The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Lee Jung-jae says ‘Squid Game’ surprised him like it shocked the world

Korean top actor is willing to appear in possible “Squid Game Season 2,“ if the director needs him

By Lee Si-jin

Published : Sept. 30, 2021 - 14:10

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Actor Lee Jung-jae (Netflix) Actor Lee Jung-jae (Netflix)
Top actor Lee Jung-jae is surprised with the global fervor for “Squid Game,” while enjoying the success of his Netflix debut.

Mesmerizing viewers is not an unusual experience for the veteran actor, but Lee was shocked when he first saw himself as Ki-hoon.

“Watching myself playing the role of Ki-hoon gave me goosebumps. I laughed a lot when I monitored the work after its release. Acting Ki-hoon was definitely a refreshing experience, making moves and facial expressions that I rarely used in acting more charismatic figures or villains,” Lee, who has mostly appeared in films in recent years, said during an online interview with a group of reporters Wednesday afternoon.

The Netflix megahit centers on debt-ridden contestants accepting an unexpected invitation to compete in selected childhood games for what turns out to be a life-changing sum.

Despite the life-threatening situations the games throw up, Lee captured the global audiences’ over with the humorous character, Ki-hoon.

“I recognize that a lot of fans like me to play a more humorous character. Ki-hoon was, of course, very different from the roles in my previous works -- ‘Deliver Us From Evil,’ (2020) ‘The Face Reader,’ (2015) ‘Assassination’ (2015) and ‘New World’ (2013). I am grateful for the views loving different sides of Lee Jung-jae and watching other contents after learning about me in ‘Squid Game.’ I hope this leads to the international audience’s love for many other Korean contents.” Lee said.

Asked why he decided to make his small screen return as a player in a mystery survival game, Lee said he was absorbed into Ki-hoon and scenario just like other “Squid Game” enthusiasts.

Actor Lee Jung-jae plays debt-ridden divorcee Ki-hoon in “Squid Game” (Netflix) Actor Lee Jung-jae plays debt-ridden divorcee Ki-hoon in “Squid Game” (Netflix)
“I do not separate the scripts and decide on doing either movies or drama series in a certain year. I always think of what I can do best and how I can entertain the public when I first receive the script. I thought Ki-hoon would allow me to show different sides of actor Lee Jung-jae,” Lee said to The Korea Herald.

Lee acknowledges that Ki-hoon can be heavily criticized for not caring his old mother, wasting money by betting on horse racing and not looking after his daughter.

”Making Ki-hoon’s actions understandable, entertaining and even charming for the viewers was a huge challenge and I shared a lot of opinions and thoughts with director Hwang Dong-hyuk to properly express the character,“ the actor added. 

Actor Lee Jung-jae (Netflix) Actor Lee Jung-jae (Netflix)
During the interview, the veteran actor also shared his plans to meet with global audiences again.

“I am not sure if I can work in Hollywood or overseas entertainment business with my insufficient English skills, so I cannot say anything for certain at this moment. But I hope to meet the international fans with the works that I am currently shooting,” he said.

Lee added that he is willing to perform in possible “Squid Game Season 2,” if the director needs him.

The nine-part thriller is creating a worldwide sensation by topping the global Netflix chart since its release on Sept. 17.