‘Squid Game’ director, star offer a sneak peek of season 2

“It’s miraculous. I thought it was impossible to make a show and now we have 14 nominations. It feels weird and surreal,” says “Squid Game” producer Hwang Dong-hyuk, here with actor Lee Jung-jae at left .

(Angela Cho / For The Times)

For a very long time no one wanted to make a “squid game”. No one, that is, producer-writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk. Then one of Korea’s biggest stars, box-office champion Lee Jung-jae, signed on to play the show’s grubby, uncompromising hero, and deeply symbolic, carefully designedThe bare-knuckle commentary on the gap between the haves and the have-nots began, becoming Netflix’s most popular series of all time.

It now has 14 Emmy nominations, including for writing and directing Hwang, acting by Lee, and for the drama series. It is the first foreign language series to gain acceptance in any of those categories, as well as in many other,

“The Oscars are more global; the Emmys are very American. I am so grateful for them to open the doors to non-English content for the first time,” says Hwang by Zoom.

“I think the show resonated with a global audience because we have a lot of visual aspects apart from the language – we have the symbol, the design, the sets, the wardrobe – I think it has caught the attention of a global audience that doesn’t. Koreans know. And the theme too, the gap and competition between rich and poor, the struggle in our society, is very universal, ”says the director.

Autobiography with several successful features under his belt says he was on an island with the producers, writing Season 2, when the Amy announcement broke; He immediately called out “JJ” (Lee) and other nominated artists such as Park Ha-soo and Hoeeon Jung. Next, he joins Lee for a conversation with the envelope.

Like Hwang, Lee smiled at the camera of the video call, expressing his delight at the many nominations spread among those working on the series: “I saw the announcement live and was so happy to share this joy with the cast and crew. Was excited. I was excited to visit LA again and have those blissful moments [them], I guess this is a finale of us celebrating Season 1 of ‘Squid Game’. ,

Lee Jung Jaye

Lee Jung-jae played the main character “Gi-hyun”

(Angela Cho / For The Times)

likeable adversary

Part of the celebration of the series’ first season took place at Netflix’s FYC space on LA’s Melrose Avenue a few weeks before the nominations.

Those who know Lee only as his Gi-hun character will barely recognize the dapper sophisticated sitting in a small greenroom with excellent posture. Although the hamster recently flew to the US and is back on the hamster wheel again in the forever swirl of hype for his series, he is kind and put together. He looks like a guest of honor at a yacht club event in a fuzzy navy blazer. Next to her (with an interpreter behind them), Hwang shows a slight tiredness, saying that “squid game” The shooting took almost seven months and they had been promoting it for nine months.

Not that they are complaining. Despite the long road, the two are still enjoying the success of the show that Hwang conceived more than a decade ago and couldn’t make for years. And now season 2 is going on.

Hwang laughs, “When I first sent Jung-jae the script, instead of asking questions for him, I was excited to hear that he was interested because a lot of actors said ‘no’ in 2009. ” “So I was happy to hear what he had to say, and was focused on listening to him and his concerns.”

A man screams in desperation at an arcade in Korea.

Gi-hun in an arcade in episode 1.

(Ok Juhan / Netflix)

Among those concerns was the sometimes ugly status of down-on-luck protagonist Gi-hyun as “an anti-hero”. Jung-jae was concerned whether Gi-hyun would be able to resonate with the audience. So I made different adjustments, such as a scene where Gi-hun shares his fish with a stray cat. No matter how broken, no matter how flawed, he still has that goodwill in his heart. ,

Hwang cites another moment that convinced him the character would work. “There’s an early scene where you see Gi-hyun when he’s lost his money and doesn’t have much left to buy gifts for his daughter, so he goes to the place where you can see dolls in machines. Can choose, ”said the director. “You see he is incredibly happy, holding and hugging the guy who does it for him. The moment I saw Jung-jae play that scene, I was completely convinced that People are definitely going to fall in love with this character. To see that pure, childish joy in this middle-aged man, I could imagine Gi-hyun would also be on his own after joining the game. He No matter how flawed he was – he kept stealing his mother’s money – people would see the purity and beauty he has imbibed within himself.”

For all of the show’s bumpy exterior — hundreds of slaughters, life-or-death decisions, betrayals and humiliations — the hero’s humanity is the anchor of the “squid game.” Lee says that he sought Hwang’s guidance to balance Gi-hun’s dire circumstances and his optimism.

In a low, calm tone, Lee says, “I had to ask a lot of questions about his emotional state and the degree to which I needed to be portrayed in terms of his emotional spectrum. Would I take things seriously or lightly? Just clean them? For example, after literally seeing people die in front of him, Gi-hyun has to come back to the sleeping quarters and enjoy the meal. Can enjoy food to the extent? What kind of character is he in that sense?’ ,

The answers were what most actors would expect: Messi.

“If Gi-hun was only good, he would be one-dimensional and shallow,” Hwang says. “In the game of stones, he so badly wanted to survive that he was willing to deceive” [elderly contestant] Take advantage of Il-nam and his dementia. I guess it could be any of us.

“What really sets him apart is that he” no regrets, He learns from it. I wanted the audience to see them in episode 1 and episode 9 and think they are completely different people because they learned something.”

Although Hwang outlines the show’s harsh criticism of a socioeconomic system that establishes such bollywood winners and devastated losers, Lee peels away the layers of some characters as the show’s true message of essential goodness. sees in.

A man examines a small prop on set while the cast and crew watch.

Director Hwang examines a prop for one of the “Squid Game” challenges as actor Lee Jung-jae appears as player No. 456.

(Ok Juhan / Netflix)

The actor says, “At times it is violent, while at times it requires them to conquer the bodies of others, in the most dire of circumstances there is still something that, as humans, we must not lose our sight. ” “Director Hwang did such fine writing that worked so closely into the script.”

While Lee is now inextricably woven into the “Squid Game” tapestry (both admit that Gi-hyun will return in Season 2), her casting was an even bigger long shot by Hwang’s account that “so many actors” had taken the lead. was changed as shown below. Lee isn’t just a few actors in Korea; He is one such superstar who has acted in many of the highest grossing films of the country. It’s like no one in Hollywood is signing your brutal, capitalist-hot TV show then Tom Cruise is happening jump on your couch With the thought of being in it.

“And I’m almost the same age,” says Hwang, and since I was about 20, he was really the biggest, hottest star Korea had ever seen. At times, I think, “He sighs.” He says, “‘What should it be like to be born like him?’ For nearly three decades, as he shone on screen in charismatic roles, I saw something in him when he played these flawed characters who were really different, what I thought was extraordinary. That sense of humour. I thought it would be the perfect mix to bring Gi-hyun to life.”

hwang dong-huku

Producer Hwang Dong-Huku

(Angela Cho / For The Times)

a real pleasure

So where does Gi-hun go from here? “That’s the biggest challenge in Season 2,” Hwang says. “He starts where we left him at the end of the first season. So, the fact that I can’t play that level of character arc is a huge challenge. Without taking away any spoilers, that line Which Gi-hun says in the last episode: ‘I’m not a horse and I’m curious to know who did this to us.’ It will be about that journey and Gi-hun that proves that we are not really horses; we are all human. And the fact that we all hold goodness, the essence of humanity.”

After a flood of Amy laurels, Lee is particularly sunny about the prospect of returning to Los Angeles for the ceremony with her fellow nominees — including one of her direct contestants.

By Zoom, he says, “Of course I watched a lot of shows; I love them,” making special mention of “Ozark” and “Succession.” “Especially Jeremy Strong – I’ve seen him at several awards shows actually. Not long ago I went to the Cannes film festival and saw it there. We were so happy to see each other again, we were shaking hands. I think his performance is amazing. That’s the land. You can really tell that he puts his heart and soul into the work he does. ,

In the meantime, Hwang still finds it difficult to reconcile the horrific struggles that he made the show stand for now.

“Looking back at 2009, when nobody wanted to make the show, I didn’t expect it at all,” he says. “It’s miraculous. I thought it was impossible to make a show and now we have 14 nominations. It feels weird and surreal. I think the journey of making ‘Squid Game’ is much more dramatic than the show.”

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