“Among the advice Park Hae-soo gave me, one of the most memorable words was ‘Let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground. Because that’s what it is.”
Model and actress Jeong Ho Yeon, said this about her feelings about gaining popularity with the Netflix series ‘Squid Game’.
‘Squid Game’ is a work that tells the story of those who participated in a mysterious survival game with a prize of 45.6 billion won, risking their lives to become the ultimate winner. In the play, Jeong Ho Yeon takes on the role of Kang Sae Byuk, a defector. She is a pickpocketer in a desperate situation where she needs a lot of money for her family, and then participates in the game.
Jung Ho-yeon, who made her debut in the OnStyle variety show ‘Korea’s Next Top Model’ in 2013, first tried acting with ‘Squid Game’ which is said to be her biggest break as an actress. Jeong Ho Yeon said, “I was very surprised at first, but now I have a lot of interview schedules, so I can’t check real-time. I feel good and thankful.”
Jung Ho Yeon also talked about her friendship with BLACKPINK Jennie. Jeong Ho Yeon said, “I am really grateful for her support. She even sent me a coffee truck and posted stories on Instagram. I wonder how could there be such an angel?” he expressed his gratitude.
She also mentioned Lee Dong-hwi, who she has been in public relationship for 6 years. Jeong Ho Yeon said, “He is a good sunbae, a good friend and a good person. He gives me a lot of encouragement and cares about me.” he laughed.
She also revealed the casting process for ‘Squid Game’. Jung Ho-yeon said, “When I was abroad, my agency gave me the script for ‘Squid Game’ and asked me to send the audition video as quickly as possible. At that time, I didn’t know how fast it was. I put all my energy into the script. It could be tomorrow as soon as possible, but I thought it would not be right to spend it like that, so I did my best except for the time to eat. I think I did a lot of listing why Kang Sae Byuk said this, and although it was a short time, I got the feeling that she was getting closer to Kang Sae Byuk.”
She continued, “After that, they said the wanted me to audition in personal, so I thought, ‘Why they want to see me?’ Even though I stood in front of the camera a lot as a character, I was seriously trembling. So I couldn’t act properly in the early audition scenes. Then when I came to the final scene, I thought it was the last time I could show my acting in front of these people, so I acted without regret.”
“I didn’t think I would, but the representative of the agency called me and said, ‘Congratulations, Kang Sae Byuk.’ I got goosebumps and I didn’t realize it. I wanted to, but as the days passed, I realized that something big had happened.
Were there any pressures about the first acting challenge? Jeong Ho Yeon said, “In the beginning, I couldn’t shake off my fear. I couldn’t understand it myself. I’ve seen a lot of runways on the world stage, but during the whole reading, my face was blurry and my voice was trembling. I felt the psychological burden to that extent.”
She continued, “At the beginning of filming, I felt like it would cause trouble to the people who believed in me and elected me, so I asked the director to eat and we met one-on-one. He said, ‘You are already Kang Sae Byuk and I chose you because you are already enough.’ After that, I was able to put down a lot of tension. I think I overcame it thinking that I should do my best even if I am not good at acting. My acting is really good. It was made with a lot of conversations and concerns”.
When asked if she had dreamed of becoming an actress since modeling, Jung Ho Yeon said, “It was only in the corner of my head, and I didn’t take it seriously. When I had free time, I went to an acting class abroad, but I couldn’t because I couldn’t speak English. Even if I did, I thought I should learn it in Korea. Korean models working abroad have holiday vacations, so they come to Korea in summer and winter, then “I took acting classes for about three months”.
Jung Ho Yeon said that the charm of Kang Sae Byuk is that she lives for someone else rather than for herself. She said, “Before I met Kang Sae Byuk, I was a person who lived a life pursuing personal interests. At a young age, I was surprised by the responsibility of living to earn money and risking my life for my family. “I felt that my life can be more meaningful when I live for others.”
Kang Sae Byuk was expressed as a person who did not speak the North Korean dialect even though she was a defector. Regarding this, Jeong Ho Yeon said, “Kang Sae Byuk came to South Korea at a young age, and I thought that she would have fixed it quickly because she thought that speaking North Korean in front of South Koreans had no advantage for her. It was when I got angry. From the beginning, I decided to only use the dialect at two points, and I practiced the dialect with a defector teacher. It is also a dialect of North Hamgyong, so many people may not be familiar with it.”
Then Jung Ho Yeon said, “The thing I cared about most while playing Sae-byeok was that I had to be sincere. There were so few other things that I thought this should be good, so I really thought about it and tried to act with all my heart.” I focused and researched, but I felt that research on expression was lacking. When the director gave directions, it was slow to absorb, and I personally think it was awkward. I felt that there was. What it feels like to live as a character, I felt it for the first time while playing Kang Sae Byuk.”
When asked if she usually has a strong desire to win, Jeong Ho Yeon said, “When I think about working as a model, I was a person with a strong desire to compete. I was always on fire, and there were moments when I felt impatient and gnawed at myself when those things became too much.” “I went abroad when I was having a hard time as a model in Korea. I felt it was important to find a balance while living abroad. These days, I don’t have the desire to win more than I did when I was a model. I think living abroad has changed a lot.” .
How was working with the actors? Jeong Ho Yeon said, “There were so many fun moments while filming. I was joking around with the lines on the set and when I started filming, it was hard to hold back my laughter. When I was talking about my family, I shouldn’t cry, but tears came out. Yumi made a funny face next to me and tried to stop crying.”
She continued, “My first reading partner was Yumi. I knew that Yumi was a friend with experience, so I tried to rely on her a lot. Yumi is of the same age, but she accepted me well. She listened to my acting concerns carefully and thought about it with me. Yumi is a good senior. She was also a friend and a good colleague.”
Regarding Lee Jung-jae, she said, “I was very good. I was very nervous during the whole reading, but at dinner after reading, Jung-jae Lee told me to do everything I wanted to say, ‘We are colleagues!’ Thank you for telling me to do it. Rather than feeling nervous or uncomfortable, I felt more like a neighborhood brother.”
Sudden popularity must be a double-edged sword for Jeong Ho Yeon. Will there be any pressure on the future challenges?
“It’s burdensome, but you don’t know what life is like. There were good days, bad days, and many experiences as a model. Of course, interest and love are several times greater than that, but I think there is no answer other than to live hard every day. “