Hwang Dong-hyuk interview: ‘Squid Game’ showrunner

“I’ve been losing quite a lot of sleep,” admits writer/director Hwang Dong-hyuk about expectations for his follow up to global blockbuster sensation “Squid Game.” “It is quite daunting to be honest, especially because I killed off most of the beloved characters from season 1,” he shares from his home in South Korea where he is writing the show’s highly anticipated sophomore season.

“I want to bring in new characters that people will be able to truly relate to and really root for. I’m only at the very beginning stage of conceiving season 2, so all I will say is that it is quite challenging, especially because there’s a lot of high hopes for the second season. I am going to do my very best to not let you down!” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

SEE Could ‘Squid Game’ give ‘Succession’s’ supporting men a run for their money at the Emmys?

“Squid Game” was conceived by showrunner Hwang, who not only created and produced “Squid Game” but also wrote and directed all nine episodes, expanding the story from its original feature film format. “Two hours was too short to contain all of the elements that I wanted to portray, all six games, all of the backstory of each character,” Hwang explains about shifting the story to a more long-form format. “While working on it, because of the time constraints, I tried to reduce the games to maybe five games and then I took out all the back stories for the characters and then when I looked at the end product, I felt like the story was too bony. There was no meat; a lot of the narrative was gone,” he says.

The series’ sprawling ensemble cast stars Lee Jung-jae alongside Jung Ho-yeon, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-jun, Heo Sung-tae, recent Golden Globe winner O Yeong-su, Anupam Tripathi and Kim Joo-ryoung. It tells the story of 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). Every game is a Korean traditional children’s game such as Red Light Green Light, but the consequence of losing each game is a painful death. Who will be the winner, and what is the purpose behind this game? Of the 456 participants from all walks of life who are locked into a secret location to play Game 1, only a handful are left to play Game 6. Netflix premiered all nine episodes of the dystopian 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.

SEE ‘Squid Game’: An exclusive look behind the lens of episode 6 ‘Gganbu’ with cinematographer Lee Hyung-deok

After all of its commercial success, “Squid Game” looks set to dominate the Emmys later this year, following its two surprise wins at the Screen Actors Guild Awards earlier this year, where Lee won Best Drama Actor and Jung won Best Drama Actress. Looking back at that memorable evening, Hwang is still shocked about how much the show has resonated within the industry.

“The American entertainment industry is definitely changing in a very rapid manner, and also in the right direction in the way they are becoming more open minded toward global content and global performances,” he declares. “I am very happy and very pleasantly surprised, and I hope that that these events will lead to even greater exchange, and an even richer exchange of content and culture. It makes me very happy!”

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UPLOADED Jul 12, 2022 3:30 pm