Lee Ji Eun, better known as IU, is a woman of many talents. Her unique stage name is derived from the phrase “I and You”, symbolizing that people can become one through music.
While she is much known as a singer-songwriter, evidenced in her angelic pipes and numerous hits, IU also bagged successful dramas under her belt. Since her debut in 2008, she also made a name for herself as an actress having portrayed various characters for audiences to enjoy.
If you haven’t caught up with her work yet, here are 7 of IU’s well-received dramas you need to watch.
Dream High (2011)
This series tells the story of six students at the prestigious Kirin High School as they train to become K-pop idols and artists under industry experts and professionals. IU plays Kim Pil Sook, a shy and overweight teenager. She has the gift of the perfect pitch but was discouraged from pursuing her dream because of her appearance. Despite that, she mustered the courage to try her luck at getting into Kirin. Uncertain of how to reject her application solely based on how she looks, the admissions department gave in and awarded her a spot. Having found support from Jason (Jang Woo Young), an American dancer who plans to make a Korean debut, Pil Sook eventually came out of her shell.
Pil Suk’s character was inspiring because she was one who didn’t stop dreaming simply because her appearance would have easily made her an outcast. It was also refreshing to see that even with some reluctance, the teachers managed to look beyond her figure and focus on her talent, potential, and desire.
This drama is perfect for those who are also K-Pop fans because it also features former Miss A member, Bae Suzy, 2 PM’s Ok Taecyeon, T-Ara’s Ham Eun Jung, and JYP Entertainment CEO, Park Jin Young. On top of that, this drama is also top-billed by one of Hallyu’s hottest heartthrobs, Kim Soo Hyun.
This drama did so well that it went on to have a second season. IU also signed on for this installment where her character has turned into an established performer encouraging underclassmen with the same dreams.
You Are The Best! (2013)
In this drama, IU plays Lee Soo Shin, the youngest member of a successful family. But her life seems to run contrary to that of her smart and better-looking sisters, having no skills, educational achievement, or beauty to measure up to them. However, she has her good nature, but this made her an easy target of unscrupulous individuals which ended in her paying for a debt she did not make. The death of her father made her life more difficult than it already is. But, she had to hustle to make ends meet.
When she meets the overly confident and competitive Shin Joon Ho (Jo Jung Suk), her life turns around. He was determined to turn her into a star, and Soo Shin met that goal halfway by bringing raw talent to the table. She rose to the occasion as she was also determined to pay off her debt. This paved the way for her success as a great actress, and it was also here that she learned the truth about her lineage.
IU transforms yet again in this drama where she reels you in so that you feel her struggles and celebrate her success. Through Soo Shin, Joon Ho unexpectedly finds love and understands the real meaning of success.
Bel Ami (2013)
IU plays Kim Bo Tong, a name which actually meant “average” in Korean, but she is out to prove that she is anything but. She has fallen head over heels for Dokgo Ma Te (Jang Keun Suk), her crush ever since high school. Her unrelenting attraction pushed her to rise to the occasion when Ma Te was in need of help.
Ma Te is a very handsome young man. Aware of this, he uses his good looks to live a life of luxury with rich women. However, he finds himself needing to use this asset to take on a powerful family who holds valuable information he needs. To know who his father is, he has to seduce several women and learn valuable lessons from each of them.
Having learned this, Bo Tong was fiercely determined to help him overcome his troubles because this would also help Ma Te discover his real father. While she was slaving away for Ma Te, Choi David (Lee Jang Woo) has fallen hard for her and is ready to help her with her plans. It sounds crazy, but the story pans out adorably with life lessons to match.
The Producers (2015)
In this drama, IU veers away from her usual sunny characters as she transforms into Cindy, a famous singer, and celebrity who debuted as a trainee at the young age of 13. She was dubbed the “ice princess” because she has complete control over her emotions, only giving people her poker face.
The story is set against the backdrop of a television network’s operation. If you are up to speed with your Korean pop culture, it actually involves the famous 2 Days, 1 Night entertainment show – which still runs to this day. The production team was given the task of reviving the show’s dismal ratings. When Baek Suen Chan (Kim Soo Hyun) suggested that they include Cindy in the cast, everyone was not on board because she was known for notorious tantrums. Eventually, they went along with this idea which actually spurned some complications later on.
As the show progresses, Cindy shows increasing degrees of softness and vulnerability, which makes her more relatable and likable. Her character arc reveals self-discovery that leads to lasting friendships.
IU plays a bratty celebrity pretty well that you can’t help but root for her when she finally turns a new leaf. This goes to show that her face and stature can’t be typecasted exclusively to cute and preppy roles.
Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016)
Besides the throng of hotties required for the storyline, IU was also one of the major reasons why this drama is worth watching. She plays Go ha Jin, a heartbroken 25-year-old who was betrayed by her boyfriend and bestfriend.
While sitting around a deck in the park, she saw someone who was close to drowning. She came to the rescue right when an eclipse was happening. Ha Jin sank in the water and came out in the Goryeo era. In this part of history she was known as Lady Hae Soo who is part of the Royal Household because her cousin is married to the 8th Prince, Wang Wook (Kang Ha Neul). She develops a friendship with the princes because they all find her to be different from the women at that time. But, she develops a particular closeness to the 4th prince Wang So (Lee Joon Gi), and eventually catches feelings for him. Often feared and misunderstood, it was Hae Soo, who was the first to understand the pain behind Wang So’s facade and decided to help him.
A real tearjerker, this drama is definitely one of the most well-loved IU dramas to follow. It is also her first foray into sageuks or historical dramas, which was also popular among foreign viewers. The series also stars Jo Min Ki, Park Ji Young, Nam Joo Hyuk, Jisoo, and EXO’s Baekhyun.
My Mister (2018)
This slice of life drama follows three brothers who are in their forties, each dealing with their own issues. The center of focus is the second brother, Park Dong Hoon (Lee Sun Kyun), who works as an engineer at an architectural firm and always has a safety-first approach to life. He is quiet and stoic but also goes all in for the people he loves. Unfortunately, his wife is cheating behind his back with the CEO of his company, who also happened to be his junior at University. He schemes to get Dong Hoon sacked so that his wife will divorce him. He wants to take her as his wife, and he believes that gossip will be less if Dong Hoon is not around the office anymore.
IU plays Ji An, a girl who is weighed down by so many struggles of her own having to take care of her grandmother while trying to pay off her enormous debt from a loan shark. She temporarily works in the same company as Dong Hoon. However, still strapped for cash, she hustles on the side by working for the enemy. Their CEO wanted her to find out what Dong Hoon’s weaknesses are. But as time went by, she started to develop some tenderness for him after being so kind and respectful to her despite her lowly position in the company. This made her learn to trust someone for the first time.
The theme of this story is quite heavy and IU’s delivery could make you relate to how defeated she was. The way her life turned out has hardened her, and you can see how she gradually changed after finding that much-needed love and acceptance from Dong Hoon, which contributed to her healing.
Hotel del Luna (2019)
It tells the story of an elite hotelier named Gu Chan Sung (Yeo Jin Goo) who gets to run the Hotel Del Luna by a fateful event. Because of this, he has to work with the beautiful and aloof but ill-tempered boss, Jang Man Wol (IU).
Hotel Del Luna is a hotel in downtown Seoul. It looks shabby from the outside but it is a fancy place for wandering ghosts, who are also the only ones who can see how opulent it is. What is so spellbinding about this hotel is that it is bound to Man Wol’s soul as penance for a huge sin she committed a millennium ago. Her rash actions then were retribution for what she believed was a betrayal from someone she loved dearly. She has grown to be ill-tempered, greedy, and resentful. On top of that, she is also a compulsive shopper. All these made it more challenging for Chan Sung to keep things in order.
As Chan Sung tried to improve the way things are in the hotel, his ways are also making a change in Man Wol. Just when things are ripe for her to finally step into the afterlife, was when she finally found a reason to stay.