Chae Kyoung-sun interview: ‘Squid Game’ production designer
“Any creator has the urge to express themselves,” declares award-winning Korean production designer Chae Kyoung-sun about the desire to push the envelope on a series like the Netflix blockbuster “Squid Game.” For our recent webchat, she adds “they would have the strong desire to make something that is more cool, that is more fancy, that is more new.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“Squid Game” was conceived by writer/director Hwang Dong-hyuk, who not only created and produced “Squid Game” but also wrote and directed all nine episodes. The series stars leading man Lee Jung-jae as central hero Gi-hun, Jung Ho-yeon as the mysterious North Korean refugee Sae-byeok, 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.
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The global phenomenon centers on a group of people who have hit rock bottom, 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. Chae is riding high after winning at the 2022 Art Directors Guild Awards in the One-Hour Contemporary Single-Camera Series category. She won for the acclaimed sixth episode “Ggangbu,” which centers on the emotionally devastating marble game set in a saturated sunset-tinged maze of neighborhood alleyways based on director Hwang’s own childhood. “The alleyways are designed based off the alleyways of the 70s and 90s, but when you look at the design there are only alleyways,” she explains. “There is no home, no actual home. There are only doors. So, you can see these alleyways in a neighborhood, but still there is no way for us to reach home,” she says. On her surprise ADG win earlier this year, Chae humbly reveals that she didn’t see it coming at all. “I received the award totally out of expectation,” she declares, adding “I would like to thank them so much for this honor and I really want to share this all with all the production team.”