‘Squid Game’ Makes SAG Awards History: First Foreign-Language TV Nominee

All signs are pointing to "Squid Game" being a major Emmy contender later this year.

Squid Game
Everett Collection

Netflix’s blockbuster original show “Squid Game” has made history at the 2022 Screen Actors Guild Awards by becoming the first non-English-language series and first Korean series to score a nomination. “Squid Game” is up for outstanding cast in a drama series opposite “Succession,” “Yellowstone,” “The Morning Show” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The show also picked up nominations for actor in a drama series (Lee Jung-jae), actress in a drama series (Jung Ho-yeon), and stunt ensemble.

Since premiering on Netflix in September 2021, “Squid Game” has emerged as a global phenomenon. The drama pulled in 1.65 billion hours of viewing during its first four weeks of release, surpassing “Bridgerton” as the most-watched Netflix original series in history. The show landed three Golden Globe Awards nominations, including best television drama, and earned O Yeong-su a supporting actor prize. “Squid Game” also boasts three Critics Choice Awards nominations and a Gotham Award win for breakthrough series.

“Since we released the show ‘Squid Game,’ we have experienced many surprising events. But today’s nomination for four categories with the SAG has to be one of the most surprising, and one of the happiest moments we’ve experienced,” director Hwang Dong-hyuk told Variety. “I’m especially honored in that it’s not only one or two lead actors that were recognized, but the entire ensemble was nominated, as well as the stunt ensemble, which is truly a great honor. And it’s great that I’m able to thank every single one of the crew and the cast that I’ve worked so hard on ‘Squid Game.’”

Lee, who has had a prolific career in Korea before “Squid Game’s” international success, added: “Being nominated at the SAG Awards, I decided to refresh my mind into thinking: I’m a newbie now! I’m a fresh new face on the scene. And I’m especially excited to be nominated alongside my cast as the best ensemble as well as the nomination for the stunt ensemble. This is just a great honor for all of us.”

“Working on this series, and acting for the first time, I thought about how creating something ‘together,’ and ‘as an ensemble’ just might be the true value of our society. I feel empowered to be reminded of how ‘together’ is more precious than a solo achievement,” Jung said about her nomination in a statement. And speaking with Variety, she added: “Near the midway of the story, I began to feel like Sae-byeok and I really shared a lot of characteristics. I don’t know if I understood this perfectly, and by that I mean that I don’t know if my own personality and Sae-byeok’s characteristics were similar from the get go, or if it was more about me becoming more like her in the process of studying the character. But I think from a certain point onward, I felt like the character Sae-byeok and I slowly overlapped and became more like one another. I felt like we had grown into a similar being.”

South Korean entertainment has made great strides at the SAG Awards over the last few years. Bong Joon Ho’s drama film “Parasite” won the 2020 SAG Award for cast in a motion picture, becoming the first non-English-language film ensemble to win the top prize. At last year’s SAG Awards, “Minari” favorite Youn Yuh-jung became the first Korean actress to ever win the supporting prize.

With major nominations at the Golden Globes, SAG Awards and Critics Choice Awards, “Squid Game” is positioning itself as a major Emmy contender later this year. Netflix has yet to officially announce a second season of the hit show, but creator Hwang Dong-hyuk has teased that he already has a few ideas up his sleeve for where the show goes next.

“What I will say is that I am picturing what it would be like if there was to be one. But all of these nominations and recognitions at the awards, and hopefully what will continue onward, definitely encourage us and motivate me,” he told Variety after SAG Award nominations were announced. “And it also does place a certain level of pressure on me. But if opportunity allows, my wish is to be able to create a sophomore series that will go on to be nominated for further awards, much like this one, embracing all of the encouragement and expectations that so many fans around the world have placed on us.”

The first season of “Squid Game” is streaming in its entirety on Netflix. The 2022 SAG Awards ceremony is set for Feb. 27.

See Variety‘s conversations with other SAG award nominations here.