‘Squid Game’ Star Lee Jung-Jae On What Show’s Historic SAG Awards Mean For Future Of Korean Entertainment

SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains details from the first season of Netflix’s Squid Game.

After Netflix’s Squid Game made history on Sunday as the first non-English-language series, and the first from Korea to break through at the SAG Awards, claiming statuettes for Drama Actor (Lee Jung-Jae) and Actress (Jung Ho-yeon) and TV stunts, Lee spoke backstage to how Korean film and television as a whole might benefit from the show’s success.

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“I think it’s just the beginning. There [is] a lot of amazing Korean content that’s just as entertaining and touching as Squid Game,” he said via an interpreter, “so I ask that you look out for [it], show us a lot of love and continue to watch a lot of great Korean content.”

Lee also was asked backstage about the qualities in Korean entertainment that he finds special, and cited a wide variety. “The story unfolds at a very rapid pace. There’s also a lot of great characters that are expressed in extreme detail,” he said, “and there are a lot of amazing and talented actors and actresses who are willing to portray great, natural and complex characters based on these great scripts.”

Lee tonight beat out The Morning Show’s Billy Crudup and the Succession duo of Brian Cox and Kieran Culkin for the Drama Series Actor prize, with Jung besting competition for Drama Series Actress that included The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Elisabeth Moss, Succession‘s Sarah Snook and The Morning Show stars Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. While the show triumphed in Stunts over Cobra Kai, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki and Mare of Easttown and was expected to follow in the footsteps of Bong Joon Ho’s Korean Best Picture Oscar winner Parasite, with an ensemble win, the award for Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series ended up going to the cast of HBO’s Succession. Still, its wins tonight solidified its status as a major player to contend with, in the Emmy season to come.

Squid Game, from creator, Hwang Dong-hyuk, watches as 456 cash-strapped players accept a strange invitation to compete in a series of deadly children’s games, risking their lives for a chance at winning 45.6 billion won. Lee stars as the down-on-his-luck Seong Gi-hun, who survives the first round of games, with Jung as his beloved comrade, Kang Sae-byeok, who dies toward the end of Season 1.

Squid Game quickly broke out as a pop culture phenomenon upon its debut on September 17, cementing itself as the most-watched series in the history of Netflix in its first four weeks on the streamer. Over the course of the 2021-2022 awards season, the series has also been recognized with noms at the ACE Eddie Awards, the Art Directors Guild Awards, the Critics’ Choice Awards and Critics’ Choice Super Awards, the Cinema Audio Society Awards, the Costume Designers Guild Awards, the Film Independent Spirit Awards, the Golden Globes, the Gotham Awards, the Golden Reel Awards, the PGA Awards, the Society of Composers and Lyricists Awards and the Visual Effects Society Awards.

Cast member Oh Yeong-su claimed the Golden Globe for Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role on Television in January, with the show nabbing the Gotham Award for Breakthrough Series – Longform this past November.

Check out Lee’s commentary backstage at the SAG Awards, alongside Jung, by clicking above.

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