‘Squid Game’ player 001 O Yeong-su talks about handling fame brought by hit series

Published October 18, 2021, 1:45 PM

by Jonathan Hicap

“Squid Game,” Netflix’s biggest series launch of all time with 111 million viewers, brought instant fame to many of its stars.

One of them is Korean actor O Yeong-su, 76, who plays player No. 001 Oh Il-nam in “Squid Game.” He is the oldest among the 456 players in the Korean drama, which hit No. 1 worldwide on Netflix.

In “Squid Game,” the 456 cash-strapped people play deadly games for a 45.6 billion won ($38 million) prize.

Korean actor O Yeong-su as Oh Il-nam in “Squid Game” (left) and his appearance on “Hangout with Yoo” (Netflix Korea, Instagram)

O Yeong-su appeared as a guest on the Oct. 16 episode of the Korean entertainment show “Hangout with Yoo,” which stars Yoo Jae-suk together with K-pop girl group Lovelyz member Mijoo, Haha, Jeong Jun-ha and Shin Bong-sun.

He has been acting for 58 years, starting in 1963. He said his guesting on “Hangout with Yoo” is his first since “Squid Game” premiered last Sept. 17.

O Yeong-su said he has no manager and since “Squid Game” exploded in popularity, he has been getting so many calls from friends.

“A ton of my friends did. Since I don’t have a manager, it is hard for me to handle the volume of calls. So my daughter is helping me,” he said on the show, which was streamed on OTT platform Viu.

When asked how his friends thought about him after “Squid Game” was launched, he said, “Now that I became popular overnight, some people called me. They asked me how I felt now that I have gone international.”

About his sudden popularity, O Yeong-su said, “I feel like I am in the air. So I am trying to calm myself down now so I can restrain myself.”

He said a lot of things have changed for him because of “Squid Game,” revealing what “when I go to cafes or other places, I become self-conscious. So I thought being a famous actor was hard too.”

The actor narrated how he accepted the role in “Squid Game.” He said, Through using the symbol of the squid game, the director tried to emphasize the social irregularities. I thought his insight was impressive so I decided to take the role.”

O Yeong-su said “Squid Game” director Hwang Dong-hyuk offered him a role in his movie “The Fortress,” which was released in 2017, but he had to turn it down because he had another acting project.

“But for this drama, he offered me a role again. So I was very eager to join him,” he said.

Actor Lee Jung-jae, who plays the role of Gi-hun in “Squid Game,” recently said that O Yeong-su is an actor with a young mind.

“There is a saying, ‘old age takes away the passion.’ That is what my age represents. I am old, aren’t I? I started to lose passion. That comes with old age. Everyone (in ‘Squid Game’) was young except for me. And to have a presence among them, I exaggerated a bit. I tried to act young. That way, I can work well with the young actors and actresses,” he said.

What will he do if he has 45.6 billion won in the bank? “I am not sure. I have never thought of that. First of all, I would like to make things comfortable for people around me.”

“And I think I will donate some of the money to society. At my age, I don’t want a lot of things. I just want to do something for my daughter so she can have an easy life. A life she can do what she wants. And I would like to spend it on my wife for the things she never had. I want to give her what she deserves one at a time,” O Yeong-su said.

O Yeong-su said the most memorable scene for him in “Squid Game” is the marble game scene, which is in episode 6.

“It brought old memories of mine. I also played with marbles when I was young. It brought back memories. And those memories made me sort of tear up too. I was overwhelmed then,” he said.

He said his character Oh Il-nam and himself have similar personalities, saying, “There is an even side even to the kindest person. The difference is the degree of it.”

O Yeong-su said at first, he started his career in acting “because I had nothing much to do. Then I saw a friend of mine join a theatrical troupe. One time, I tagged him along. That is how it all started.”

 
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