"Sae Byeok and I resemble each other" - Squid Game star Jung Ho Yeon opens up about her acting debut

Squid Game's Jung Ho Yeon reveals her inspiration behind the character Kang Sae Byeok. (Image via Instagram/@hoooooyeony)
Squid Game's Jung Ho Yeon reveals her inspiration behind the character Kang Sae Byeok. (Image via Instagram/@hoooooyeony)

Squid Game's most tragic figure, Kang Sae Byeok, broke the hearts of thousands of viewers. While the show boasted an impressive cast, among the most poignant was the one played by Jung Ho Yeon. The model and actor portrayed the cold and cynical Sae Byeok with such expertise that most found it hard to believe that it was her first role.

In a recent interview with W Korea, Jung Ho Yeon provided some insight on how she prepared for the role of Kand Sae Byeok in the wildly popular Squid Game, who at first glance would appear drastically different from the 27-year-old model. Accompanying the interview was a stunning photoshoot, with Jung Ho Yeon putting her best modeling foot forward.

The internet has apparently fallen hard for this rookie actor, with people counting the character of Sae Byeok among the most well-acted, along with Ali and the Old man.

How Jung Ho Yeon turned into Squid Game's Kang Sae Byeok

Jung Ho Yeon, in Squid Game, plays the role of a North Korean defector, who had escaped to South Korea with her brother to seek a better life. Things, however, had not gone as expected, and she is forced to participate in these deadly games so that she can rescue her mother from the North. The character in the show is someone who keeps to herself, and is distrustful of all, until she sheds her walls for Lee Yoo Mi's Ji Young.

Jung Ho Yeon revealed in the interview that since Squid Game was her first acting gig, she was initially afraid and timid. She received the script for Squid Game as soon as she joined a new acting management company and was asked to audition for the role of Sae Byeok. Even after being cast, Jung Ho Yeon admitted to still being nervous.

"Starting with why the director chose me, I had all kinds of thoughts. The moment when my fear reached its peak was during the first script reading. More than 20 actors attended, and the seniors in the minor roles were also very good at acting. Besides, in front of me was senior Lee Jung Jae and next to me was Park Hae Soo. After I finished reading the script, the director grabbed me and said, ‘Are you very scared?"

However, despite her fears of acting, Jung Ho Yeon figured she was chosen for a reason, and gave her best performance.

"I seem to have gotten my mind right. I’ve been thinking since then. ‘Okay, my acting is still lacking. Then let’s do what we can do now.’ It was so much fun and I was happy to be acting because it was organized like this."

All she needed was some pep talk from her director, and once her confidence was up, Jung Ho Yeon gave her best shot to stem into the shoes of a North Korean defector on the run. She continued:

"I only had one question: Am I going the right direction? And the director told me, ‘You’re doing great. You’re enough. You’ve been no one else but Sae Byeok since the beginning.’ And as simple as that response sounds, it made me feel so much better. I felt at ease. That was a really cool experience."

To embody someone from North Korea, Jung Ho Yeon took the help of a dialect coach, since the dialects of the two nations are distinctly different. She also watched many documentaries that covered the lives of North Korean defectors, to perfectly understand Squid Game's Sae Byeok.

Jung Ho Yeon also realized that there was a surprising point of commonality between her and her Squid Game character. Both Sae Byeok and her had experienced one emotion most deeply, and that was loneliness. As a model, says Jung Ho Yeon, she too lived abroad all alone, and thus she too could empathize with Sae Byoek feeling alone in a foreign land.

"Above all, I was able to accept Sae Byeok without any major difficulties because Sae Byeok and I resemble each other. I left Korea in 2016 and worked as a model abroad until early last year, spending a lot of time alone. The emotion I felt the most at that time was ‘loneliness’. Sae Byeok also leaves her hometown and lives in Korea with her younger brother without parents. The friend was a pickpocket and I was just a model, but living alone and feeling lonely in a foreign country wasn’t much different."

While Squid Game might be over, it is safe to say that Jung Ho Yeon has just begun. The talented star, who counts BLACKPINK's Jennie as her best friend, has the world raving about her, and for good reason. Was she your favorite part of Squid Game?

Edited by Prem Deshpande
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