Jamie Chung Talks 'Ballsy' 'Lovecraft Country' Episode and Series' New Love Triangle (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
Lovecraft Country continues to defy expectations. After five episodes exploring the ongoing horrors and adventures faced by Atticus (Jonathan Majors), Leti (Jurnee Smollett), Montrose (Michael K. Williams) and Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku), the series took an unexpected departure to explore life during the Korean War. That’s where audiences finally met Ji-Ah, Jamie Chung’s mysterious character who has only been seen in a few fleeting scenes before episode six, “Meet Me in Daegu.”
“It’s such a ballsy move,” Chung told ET while promoting Big Hero 6: The Animated Series, which airs Mondays on Disney XD. She credits creator Misha Green for being brave enough to “switch gears” in such a dramatic way. “It’s rare that Asian Americans have this kind of opportunity, especially for a guest star role to really dig deep into a story, especially something that’s a period piece and something that takes place in the Korean War.”
At its core, the episode is a flashback to life in 1950s Korea, which is in the throes of the war, where Ji-Ah is battling her own demons before crossing paths with Atticus on the front lines. But because it’s such a “smart show,” Chung said it is really about so much more: “We’re talking about a mother-daughter relationship, we’re talking about rape survivors, we’re talking about how monstrous people can be during a time of war.”
Presented as a seemingly sweet nursing student who loves Judy Garland movies, it turns out that Ji-Ah has been taken over by a kumiho, a nine-tailed fox that seduces and feeds off men and was summoned by her mother to protect her from her stepfather’s sexual abuse. But in order to become human again, she must repeat the act 99 more times. Her last one, she determines, will be Atticus after he killed her friend for being a Communist sympathizer and later ends up under her care after getting injured.
However, Ji-Ah’s plan to cure herself of the demon slowly falls apart the closer she gets to Atticus. The two eventually fall in love, making her wonder if she can control the monstrous side of herself. “When she falls in love with someone who took away her best friend, her only friend that she’s ever experienced, it really begs the question of what’s more important: revenge or falling in love? Forgiveness or falling in love?” Chung said of her character’s internal battle over wanting to be human, especially when they’re capable of “[doing] monstrous, horrible things.”
Chung then asked what the series has been asking all along, “What’s worse, scary monsters or your internal monster?”
Ultimately, Ji-Ah’s truth is discovered by a horrified Atticus, who ends things ahead of his return to the U.S. Before they part ways, however, she has a vision of his impending death, seemingly a result of his ongoing search for the truth about pagan society Sons of Adam. Despite being in Chicago, where he’s now in a relationship with Leti, Atticus continues to be haunted by Ji-Ah, dreaming about her in the premiere and later calling her in a panic. Meanwhile, Ji-Ah has chosen life as a kumiho over life as a human, forgoing her 100th kill.
When asked about whether audiences will see any more of her and get any resolution to her relationship with Atticus, Chung said, “I think what everyone is wondering is, will these women [Ji-Ah and Leti] meet? It is now officially a love triangle and now you know what he’s left behind in Korea and it still haunts him to this day. So you’ll certainly see how that unfolds. That’s all I can say.”
While fans will have to eagerly wait to see what comes of the newfound love triangle, Chung said she’s “so grateful” for the opportunity to have such a standout episode and character to portray on the series. For the actress, who has notably played Mulan on Once Upon a Time and will continue voicing Go Go Tomago on the Big Hero 6 series, Ji-Ah pushed her in a way she hasn't been in her career. “With this role, I had to be in tune with my sexuality. I’ve never done that before,” she shared.
Because the episode was largely presented in a foreign language, which is rare for a major U.S. primetime series like this, it also required her to brush up on her Korean. “I speak conversational Korean to my parents. I can order in Korean, but I’ve never had a role where I was required to speak Korean for the entire episode,” said Chung, who also had to do a little bit of singing and dancing to Garland’s “The Trolley Song” early in the episode.
She added, “I have never been pushed so hard. And this is one of those shows where I’ve been pushed to the limit and one of these shows where anything that I needed in order to succeed, they provided for me. Whether it was dance lessons, singing lessons, dialect coach, rehearsals, they were so supportive.”