It seems the world cannot stop talking about Squid Game, even months after its premiere in 2021. With the recent history-making Emmy nominations, director and creator Hwang Dong-hyuk thinks back to the process of making the K-drama. The Squid Game mastermind discusses finding his lead actor, and when the one moment he realized Seong Gi-hun was not a bad guy at heart.
Seong Gi-hun makes bad life choices in ‘Squid Game’
South Korean actor Lee Jung-jae brought to life the role of Seong Gi-hun in Squid Game. The K-drama’s somewhat protagonist is not the sin-free angel one would expect. Upon the first introduction, he did not make the best impression. Fans saw him have a gambling problem and cannot hold a job or his money. Above all, he rubbed fans wrong when he asked his mother for money.
The money was meant to help pay for a birthday gift for his young daughter. But the seduction of gambling gets the best of Gi-hun. He makes a bet and wins even more, but loan sharks go after him, beat him, and steal his earnings.
With no money and other options, his plans to keep his promise to his daughter go down the drain. To still give her something, he goes to win a prize at the claw machines. Gi-hun is by far not the most moral person in the world or Squid Gamebut Hwang reveals the claw game scene is what convinced him that the character was still good at heart.
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Gi-hun’s jubilee of winning a gift for his daughter made him an antihero in ‘Squid Game’
There is no denying that the participants in the Games are not angels and have done their wrongs. Gi-hun is no expectation and became the K-drama’s antihero. In an interview with the LA Times, Hwang explains the claw scene convinced him that Gi-hun would be a character fans would resonate with.
“There’s an early scene where you see Gi-hun when he has lost his money and he doesn’t have very much left to buy a gift for his daughter, so he goes to that place where you can pick the dolls in the machines, ” sad Hwang. “You see him being incredibly happy, holding and hugging the boy who does that for him. The minute I saw Jung-jae play that scene, I was completely convinced that people were, for sure, going to fall in love with this character. To see that pure, childlike joy in this middle-aged man, I could imagine Gi-hun being himself after joining the game as well. No matter how flawed he was — he would go on to steal his mother’s money — people would see that purity and beauty that he holds within himself.”
The Squid Game director explains the contradicting morality of Gi-hun, and his life choices made the character complex. Gi-hun is someone who “regrets” his decisions. If Gi-hun were a hero from the start, he would be “one-dimensional and shallow.”
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Lee Jung-jae was perfect for the lead character in the K-drama
Despite Hwang’s reputation on the big screen, he admits he was starstruck by Lee. When sending him the script for the K-drama, Hwang was excited that the actor was interested. He has heard many “no” answers since 2009.
Hwang and Lee are close in age, with the director in his early 50s and Lee at 49 years old. Since his 20s, Hwang has watched Lee become one of Korea’s household names on screen.
“For about three decades, while he shone onscreen in charismatic roles, there was something I saw in him when he played these flawed characters that really stood out, that I thought was extraordinary. That sense of humor. I thought it would be the perfect mix to bring Gi-hun to life,” explained Hwang.
Much like the rest of the world, Lee cannot stop praising the Squid Game creator and the story he created. The K-drama has come a long way to become history-making work. Hwang is still stunned by his success but admits, “I think the journey of making Squid Game is more dramatic than the show itself.” The same can be said about Squid Game Season 2, as Hwang was in the middle of writing the script during the Emmy nominations and said picking up the success story will be a challenge.
RELATED: ‘Squid Game’ Season 2: Fans Theorize the New Storyline With Front Man and Gi-hun