Lee Jung-jae on 'Squid Game' Season 2 and Being 'Tormented' by His Character

From bagging Screen Actors Guild and Critics Choice award wins and a Golden Globe award nomination to making his directorial debut with Hunt—which received a 7-minute standing ovation at its premiere at the 75th Cannes Film Festival back in MaySquid Game actor Lee Jung-jae is certainly the man of the hour at the moment.

The famed Korean star skyrocketed to international fame following the phenomenal whirlwind success of Squid Game, the Netflix K-drama about a deadly survival competition, which remains the streamer's most popular series of all time.

In one of his first in-depth interviews with a major U.S. publication, speaking to Newsweek from Seoul, the South Korean capital where he's "currently focused on post-production" for Hunt ahead of its general release in August, the veteran actor reflected on the highly anticipated second season of Squid Game and being "tormented" by his character.

In the intriguing final scene of Squid Game Season 1, Lee's character Gi-hun, the surviving winner of the fatal contest that saw hundreds compete for a handsome cash prize, is seen heading to catch a flight to visit his daughter.

Lee Jung-jae at the 2022 Cannes festival.
Lee Jung-jae attends the photo call for "Hunt," the new film directed by and starring Lee, during the 75th Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2022 in Cannes, France. Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

But following a cryptic phone call with a staff member from the games (believed to be the Front Man, played by SAG award nominee Lee Byung-hun), Gi-hun does a sudden about-face, dramatically walking out of a jetway and away from the plane.

So what was going through Gi-hun's mind at this moment? After coming to terms with the shocking truth behind the games, Lee said Gi-hun "had shaken off everything [that he experienced during the deadly contest] and was only thinking about getting to his daughter."

But while traveling to the airport, Gi-hun randomly spots a person on a train platform being recruited for the deadly competition by the Salesman (the mysterious character played by Gong Yoo who Squid Game director/writer Hwang Dong-hyuk hinted may be returning in the second season).

Lee said: "I was so glad that Gi-hun changed his mind after running into another victim playing 'ddakji' [the Korean children's game played by the contestants when they were first recruited by the Salesman] at a train station and became determined to prevent further damage to more victims."

Lee Jung-jae as Gi-hun in "Squid Game."
Actor Lee Jung-jae as Gi-hun during the 'dalgona' candy challenge in "Squid Game." Netflix

Director Hwang said Lee's character will make a return in the show's second season in a statement earlier this month released by Netflix officially confirming Squid Game Season 2.

In a previous interview with the Associated Press back in November 2021, Hwang promised: "Gi-hun will come back, he will do something for the world."

Asked how he sees his character developing, Lee said: "If Gi-hun can do something for the world [as Hwang said], I'll be very proud of him indeed," but remained tight-lipped on what that might mean for Season 2.

The Squid Game star revealed he was "really happy to see Season 2 be officially confirmed recently," but has "no knowledge of any details on how the plot for the second season will unfold."

Lee said: "I believe the director is currently still deep in the process of developing the script" and "as a fan of Squid Game myself, I'm really looking forward to Season 2."

Lee Jung-jae, O Yeong-su in "Squid Game."
Lee Jung-jae (right) pictured with his co-star O Yeong-su (who plays the Old Man character) during the Marbles game of the survival competition in "Squid Game" on Netflix. Netflix

Asked about his favorite part of Squid Game Season 1, Lee said he has a fondness for every scene. "But what's been most memorable and challenging has been playing a character who is forced to cheat and con another person for the sake of their survival," which his character and others had to do during the Marbles round of the games in Squid Game.

"I was tormented by a strong sense of guilt and it was not easy to portray such a horrific expression of the lengths to which humans could go in a bid to survive," Lee explained.

Watching Gi-hun during the first few scenes of Squid Game was "really fun," he said, "as there were many sides of him that even I hadn't realized that came out on screen."

Gi-hun is "such a warm character," the actor said, explaining: "I really love the goodness of Gi-hun. Even in the extreme circumstances he was facing [during the fatal competition], he still helped others out because he has a good heart."

The first season of Squid Game is available now for streaming on Netflix. The new film Hunt, directed by and starring Lee Jung-jae, is out on August 10.

Lee Jung-jae posing on a chair.
Lee Jung-jae, the Screen Actors Guild award winner and Golden Globe award nominee, made his directorial debut in May 2022, with his film "Hunt," a spy action thriller. Netflix