Squid Game creator Hwang Dong-hyuk is now an Emmy winner. At Monday night’s ceremony, the series creator picked up the best-directing-for-a-drama-series prize, nabbing a key statuette for his hit series.
“I want to thank the TV Academy for this honor and also a huge thank-you to Netflix,” he said in his speech, specifically shouting out streamer boss Ted Sarandos. “I mentioned your name, okay?” the show creator joked, drawing big laughs as Sarandos watched on from a table in the audience.
Prior to Monday night’s ceremony, Squid Game was already a four-time Emmy winner, picking up Creative Arts Emmys in categories like best guest actress for Lee Yoo-mi. The show was nominated for a historic 14 Emmys in total, including in major categories like best drama, acting, and writing. “We made history together,” Hwang said to the show’s fans and to Academy voters.
Squid Game was an instant global hit when it first dropped on Netflix nearly one year ago, capturing the zeitgeist with its bloody skewering of capitalism and the grotesque hobbies of the superrich. Stylistic and over the top, the series revolved around a group of players with serious financial problems competing in a deadly game for a massive cash prize, roughly the equivalent of $35 million. Squid Game assembled a razor-sharp group of stars, including breakouts such as Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, and Hoyeon, all of whom were nominated at Monday night’s ceremony. Lee won his category shortly after Hwang, picking up the best-actor-in-a-drama prize over nominees including Bob Odenkirk, Jason Bateman, and Jeremy Strong.
“Thank you to director Hwang for making [this show] come to life so creatively on the screen with a great script and amazing visuals,” he said. Lee then switched to Korean, with a translator delivering his closing remarks in English: “Thank you to everyone watching in Korea.”
Squid Game’s wins come as no surprise, as it was one of the year’s favored nominees. In the directing category, the series was up against shows including Succession (another of the highly favored nominees) and Severance.
Hwang’s success at Monday night’s Emmys is the culmination of a long, hard-fought journey. The show’s creator, who also wrote and directed each episode, was told that the show wasn’t realistic to sell when he pitched it as a feature film in 2009. It wasn’t until 2019, just before the coronavirus pandemic erupted and threw dire socioeconomic issues into the spotlight, that Netflix finally gave Squid Game the greenlight. “It was a very strange experience, because what seemed so unrealistic at the time didn’t feel as unrealistic anymore,” Hwang told Vanity Fair in May.
Hwang touched on the show’s influence and reception in his acceptance speech. “I truly hope Squid Game won’t be the last non-English series to be here at the Emmys,” he said. “And I hope this won’t be my last Emmys, either!”
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