'Squid Game' star Jung Ho-yeon said she channeled the competitiveness of 'Korea's Next Top Model' to develop her character

·3 min read
Jung Ho-yeon Kang Sae-byeok Squid Game
Netflix
  • "Squid Game" star Jung Ho-yeon said she used her past modeling career to help her develop her character.

  • Model-turned-actress Jung Ho-yeon portrayed Kang Sae-byeok on the hit Netflix original series.

  • She said she channeled the "competitive" nature she felt on "Korea's Next Top Model" to understand Sae-byeok.

The supermodel-turned-actress Jung Ho-yeon from hit Korean survival drama "Squid Game" said being on "Korea's Next Top Model" prepared her to play her character on the Netflix original series.

Jung Ho-yeon starred as Kang Sae-byeok (Player 067), one of 456 adults on the brink of financial ruin who are invited to play children's games to win 45 billion won, or about $40 million - but losing the games has deadly consequences.

Jung was tasked with portraying a North Korean defector who participated in the deadly games with hopes of using the prize money for her younger brother and to help her mother escape the country.

Prior to starring in "Squid Game," Jung was one of the runners-up in season four of "Korea's Next Top Model" in 2013, and in 2016, she landed a contract with Louis Vuitton and walked the runway for luxury brands like Chanel and Gucci.

Jung said she tapped into aspects of the modeling competition show to develop her character.

"I didn't think I grafted the competitive and strong-willed versions of myself from 'Korea's Next Top Model' to Sae-byeok's character," Jung told NBC Asian America. "But thinking of it now, maybe I still have those aspects within me, which helped me understand the role. And I've grown to accept that part of me, as well."

She acknowledged the difficulty in physically trying to portray a North Korean defector given her career as a model, and said she instead focused on psychologically understanding Sae-byeok's life to accurately portray her character.

"To tell you the truth, people might think going from a model to a North Korean defector would've been difficult in appearance," Jung said. "For me, the focus was not on the external but internal side of things, to fully understand Sae-byeok's life."

In preparation for the role, the actress said she wrote in-depth, extensive journal entries in the mindset of her character, painting a backstory to Sae-byeok that never made it to the screen. She included specific aspects that explored her family separation, describing details she would have felt the day she last saw them or the last words they would have shared.

"I tried to write it down as much as possible to understand her character," Jung said.

The Korean drama became Netflix' most popular series ever, trending as the platform's top show in more than 90 countries. It has been subtitled in 31 languages and dubbed in 13, with about 95% of viewers outside South Korea, Netflix told The Wall Street Journal.

Her fanbase skyrocketed in the wake of the show's success, going from less than 1 million Instagram followers to more than 20 million after it premiered on September 17.

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