After taking over Netflix, Squid Game could take over this year’s Emmy Awards, with 14 nominations.
The drama-thriller series became the most popular series on Netflix after premiering in September 2021, and not even Stranger Things‘ new season could break its record this summer. “We did not see that coming, in terms of its global popularity,” CEO Ted Sarandos said of the Korean survival drama, which ranked number one on the platform worldwide shortly after it launched.
In addition to raking in massive streaming numbers for Netflix, the series has also brought international renown to its stars, many of whom already broke through in Korea. That’s surely been the case for leads Lee Jung-jae and Jung Ho-yeon, who have been catapulted to global superstar status following Squid Game‘s success. While we wait for the show’s second season, you can find out where to see more of the stars below.
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Lee Jung-jae as Seong Gi-hun
Lee Jung-jae takes the lead as Seong Gi-hun, a gambler who lives with his mother. The model and actor—who has previously starred in An Affair, Housemaid, City of the Rising Sun, and the TV drama Chief of Staff—is surprised but humbled by Squid Game‘s whirlwind success. He reportedly told Star that he’s been getting a lot of phone calls, texts, and congratulatory messages since the show premiered on Netflix.
Most recently, he’s been cast in the upcoming Star Wars series The Acolyte, and just premiered his directorial debut feature Hunt, in which he also stars, at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
Jung Ho-yeon as Kang Sae-byeok
Jung is a fashion model with recent magazine appearances in Korean editions of ELLE, Harper’s BAZAAR, W, and Marie Claire. Though she was a contestant on Korea’s Next Top Model in 2013, Squid Game marks her official acting debut. In it, she plays Kang Sae-byeok, a North Korean defector hoping to use the game winnings to make a better life for her and her younger brother, who’s living in an orphanage.
The Netflix series marked a big breakout moment for Jung, who has gone on to win a SAG Award, appear in The Weeknd’s “Out of Time” music video, and get cast in Apple TV+’s Disclaimer series with Cate Blanchett and the A24 film The Governess with Lily-Rose Depp.
Park Hae-soo as Cho Sang-woo
Prior to Squid Game, Park starred in TV shows such as Prison Playbook and Legend of the Blue Sea. Up next, he’ll star in the Korean adaptation of Money Heist. In addition to the success of the new Netflix series, Park also celebrated a personal milestone as a new dad. He and his wife welcomed their first child together, a boy, on Sept. 29, 2021. This year, he starred in another big Netflix series, Money Heist: Korea.
Wi Ha-joon as Hwang Jun-ho
Wi plays Jun-ho, a police detective who sneaks into the Game to look for his missing brother. The actor was so “immersed” in the script that he “read it right away,” he recently told Men’s Health Korea. Aside from Squid Game, Wi has starred in films like Midnight and Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum, and TV shows like Romance Is a Bonus Book and 18 Again.
Tripathi was born in India and moved to Korea in 2010 to attend the Korea National University of Arts, according to India Times. He made his film debut in 2014’s Ode to My Father and landed a number of small roles thereafter. Earlier this year, he also lent his voice to Netflix’s The 8th Night. On Instagram, he thanked viewers for their support of Squid Game, writing, “No words to express my gratitude to the people all over the world, who all are loving and blessing Ali and [Squid Game].”
Kim Joo-ryoung as Han Mi-nyeo
Often called Player 212, the mischievous Han Mi-nyeo is portrayed onscreen by Kim joo-ryoung. The actress’ film credits date back to the 2000s, including Memories of Murder (2003) and Plum Blossom (2000), and, later, dramas like Sleepless Night (2012) and Texture of Skin (2007). Like her costars, Kim has shared a handful of behind-the-scenes glimpses from the Squid Game set on Instagram, making those barracks look a lot less miserable.
Heo Sung-tae as Jang Deok-su
As the Game progresses, this gangster with immense debts to pay soon emerges as the villain of the competition. He’s portrayed by actor Heo Sung-tae, whose credits include 2021’s Beyond Evil and 2017’s The Outlaws, starring Don Lee. He also appears in Netflix’s The Silent Sea and reunites with Lee in the actor-director’s new film, Hunt.
Oh Young-soo as Oh Il-nam
It doesn’t take long for Oh to pull at our heartstrings as Oh Il-nam, an ill, elderly player in the Game with a dark secret. Throughout his decades-long career, the actor has starred in A Little Monk and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring.
Lee plays Ji-yeong, a player who joins the Game after being released from prison for killing her abusive father. Also known as player 240, she befriends Sae-byeok during the competition. She has already taken home a Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.
Elsewhere onscreen, Lee stars in the 2021 teen drama Young Adult Matters, the 2018 TV show It’s Okay To Be Sensitive, the 2010 film The Yellow Sea, and more.
Lee Byung-hun as The Front Man
The Front Man, marked by his geometric black mask and hooded jacket, is one of the most mysterious characters of the series. He oversees the run of the whole operation (though he did not create it) and steps in if staff members step out of line, but he answers to someone too: the host of the Game. The man in disguise is Lee Byung-hun, a prolific actor who’s starred in Joint Security Area, A Bittersweet Life, The Good, The Bad, The Weird, and many more. He’s also appeared in Hollywood flicks like the G.I. Joe series and 2016’s The Magnificent Seven.
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