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How ‘Squid Game’ made history multiple times over at the Emmys

A man in a tuxedo and glasses holds an Emmy statuette and points.
Hwang Dong-hyuk accepts the Emmy for directing a drama series for “Squid Game.”
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

“Squid Game” didn’t just have a big night at the Emmys. It had a historic one.

After earning 14 nominations in July, as well as prizes from the Screen Actors Guild Awards and Critics Choice Awards earlier this year, Netflix’s brutal blockbuster capped off its run Monday by becoming the first Korean series, and the first TV series not in English, to win a major Primetime Emmy Award.

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Join the Los Angeles Times for news and analysis as we follow the 74th Emmys live from in front of our televisions, inside the theater and backstage.

The series, about a deadly game of survival in which contestants with money troubles compete for a cash prize, earned series creator Hwang Dong-hyuk the Emmy for drama series directing, “Squid Game’s” first prize of the night. He is the first Asian and first native Korean to take home the award. (Hwang, however, was bested by “Succession’s” Jesse Armstrong for the drama series writing award, and former champion “Succession” also beat out “Squid Game” for the drama series Emmy.)

Accepting the directing award for the “Red Light, Green Light” episode, Hwang expressed his hope that more non-English-language series will appear at the Emmys in the future. Backstage, he acknowledged the potential new reality show based on his series that Netflix has proposed.

“I actually met with the creator yesterday, and they had many questions for me. What I hope is that they will be carrying on my vision and intention as much as possible for the show. I know that there are some concerns [over] taking the heavy [‘Squid Game’] message and creating it into a reality show with a cash prize. ... I would say that reproductions ... are going to bring new meaning to the industry, and I hope that this is going to be a great new direction for the industry overall,” Hwang said.

“Squid Game” star Lee Jung-jae also made history Monday, winning for his lead performance as Seong Gi-hun. Like the series creator, he is the first Asian and first native Korean to take home the prize.

“I’ve been an actor for three decades, and I feel like we go through a huge transition in terms of the industry every decade,” Lee said. “In the past, when we would create something Korean and take that overseas, we wanted them to see our story and our culture. And I think now ... we are living in a world where there is abundant communication with anyone from all around the world, so I feel that if we feel truly in our hearts that something we made is great and very entertaining, that naturally translates overseas, and it is understood and enjoyed anywhere. Now I look forward to any great idea and working on it with a free creativity and free vision so that it can be enjoyed by many people all around the world.”

Earlier in the night, Jung Ho-yeon lost out to “Ozark’s” Julia Garner for supporting actress, while supporting actor nominees Park Hae-soo and Oh Young-soo were defeated by “Succession’s” Matthew Macfadyen.

The 2022 Emmy winners were led by “Ted Lasso,” “The White Lotus,” “Succession” and “Abbott Elementary.”

Monday night’s haul added to the four Emmys “Squid Game” picked up at last weekend’s Creative Arts ceremony: special visual effects in a single episode; stunt performance; production design; and guest actress for Lee You-mi for her memorable performance as contestant Ji-yeong.

One of Netflix’s most watched shows, “Squid Game” has already been greenlighted for a second season, so it will have a chance to increase its Emmy take in the future. Whether Monday’s honors open the door for other foreign-language series to receive Emmy love remains to be seen, though recent years have seen no shortage of acclaimed contenders, including HBO’s adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, “My Brilliant Friend”; Apple TV+'s lush, multilingual “Pachinko”; and the French-language Netflix hits “Call My Agent!” and “Lupin.”


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