Lee Jung-jae won the Emmy for best actor in a drama series on Monday for his role in South Korean smash hit “Squid Game,” becoming the first person to take the top award for a performance that was not in English.
He bested a crowded field: Jason Bateman for “Ozark,” Brian Cox as the patriarch and Jeremy Strong as his son in “Succession,” Bob Odenkirk for “Better Call Saul,” and Adam Scott for “Severance.”
Lee Jung-jae (Korean born December 15, 1972) is a South Korean actor and filmmaker. Considered one of the most successful actors in South Korea, he has received various accolades, including a Primetime Emmy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Critics’ Choice Television Award, six Baeksang Arts Awards, in addition to nominations for a Golden Globe Award and a Gotham Award.
In 2019, Lee starred in Svaha: The Sixth Finger, an occult film. The same year Lee returned to television with his first drama in a decade, the JTBC political drama Chief of Staff alongside Shin Min-a, where he plays a political advisor. In 2020, Lee starred in the action film Deliver Us from Evil alongside Hwang Jung-min and Park Jeong-min.
In September 2021, Lee starred as Seong Gi-hun, the main protagonist of Netflix’s hit survival drama Squid Game. Series creator and director Hwang Dong-hyuk said he chose to cast Lee as Gi-hun as to “destroy his charismatic image portrayed in his previous roles”. In the show, Gi-hun is a gambler down on his luck who gets recruited to play in a series of deadly childhood games (including “Red Light, Green Light“, “Marbles“, “Tug of war” and the eponymous Squid game) for a high cash prize, and ultimately becomes the winner of the game.
Due to the success of the series, Gi-hun became Lee’s most famous role to date. Lee and the series received nominations at the Gotham Independent Film Awards 2021 with him individually nominated for Outstanding Performance in a New Series. Lee also received nominations for the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series, making him the first male actor from Asia and Korea to receive individual nominations in those categories across all three awards shows with his win and costar HoYeon Jung winning the respective female award making history for the show becoming the first non-English language television series to win at the SAG Awards. He was also nominated along with his costars for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
On November 11, 2021, it was announced Lee was selected as a global ambassador for luxury brand Gucci. Later that month, it was announced by Squid Game creator Hwang Dong-hyuk that Lee will return as Gi-hun in the show’s second season, and will “do something for the world.”
On February 26, 2022, Lee signed with Creative Artists Agency.