, it has to recoup the production cost, so releasing it before it is too late is the only option,” he said, adding that it is too early to say whether Netflix is taking a risk due to Yoo's situation, as it might simply not impact the series' global reception.

And what about Yoo’s other films that are waiting to be released?

Kim said his other movies opening in local theaters are a different story compared to a global streaming platform release.

“Korean audiences are very keen on watching viral content and discussing it, which means that the actors and directors’ reputations are important in the local market. Especially at a moment when people only visit theaters when there is a special purpose, it’s highly unlikely that Yoo’s films will open in theaters,” Kim added.

The releases of “Hi.5” and “The Match,” both starring Yoo, have been delayed.