After becoming the first non-English language series to be nominated for some of America’s top television prizes, Squid Game secured its place in Emmy history Monday, Sept. 12, when Lee Jung-jae took home the award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series. The win marks the first time in Emmy Awards history that an Asian actor has won in the category for a non-English performance.
“Thank you so much thank you so much. First, I would like to thank God above. Thank you to The Television Academy,” he said in his acceptance speech. “Thank you to Netflix and thank you to the director for making realistic problems we all face come to life so creatively on the screen with a great script and amazing visuals. Thank you. Thank you, Squid Game team. Thank you to everyone watching in Korea. Thank you.”
Squid Game’s triumph Monday night brought the show’s Emmy total to six after it picked up four Creative Arts Emmys earlier this month (it was nominated for 14 Emmys in total).
Director and series creator Hwang Dong-hyuk took home the award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for the anxiety-inducing pilot episode “Red Light, Green Light.” Lee Yoo-mi won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, while the show also won for Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary Program, Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Single Episode, and Outstanding Stunt Performance.
Squid Game, it should be noted, was one of two non-English language series nominated this year, with Apple TV+’s Pachinko picking up a nomination for Outstanding Main Title Design (It lost to Severance). While Squid Game and Pachinko are the first non-English language programs to earn Emmy recognition, other non-American shows — such as the British Downton Abbey and Canadian Schitt’s Creek — have been nominated and won awards in the past
Upon its arrival almost exactly one year ago (the show premiered Sept. 17, 2021), Squid Game became an immediate global hit and Netflix’s most popular show of all time. According to the streaming service, the series garnered 1.65 billion hours of viewing in the 28 days after its premiere, more than doubling the total tally of Netflix’s second-most-watched show, Bridgerton (625 million hours over its first 28 days). Not surprisingly, Squid Game was renewed for a second season earlier this summer.