Squid Game is starting to show serious awards-season brawn as the Korean Netflix series racked up a historic four SAG Awards nominations Wednesday. It marks the first time a non-English or Korean series has garnered a SAG nomination.
“Upon hearing the nomination today, I think it has to be the happiest moment since we’ve created Squid Game. The fact not just one or two leading actors were recognized, but the whole cast being nominated as the best ensemble. It brings me great joy as a director, who has cast and created the series, just being nominated,” director and writer Hwang Dong-hyuk said.
Squid Game took the world by storm after its September 2021 premiere and proceeded to shatter streaming records. It only took the Korean local-language production 17 days for the nine-episode series to become Netflix’s best series debut ever, eventually accruing over 3 billion minutes streamed and reaching over 142 million households according to Nielsen. The grim survival drama entrenched itself in the cultural zeitgeist with kids dressing up as the characters for Halloween and Americans obsessing over the Korean childhood games.
Fast forward several months and now Squid Game has bagged four SAG Award nominations, with more award nominations possibly to come. Today, noms went to Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble, Lee Jung-jae for Outstanding Performance by Male Actor, Jung Ho-yeon for Outstanding Performance by Female Actor, and Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
Korean acting is continuing to have its moment in the limelight. With Parasite‘s cast winning at SAG in 2020 on its way to the Oscar Best Picture win, and Minari‘s Yoon Yuh-jung earning Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role in 2021, Squid Game is poised to keep South Korea’s awards momentum going.
Although Lee has been an acting staple in Korea for decades, the decorated actor said Korean content is finally peaking due to the right mixture of visionary directors and adept industry members.
“I think we are at a point where the quality of Korean content has improved greatly based on a lot of talented directors and all of the crew that are involved. Now, anywhere in the world you can enjoy high-quality Korean content in terms of its entertainment value and the way it is visually appealing. As an actor, I can only hope that this love for Korean content will only grow stronger and continue,” he said.
The newly minted star, Jung Ho-yeon, who plays a North Korean refugee in the series, echoed her cast mate’s thoughts on how Korean content is being received around the world and stated she feels a stronger tie to the acting world because of the nomination.
“It’s such an honor to be nominated by the Screen Actors Guild. We were just talking about how amazing it’d be to be recognized as an ensemble cast. We’ve been watching a lot of American TV and film and to be one of those nominated is crazy,” Jung said.
“In the beginning, I thought acting was going to be a disaster,” Jung continued. “Now, with this nomination and the popularity of Squid Game, I want to take more responsibility in regards to the acting community and the world.”
Late last year, Hwang revealed a second season was in the works. Though it hasn’t been officially greenlit by Netflix yet, he is “positive” about making a sequel.
“As for Season 2, I do want to make a next season and I am very positive about it becoming that. But, it is not yet officially decided, so it’s still a little bit early to discuss that. Once it becomes more official, I should be able to communicate with you, and will just say that we are trying in a very positive direction,” he said.
The Gallup Korea’s actor of the year reiterated the director’s sentiment and expressed his enthusiasm for what’s to come in the second season.
“I am personally very excited to see what kind of twists and surprises that the director is going to bring to the character in the next season,” Lee said.
Lee, who plays Gi-hun – a financially strapped curmudgeon who participates in the survival game to pay for his gambling losses, told Deadline how pleased he was with his character’s first-season story arc.
“The character finally summons up a great deal of courage, wanting to right the many wrongs that he has witnessed and goes through a change of heart,” Lee said. “He turns around and leaves everything else after that to your imagination. I was very satisfied with the way it ended.”
However, not everyone was pleased with the ending. After an October postgame presser, NBA star LeBron James revealed he wasn’t happy with Gi-hun’s logic and that he “didn’t like the ending.”
Lee laughed at James’ comment and would love to discuss it more with the four-time NBA champion.
“It was definitely a fun comment. I think that a lot went through his mind after he finished the first season. I would actually love to ask him what he thinks of it now at this point,” Lee said.
The 2022 SAG Awards ceremony is set for February 27.
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