Oh Young-soo interview: ‘Squid Game’
“It’s no longer us within the world, but we have worlds within us,” declares veteran Korean actor Oh Young-soo, who portrays fragile old man Il-nam, otherwise known as Player 001, on Netflix’s most-viewed show “Squid Game.” For our recent webchat he adds, “I am very proud that Korean culture and Korean philosophies are now resonating with a global audience and it feels very fulfilling that I am in this arena.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“Squid Game” was conceived by Hwang Dong-hyuk, who not only created and produced “Squid Game” but also wrote and directed all nine episodes. Young-soo co-stars alongside Korean superstar Lee Jung-jae as hero Gi-hun, newcomer Jung Ho-yeon as destitute 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, Lee Yoo-mi as the stoic Ji-yeong, Anupam Tripathi as migrant worker Ali and Kim Joo-ryoung as the delightfully unhinged Mi-nyeo. The drama thriller centers on 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).
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Every game featured in the series is based on a traditional Korean children’s game (like Red Light Green Light for instance), but in this “sinister amusement park,” the consequence of losing a 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 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. After all of its commercial success, “Squid Game” may dominate at the Emmys this year, 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 team proudly shared in the stunt ensemble prize. Oh has also recently tasted victory, claiming a Golden Globe in the competitive catch-all Best TV Supporting Actor category.
The series takes some unexpected twists and turns, particularly when it comes to Oh’s complicated Il-nam, who is revealed in the final episode to be more than meets the eye. But it is the earlier sixth episode (“Ggangbu”) in which we learn more about him, where the audience is led to believe that he has been brutally eliminated from the game after Gi-hun (Lee) uses Il-nam’s supposed dementia against him to effectively cheat his way to survival. “This whole episode of Gi-hun deciding to lie and feeling bad about his decision, I think that really is the main theme of this whole story,” Oh declares. “I knew that this episode was very, very important and I really tried my hardest to make sure that all the messages were being portrayed well.”