After its release on September 17, 2021, “Squid Game” quickly became an international phenomenon. But before it became Netflix’s all-time favorite series, Hwang Dong-hyuk, its creator, had paid a physical price to make it happen: six (six!) of his teeth fell out during the show’s production. Hwang, who famously years earlier conceived “Squid Game” as a film whose story grew out of his own financial struggles during the Great Recession, had written and directed every episode of the show — and that stressful immersion had taken a toll.
“I was so scared of going to the dentist,” Hwang said. “I hate these things.”
However, he is confident that he will be able to avoid future dental crises once he begins writing the show’s second season. “This time I’m hiring more people to help me,” Hwang said, laughing, during a video interview for diversity‘s Showrunners Sitdown With Kate Aurthur presented by FX.
“Squid Game” is the story of the sad Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae). After losing his job and family, Gi-hun has become a dead father to his daughter and an irresponsible son to his mother. He is invited to take part in a deadly game – one that exploits people with his problems – with 456 participants and a huge cash prize at the end: if he survives to win it.
Hwang’s “Squid Game” is a deeply political critique of global capitalism, with the children’s games that serve as the series’ engine bringing out the best in some of its participants and the worst in others. Debt is crushing these people, which has drawn them into a competition that will almost certainly kill them.
“I didn’t think it was a uniquely Korean story — I felt like these issues are happening or waiting to happen in some part of the world right now,” Hwang said diversity.
Although Hwang designed Season 1 of Squid Game to be self-contained, her ending perfectly set the show up for the sequel. “In the first season, there are sort of very little loose knots, things that I didn’t complete and put into little spaces for further expansion,” he said.
He confirmed Lee will be back, as will Lee Byung-hun, who plays the sinister frontman who oversees the games. When asked if audiences will see Gong Yoo — who plays the show’s elegant, slapping salesman and also starred in Hwang’s 2011 film Silenced — he smiled and said, “Yeah, maybe.” Most of the other characters are dead, of course, but Hwang said, “They can come back in dreams—like maybe Gi-hun’s dream.” (Perhaps he was joking.)
There will be more games in the show’s second season, Hwang said — he didn’t want to give too much away. Considering how big the series was, especially compared to its cost, he said he thinks Squid Game will have an increased budget this time around: “Yeah, I think so. I can’t tell you how much but yes we will have a bigger budget and I will be paid a little bit more.”
During the in-depth conversation, Hwang answered all of our questions and discussed what he’d learned from watching fans’ “Squid Game” videos on YouTube, his favorite scene from Season 1, and his shock that kids were watching the show. He also spoke about his biggest disappointment in his career and what he still wants to do as a creator.
Hwang is not sure whether the eventual second season of “Squid Game” will be the last. “It’s hard to say,” he said. “Maybe. Maybe not. Let’s say 50-50.”
Can he save his teeth?
With a grin, Hwang said, “I have a good dentist now. I can replace all of that with implants.”