“He has lost so much in his life and he joins the game right on the verge of taking his own life,” declares acclaimed Korean actor Park Hae-soo about portraying the calculating and complicated Sang-woo on the Netflix blockbuster “Squid Game.” For our recent webchat he adds, “I did not want to portray him to be a simple character. All of the decisions he makes are based on reason. He’s driven by logic and reasonable choices and that’s based on his backstory,” he says. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“Squid Game” is conceived by feature writer/director Hwang Dong-hyuk, who not only created and produced “Squid Game” but also wrote and directed all nine episodes. Park portrays Sang-woo, who is introduced on the thriller as a desperate businessman who has lost everything after defrauding his clients. For Sang-woo, his honor is everything. He graduated first in his class. He had such a bright future. But he screwed it up and now needs to claw his way back to the life he wished he had. So he enters the deadly game and realizes that he cannot let his guard down, because doing so means he dies. He has to keep going at all costs, so he’s ruthless by necessity.
Sang-woo ultimately decides to stab himself in the throat, eliminating himself from the game in order to save childhood friend Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae), which is so devastating because it is (at first glance) so unexpected. The actor says that this turn of events at the end of the season was in keeping with who Sang-woo is. “Many people see the very last decision that he makes as sacrifice, but I believe it wasn’t so much a decision made based on his heart, it was just the smartest decision that he had to make at that point in time,” he explains. “That was the decision that would allow for at least one of them, the participants, to leave the place with the cash prize, instead of all the cash money going back to the VIPs. It didn’t come from the heart, it was more of the mind.”
Park co-stars alongside leading man Lee as central hero Gi-hun, Jung Ho-yeon as mysterious North Korean refugee Sae-byeok, 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.
The series follows a core group of people who have joined a deadly game with 456 participants, all in dire need of money. They have each received 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 Korean 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 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, and 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.
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