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Lee Jung-jae Shocked Squid Game Got Him Cast

Lee Jung-jae Shocked Squid Game Got Him Cast

When Lee Jung-jae’s previous show Squid Game became a global phenomenon, Star Wars: The Acolyte creator Leslye Headland was among the many viewers who helped make it Netflix’s most popular non-English speaking series. On top of that, she was also writing The Acolyte’s High Republic Jedi character of Master Sol at the same time as her binge, and that’s when it dawned on the Russian Doll creator that the South Korean actor would be a perfect fit for the honorable Jedi. Sol would then go on to serve as a central figure of Headland’s mystery-thriller series that takes place a century before Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999).

However, Lee — whom his collaborators affectionately refer to as “J.J.” — remains rather shocked that his Squid Game character, Seong Gi-hun, inspired Headland to write Sol with him in mind.  

“I was actually quite surprised when Leslye [Headland] said that she saw Master Sol from my acting in Squid Game, because I feel like the two characters are so different. So I was very curious about what made her feel that way,” Lee tells The Hollywood Reporter through an interpreter.

On Squid Game, Lee played a struggling father whose gambling addiction was originally meant to create a better life for his daughter, but it instead resulted in insurmountable debt until he rolled the dice once more on participating in the deadly Squid Game. Similarly, Sol has his own paternal instincts with regard to all of the Jedi Padawans and younglings in his care, and despite the best of intentions, he feels partly responsible for the Jedi killing spree that Amandla Stenberg’s Mae embarks on at the start of the Disney+ series. Sol’s mysterious past with Mae and related elements will eventually come into focus, but it’s caused him great anguish since he first encountered 8-year-old Mae 16 years earlier.

Headland later remarked that she most admires Lee’s ability to effortlessly shift from “formidable to heartbreaking,” but Lee himself can only speculate as to what she might have identified at the time of her initial viewing of Squid Game.

“I do feel like both of my characters in Squid Game and The Acolyte embody this kindness and this desire to live in harmony with others and help others. So if I had to think of what she saw in me from Squid Game, then that would be it,” Lee says.

Squid Game also landed Lee an Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a drama series, making him the first Asian man to win the award and the first person to win the honor in a non-English speaking role. For the character of Sol, Lee, who took cues from Liam Neeson’s Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn from The Phantom Menace, tackled what is now his first English-speaking role. Four months ahead of filming, he began tireless dialect preparation in order to perform in English, and he specifically worked with two dialect coaches before and during production. They were so involved in all of the role’s “minute details” that Lee also credits them for the creation of the character.

“I would say that we all kind of crafted this role together,” Lee adds.

Jedi are supposed to be in control of their emotions, but Sol’s regret over his past failings involving Mae indicated that Lee would have another difficult task in balancing Sol’s emotion with the inherent stoicism of a Jedi. “There are a lot of elements of mystery within The Acolyte. So, of course, I didn’t want to show too much emotion through my character, but, at the same time, you don’t want the audience to think, ‘Oh, what is this guy thinking?’ We didn’t want him to be too stoic to where the audience is not able to understand his motives, so that was the most important part in acting as Master Sol,” Lee admits.

Thus, the character’s emotions were meticulously calibrated each and every day with the help of Headland.

“Before every scene, we spoke about the level of his emotion, and we tried to control and adjust that accordingly,” Lee concludes.

See Also

Star Wars: The Acolyte premieres June 4 on Disney+.

Lee Jung-jae as Master Sol in The Acolyte


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