NSquid game became Netflix’s most-watched show ever within a week of its September 17 debut on the streaming channel, with 142 million member households globally watching the series. weird Korean movies in the first four weeks. Even the main actors couldn’t have predicted how explosive it would be – and unsurprisingly they didn’t know how to deal with its sudden and massive success.
“I lost 6 pounds in a week when it became successful,” says Jung Ho-yeon, who played Sae-byeok in her film debut. CHEAP. “I can’t eat – it’s not stress, I just don’t know the feeling. I lost myself.”
The film was created by Hwang Dong-hyuk, and stars Jung, Lee Jung-jae, and Park Hae-soo as contestants (in a lineup of hundreds) who fight for their lives through through different childhood games – with the lone survivor winning the big prize money. Loyalty (and division) is formed as characters work together to compete in deadly games while also finding their own.
The three actors talked to CHEAP (Lee and Park through an interpreter) about their most challenging scenes, how they prepared for their roles, and whether they could ever predict the global phenomenon Squid fishing game became.
What made you all want to be a part of Squid fishing game?
LEE JUNG-JAE Director Hwang’s work has always been very, very interesting to me. I want to work with the director himself. And then when I finally got the script for Squid fishing game, it is unique and the characters have all this depth. I really want to work on the project.
JUNG HO-YEON I auditioned. I’m a big fan of director Hwang, and it’s an honor for me to be chosen.
PARK HAE-SOO I have a lot of respect and trust in director Hwang. I’m really excited to work with this group and with the other actors, and I have such great respect for Jung-jae that I’m really excited. There’s absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t do this project.
Which scene was the most challenging for you?
LEE Honestly, the beehive scene. It was difficult because as an actor, I had to stay in one place, but I also had to calculate how the intensity increased with the level of fear and pressure. [my character] to be. So to do that, it’s actually quite difficult. Also, episode six, “Gganbu,” was quite difficult because the character had to cheat. And to express that kind of emotion is quite a challenge. Gi-Hun as a character is really uncomfortable if he has to cheat, so it’s hard to really show this part of the character’s integrity, and he has to do this to survive.
Hae-soo, your character is likable at first, but that fades as the series goes on. What drew you to the character?
PARK All the characters really have two personalities, but my character in particular has the most and really stands out. My character doesn’t have much confidence, and then he meets his childhood friend [Gi-Hun] and have a lot of envy for him. And so he is feeling a lot of loss. In fact, I have to look back at my past and see when I’ve had these experiences, because I need to show that in my character. It’s really not that hard, because we’ve all gone through such things.
Hae-soo and Ho-yeon, how did you prepare mentally and physically for your role?
JUNG Mentally, I wrote a diary about Sae-byeok’s daily life – when she was in North Korea and had to flee to South Korea, and what happened in this moment, the sounds and how she feels about me. [could] keep her memories in my mind. But even though I was mentally prepared, I still did martial arts physically. They sent me on an internship, but I thought I was doing too much, so the director and producer told me not to go too much — like, “Calm down, Ho-yeon. We’re not going to hang you somewhere, you’ll be fine! When I started filming, I didn’t really know much about Sae-byeok, but the experience Sae-byeok had in Squid fishing game was stored naturally in my body and [mind]. Especially in the bathroom when she was stabbed, [which] we [shot] quite early. When we were shooting that scene, I was very nervous because I’ve never been stabbed – it was a stressful scene for me.
Did someone give you the idea to keep a diary like your character?
JUNG That’s just me. I don’t have the method to enter the character because I don’t have [acting] experience at all, so I had to find a way to get close to her. At first it wasn’t a diary, it was just notes, but I managed to keep it organized.
Was the bathroom scene your most challenging one?
JUNG It was one of the most challenging scenes because at the beginning of the shot, I couldn’t get rid of my nerves – but I had to [Sae-byeok’s] most important scene. When I did that, and director Hwang was happy, I was proud of myself and more confident. I said, “I’m good to go.” Then there are many challenges. The last scene with Sae-byeok, I was very nervous. But I have to do it.
Jung-jae, how did you prepare for your role?
LEE When I was preparing for another role, I was really just walking. That’s what I did, that’s my preparation. So for this character, I went through Korean markets, and that really helped me prepare the character emotionally – being able to observe everyday life and everyday people. at the market. From a physical perspective, we had to shoot for five to six days, actually shooting. We did not sleep. There was little food on the set. So I went on a diet and lost about 4-5 kg [8 to 11 pounds].
What about you, Hae-soo?
JUNG I can explain! (Exciting answers for a colleague without the need for an interpreter.) He doesn’t study well, but he must understand [his character]. Seoul University is the top university in Korea, and his character graduated from there, so he has to understand all this. He just visited Seoul University for five days just to get a feel for smart people.
Hae-soo, you gained 800,000 Instagram followers in one day, this is phenomenal. Did any of you predict this success of the show?
PARK Honestly, when I read the script and then I met the team members, I had some expectations that it could be huge.
JUNG I think [I knew] a week after it opened. I can’t track the growth rate of Squid fishing game successful because since COVID I think everything is faster and even being online it happens very fast. It’s hard to follow. I lost 6 pounds in a week when it came to fruition. I can’t eat – it’s not stress, I just don’t know the feeling. “What’s going on out there, who am I?” I have lost myself. Now, I feel very comfortable with Squid fishing game team, so I can slowly get used to this success with everyone. But when I was alone at home watching this development, I wondered, “What?”
LEE I agree with Ho-yeon, I don’t know how to deal with this. I don’t know what this is. Although I have [more acting] experience. … Even in Korea, it is very popular and the show has received a lot of feedback from people that they really like it. It was very successful in Korea.
The edited interview is long and clear.
This story first appeared in a December issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.