Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ Cast Celebrates Historic Emmy Wins

With six wins out of 14 nominations, Netflix’s original blockbuster series “Squid Game” achieved several milestones at the 74th Emmy Awards Sept. 12 in Los Angeles.

Series creator Hwang Dong-hyuk won for outstanding directing for a drama series, while actor Lee Jung-jae won for outstanding actor in a drama series for his lead performance. Hwang and Lee became the first Asians and the first South Koreans to win in their respective categories, and the first ones to do so with a non-English language series.

Squid Game debuted on Netflix on Sept. 17, 2021, and became a global phenomenon. The series clocked in more than 1.65 billion viewing hours in 28 days, and reached 111 million Netflix accounts, becoming streamer’s first series to surpass 100 million members at launch. The closest runner-up is the fourth season of “Stranger Things,” which has tracked more than 1.35 billion streaming hours in 28 days.

At a Sept. 15 press conference in Seoul, Hwang called the experience of accepting his award on stage a “once in a lifetime moment” and a “great honor” that was “overwhelming and mind-blowing.” Lee, through a pre-recorded video message at the press conference, said that hearing his name announced at the Emmys was “bewildering.” Expressing his delight and gratitude to fans of Squid Game and Korean content from all over the world, he added: “These wins are a happiness we all share together.”

The increasing global reach of Korean culture — be it television, film, music or food — was a theme the creators, cast and crew of “Squid Game” were all asked about at the presser. “We have always been hard at work,” Hwang said regarding Korean content creators. By leveraging the changing media environment and the entry of digital platforms like Netflix into global markets, the director said the hard work has been able to “blossom into something wonderful.” He hoped the show’s success would inspire and motivate not just Korean creators, but creators worldwide. 

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Prior to the Primetime Emmys, “Squid Game” picked up Creative Arts Emmys for special visual effects in a single episode; stunt performance; production design; and Guest Actress in a Drama Series. This last award was won by Lee You-mi, who became the first South Korean actress to win in this category, and the first actor to do so for a non-English language performance. “Squid Game” is also the first Korean series to be nominated for below-the-line production categories, and the first non-English language show to win at the Creative Arts Emmys.

In fact, the show’s nominations alone have made history at the Emmys. Squid Game is the first non-English-language show to be nominated for Outstanding Drama Series. Hwang was also nominated for outstanding writing for a drama series, making him the first Korean showrunner to score nods for both writing and directing.

Actors Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Jung Ho-yeon, Oh Young-soo and Lee You-mi were all the first native Korean actors to be nominated in their respective categories. As executive producers, Hwang and Kim Ji-yeon became the smallest producing team to be nominated for a drama series since “Murder She Wrote” in 1987.

“It has been a long journey of many surprises, and an emotional rollercoaster,” said executive producer Kim. “Times have changed, and we are truly living in a global era. In the past, only people who spoke Korean and knew about Korean culture would watch our content. Now, platforms like Netflix allow this content to reach so many more people. Through this exposure, our understanding of other cultures has deepened.”

Stunt performer Lee Tae-young echoed the sentiments of Hwang, Lee and Kim when he spoke about his hope that the accolades won by Squid Game would open more doors for Korean creators, performers and crew members. “We pour our heart and soul into our work. We have a lot of grit and passion,” he said. “This award for the stunt team recognizes the efforts of all stunt performers in South Korea, and I hope it will lead to better opportunities for the next generation.”

In June, Netflix confirmed the second season of “Squid Game” was in the works. At the press conference, Hwang revealed that he was currently working on the script for the new season and has decided on the lethal games that will appear in it. But he revealed no further details and urged everyone to keep spoilers to themselves even if they came across rumors online. “You cannot let anyone know,” he urged. “Suspense is a huge part of the experience.”

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