On September 29, Lee Jung Jae participated in a video interview and shared about his appearance in the Netflix series “Squid Game”.
“Squid Game” is a story that director Hwang Dong Hyuk had been envisioning since 2008. Director Hwan was fascinated by games, and he wanted to create a work that links modern society with the games in his childhood memories through extreme competition. “Squid Game” tells the story of people who risk their lives participating in a mysterious survival game in order to become the last winner of 45.6 billion won.
In this drama, Lee Jung Jae played the role of Sung Ki Hoon, who lost his job due to the restructuring of his company. While gambling with private loans, he got divorced and continued his lethargic life. Then one day, he participated in the Squid Game.
Lee Jung Jae revealed the reason why he accepted this role, saying, “As I got older, I only received calls for the roles with strong characteristics or villains. In most of my recent works, my characters had to arouse the tension in the movies, so I wanted to show a new kind of acting. At that moment, director Hwang Dong Hyuk suggested me the role of Ki Hoon. Therefore, I thought after such a long time, it would be nice to act the role of a man that you can see in everyday life.”
The actor continued, “I found the concept of ‘Squid Game’ interesting from the beginning. Although it was a survival competition between adults, the games were actually played by little kids. Despite being a survival game genre, it carefully explained the sorrows and hardships of the people who participated in the game. I think this made the movie different from other works as it effectively revealed the stories of the characters one by one without exaggerating them.“
When asked what he focused on the most while acting as Ki Hoon, Lee Jung Jae shared, “A role with strong characters is easy if everything is set up in the beginning and you just need to push forward. However, with a role of a man in daily life, I paid a little more attention to make this man look natural. In addition, there were extreme moments during the game that Ki Hoon had to express communion and emotions, so I think I acted by combining my daily life experience in these extreme situations.“
“When I monitored the footage, I felt like I did a lot of unexpected things. There were also facial expressions and actions that I don’t usually do in real life. I think I did act like this in the past, so it was fun to see these expressions again after a long time.“
Regarding Ki Hoon’s characteristic being described as a laid-off worker at Ssangyong Motor, actor Lee Jung Jae shared, “My heart was heavy, and I felt hurt. It was written in the promotional description of the movie. If you look at the phrase “a game played by people who are at the hardest time in their lives”, you will recognize this. After being fired, Ki Hoon has not been able to find another job and is living with his mother. Those stories hurt my heart.“
When asked, what his chemistry with Park Hae Soo (Sang Woo) and Oh Young Soo (Il Nam) was like, Lee Jung Jae said, “Oh Young-soo was such a great senior actor that I feel it was nice to work with him. We have a big age gap, and I’ve never seen him before, so I had a little difficulty at first, but his way of thinking is really young. He’s young, looking from the perspective of the film. When we talked with each other about social issues after filming or during breaks, I realized that his real thoughts were really young, too. In terms of acting, I think we got along well from the beginning because I shared many scenes with him. He thought a lot about how he should portray Il Nam, and that’s what helped us film the scenes smoothly.“
Then, Lee Jung Jae expressed his gratitude to Park Hae Soo, “Park Hae-soo is also a friend who had acted in many theater plays before, so he was able to interpret his character deeply. Unlike his appearance, Park Hae Soo has many lovely sides. He was really humorous at the filming site. Should I call him the mood maker of the team? We worked together in this film in the hottest and the coldest seasons. There were many difficulties, but I think I overcame everything so well thanks to that friend’s bright personality.“
“Squid Game” not only became the first Korean series to rank No.1 in the U.S Netflix’s “Today’s TOP 10” but also topped the world’s “Netflix Popular TV Program” category for 6 consecutive days. Since “Squid Game” was released on September 17, this is such an outstanding achievement for a drama in its first week of release, breaking the record in the history of Netflix’s original Korean content and the Asian dramas.
When asked if he realizes this popularity, Lee Jung Jae smiled and answered, “From my fellow actors to my acquaintances, they contacted me a lot. I feel so grateful for that. The actors who appeared in the drama with me sometimes asked me if they could upload the videos and photos that we took together on the filming set, and I told them to share as much as they want.“
The actor added, “Apart from being a Korean content, this drama has a unique concept, and it is a combination of various aspects that have been well-harmonized. The director had prepared for this film for a long time, and I think in this era, I can sympathize with the film more than the time back then.“
Some viewers expressed that they do not understand why Ki Hoon is particularly interested in caring for Oh Il Nam (Oh Young Soo) in the movie. In response, Lee Jung Jae said, “It seems like Ki Hoon is a person who not easily let people think that he’s weak. Ki Hoon is a humble yet weak man, but when he sees a weaker person than himself, he feels pity. Also, doesn’t Ki Hoon have a trauma of not being able to protect his friend who died while they worked at the same company? I think that’s why he wanted to help Oh Il Nam. Thinking about the reason why Ki Hoon cannot pass by a weak person, I believe it’s because he is a person who was not protected before.“
Many viewers also questioned how Ki Hoon could show his sympathy toward Oh Il Nam while he was such an immature son of his mother. In response, Lee Jung Jae explained, “Don’t you usually do childish actions toward your parents? Because the son doesn’t work outside, mom seems to be the only person who accepts such complaints of him. That’s why he looks pitiful.“
In addition, Lee Jung Jae picked the Sugar Honeycomb and the Glass Bridge challenges as the most memorable games to him. He recalled his memories and said, “There is a scene when I lick the dalgona in the Sugar Honeycomb Game, and I wondered if I should lick it this much. The director told me to do it, but I wondered if I should do that much. “I’m risking my life, so that’s possible.”, I remembered I kept on thinking like that while licking the dalgona“
He continued, “In the Glass Bridge Crossing Game, we actually had the tempered glass laid 2m high. They told me not to worry and just run because it was safe. However, things didn’t work well because my feet kept slipping as I sweated a lot. Moreover, the gap was also wide at first, making it difficult for me to run. We decided to rearrange it, but it was still not easy to run on certain sections that we couldn’t adjust.“
In the last scenes, Ki Hoon caught the eyes of the audience by dyeing his hair red. Accordingly, actor Lee Jung Jae explained, “The red hair was actually on the script. I talked to the director and asked why I should dye my hair red because it’s a color that ordinary men at Ki Hoon’s age don’t do. I think it was a will to show actions that go beyond the limits that people think Ki Hoon would never do.” When asked if he actually dyed his hair, Lee Jung Jae smiled and said, “If I dye my hair red, I can’t do anything else,” adding, “I wore a wig, and it suited me well.“
Regarding the ending, Lee Jung Jae shared, “I like how it ended as if the interesting story still has more things to unfold. It was good to feel Ki-hoon’s courage when he decided to jump into a terrifying world again with the line, ‘This thing is wrong, this is not right’“.