Jung Ho-yeon (‘Squid Game’) on her breakthrough role as the mysterious Sae-byeok: ‘Is it real or am I dreaming?’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

“For me it wasn’t that difficult to understand her,” declares rising star Jung Ho-yeon about portraying the distrustful and reclusive Sae-byeok on the Netflix blockbuster “Squid Game.” For our recent webchat she adds, “I feel like her background, her situation, is quite far away from my own life, but the struggle and that emotion to want to make her life better. I think we all do,” she admits. “Humans are always looking for a better situation and looking forward to a better life.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

“Squid Game” was conceived by acclaimed feature writer/director Hwang Dong-hyuk, who not only created and produced “Squid Game” but also wrote and directed all nine episodes. Jung portrays enigmatic fan-favorite Sae-byeok, a North Korean refugee. She puts everything on the line by entering the Squid Game after paying off a heartless broker to get her mother out of the oppressive North to join her and her younger brother in South Korea goes awry. The actress co-stars alongside leading man Lee Jung-jae as central hero Gi-hun, Park Hae-soo as the calculating Sang-woo, Wi Ha-jun as undercover cop Jun-ho, Heo Sung-tae as the villainous Deok-su, recent Golden Globe winner O Yeong-su as old man Il-nam, Lee Yoo-mi as the stoic Ji-yeong, Anupam Tripathi as lovable migrant Ali and Kim Joo-ryoung as the delightfully unhinged Mi-nyeo.

SEE over 200 interviews with 2022 Emmy contenders

The series is about down-on-their-luck people in dire need of money, who each receive mysterious invitations to join a dangerous life-or-death version of their childhood games in order to win a cash prize of 45.6 billion won (equivalent to about 38 million US dollars).The games depicted on “Squid Game” are adapted from traditional Korean children’s games, but in this dystopian fable, if and when you lose a game, you die. The show sets up this riveting roller-coaster ride for audiences, who are kept guessing throughout each nail-biting episode who will be the winner and what is the purpose behind the deadly competition, with the 456 participants eventually culled to a lucky few who remain to play the final game in the season finale. Netflix premiered all nine episodes of the South Korean thriller on September 17 of last year, after which it became a word-of-mouth sensation and the streaming giant’s most popular series launch ever, topping Netflix charts in over 80 countries. Director Hwang is now writing the show’s second season, perhaps one of the most highly anticipated follow ups in years.

After all of its commercial success, “Squid Game” looks set to likely dominate at the Emmys when nominations are announced in July, following its three surprise wins at the 2022 Screen Actors Guild Awards, where Lee won Best Drama Actor, Jung won Best Drama Actress and the series’ stunt crew took home the stunt ensemble prize. Jung happily recalls the moment up on stage when she accepted the award with tears of joy, admitting that her first reaction when looking down at the Hollywood A-list in that ballroom was “is it real or am I dreaming?”

“It’s there,” she remarks, looking off-camera to the coveted Actor trophy that she has placed on a nearby shelf in her home. While she pinches herself about the unexpected SAG win, she’s just grateful that the show has resonated with fans all over the world. “I don’t feel like it’s real yet,” she smiles, adding that “just the fact that our show is recognized worldwide. Not only Korea, not only Hollywood, it’s worldwide!”

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