(Los Angeles) Smash Netflix hit Squid Game made history at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards with Lee Jung-jae named Best Actor in a Drama Series. He’s the first Asian to win this category and the first thespian to do it in a non-English speaking role. Squid Game’s director Hwang Dong-hyuk also became the first Asian to win top directing honors in a drama series. These wins mark the first time a non-English language series has won two of the premier categories at the Primetime Emmy Awards. The show had been nominated for 14 Emmys and ended up winning six total.
Lee took home the Lead Actor Emmy over fellow nominees Jeremy Strong and Brian Cox (both from Succession), Jason Bateman (Ozark), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) and Adam Scott (Severance). Hwang’s Red Light, Green Light episode won over episodes of Succession, Ozark, Severance and Yellowjackets.
Passing by standing ovations from fellow actor nominees Bateman, Stiller and Odenkirk, onstage, Lee noted that he couldn’t have done it alone. “Thank you to the television academy, thank you to Netflix, thank you to director Hwang for making a realistic problem we all face come to life creatively on the screen with a great script and amazing visuals,” Lee said. “Thank you,” he ended, “Thank you Squid Game team!”
When it was Hwang’s turn to bask in the dazzling night for Squid Game, he thanked Netflix’s Ted Sarandos for “opening the door” and helping him make “history together.” “I hope Squid Game won’t be the last non-English series at the Emmys and I also hope this won’t be my last Emmy, either,” said Hwang to big laughs of appreciation at the unprecedented achievement.
In addition to the two awards won at the live ceremony, Squid Game also won four Emmys at the Creative Arts Emmys last week which included Lee Yoo Mi winning Outstanding Guest Actress in a drama series. The other three wins are Outstanding Special Effects in a Single Episode, Outstanding Stunt Performance, and Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary Program.
Hanyoo Park is a content creator for Best of Korea. She was born in Seoul, Korea, and currently lives and works in Manhattan. She is the mom to a middle schooler and a proud maximalist who loves everything about life.