If you thought Korean dramas are all about heart-fluttering romance and charismatic main leads then think again. There’s that but there’s no shortage of genre and stories to tell. The success of Netflix’s newest K-drama, Squid Game, further cements the popularity of Korean titles to the global audience and offers a refreshing new story to the typical romance offering. Squid Game is the first Korean series to rank number one in Netflix US.
The survival series stars top South Korean celebrities including Lee Jung-jae and Park Hae-soo as well as newcomer Jung Ho-yeon with guest appearances from some of Korea’s biggest names. Squid Game follows 456 contestants who are fighting for the top prize of 45.6 billion Korean won in a survival game. If they lose, it means death.
Here, the cast—Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Jung Ho-yeon, Heo Sung-tae, Wi Ha-joon as well as director Hwang Dong-hyuk—tell us how they brought the deadly game comprising of children’s games to life.
Can you tell us more about the title of the show?
Director Hwang: Squid game is something that I used to play as a child in the schoolyard or in the small streets of the neighbourhood. I felt that this is a story of people who used to play this game and come back as adults to win the cash prize. The reason why I chose squid game as the title is because it’s the game that’s the most physical among the games I used to play and it was one of my favourites. I also felt like this game could be one of the most symbolic games that can highlight various aspects of the competitive society that we live in.
Why did you decide to join the cast of Squid Game?
Lee Jung-jae: I always wanted to work with director Hwang so when he reached out I was happy to join and read the script. And when I did read the script, there were various emotions that are all really laid out in an intriguing way and I thought it’d be really fascinating story. I was really wondering how these games would be brought to life. Every day on the set was filled with excitement and I had a lot of fun.
Park Hae-soo: It’s the same here. I wanted to work with director Hwang, I’m deeply fond of him and Jung-jae so there’s no reason for me not to join. The biggest reason would have to be the script and how it depicted so many different figures and so many different types of people. The growth, the character arc and how each developed, it was all very charming. The unique world that director Hwang created was all very intriguing and how it will be brought to the screen was something that I wanted to see.
Jung Ho-yeon: It wasn’t that I joined as I auditioned for the role but I read the script in one sitting because that’s how good it was. I had been a fan of director Hwang’s works as well.
Heo Sung-tae: For me, I was very surprised while reading the script. that’s a given. I also worked in The Fortress with director Hwang. I had to act in a different language for that movie but I’m interested in how director Hwang will guide me when I act in Korean. When we first met, he apologised for giving me a role as part of the gang again but [the role] is still all completely new.
Wi Ha-joon: The script and the scenario were extremely original and it was really shocking how children’s games could be used in this manner. Those are the reasons that I wanted to work with this amazing group of people. I was very lucky to be chosen by the director, it’s truly an honour.
Lee’s character, Gi-hun is different from his other roles. Why did you decide to cast him?
Director Hwang: He’s always portrayed a cool character from the start of his career to his more recent roles. I wanted to destroy his image in a way so I had this urge to do so something about his “cool persona” but even when he’s playing a cool character, you can sense this humanity in him and that’s something I wanted to explore in this series too.