Lee Jung-jae: It’s ‘Worrying’ That Horrific ‘Squid Game’ Resonated with So Many People

"You get a sense this is the reality for so many people globally. And that makes me feel hugely sad."
Close up of a man intensely examining a cookie while hooded guards in red walk around behind him; still from "Squid Game."
"Squid Game"

Lee Jung-jae wants the world to question just why “Squid Game” was so addicting.

The star of Netflix’s hit survival series reflected on the show’s success ahead of its second season. “I’m happy about it, of course, but it’s bittersweet,” Lee told The Guardian. “Yes, it’s great that audiences are consuming Korean content around the world. And they appreciate it. But if you think about the themes of ‘Squid Game’ – how far are we willing to go to accumulate personal wealth, the lengths people are forced to go to – the fact it resonated with so many around the world is worrying.”

Lee added, “You get a sense this is the reality for so many people globally. And that makes me feel hugely sad.”

Lee won the Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series and makes his directorial debut this year with thriller feature “Hunt.” The actor additionally joined upcoming “Star Wars” Disney+ series “The Acolyte.” Yet the themes behind “Squid Game” are still haunting.

“We had to express the experiences of these characters being pushed to those extremes. Doing that? It was terrible,” Lee said. “The more beautiful the game set was, and the more childish and fun it seemed, the more horrific it was for the characters, and therefore us as actors. I do think about what happened in that show. It’s impossible not to. And it made me think about what I’m not doing. Many of us live obliviously. It made me rethink how I look at the world. It couldn’t not.”

Lee previously told IndieWire that while the show’s success was “unexpected,” he could understand why the series resonated with worldwide.

“Primarily [it’s] the fact that the games are very easy and unique at the same time, and also simple enough for people to easily follow and copy. And I think the most important factor was the fascinating characters,” Lee said earlier this year. ‘They thought that the characters were very compelling. The audience members saw themselves in some of the characters and other people in other characters. This helped them form [an] emotional bond with most of the characters. I think as they saw these players, contestants, desperately trying to survive in those games, they saw themselves and issues [with] some social problems in our times. So that really resonated with them.”

“Squid Gamewasis created, written, and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk and was renewed for Season 2 in June 2022.

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