Squid The game is causing a stir. A violent Korean drama that mixes childhood nostalgia with copious amounts of death, the series has exceeded all expectations to become the most successful show in Netflix history. He turned his main actors into world stars overnight. That is, with a few notable exceptions.
“Why is the English game of Squid Game so bad?” Asked a recent headline, echoing sentiment from hundreds of tweets and memes. The culprits are the “VIPs” – four English-speaking, masked billionaires who watch the action from afar, betting on the outcome of the carnage. For opponents, the VIP acting in Squid Game is stilted and mannered, and removes them from the show. But who are the people behind the masks?
“I have written more Beatles books than anyone on this planet! Geoffrey Giuliano bellow on Zoom from his home in Bangkok. You’ll know him as VIP Four, the only group member to have removed his mask (along with the rest of his clothes) on the show. Giuliano was recruited after wowing producers with his role in 2020 Korean horror sequel Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula but, prior to that, was best known as a writer. He was responsible for 32 Beatles books, including one that prompted Olivia Harrison to write a letter to the Guardian stating, “The sight of Geoffrey Giuliano’s face is enough to make anyone a recluse.
As for the negative feedback on his role in Squid Game, Giuliano is not interested. “I’m not complaining, baby! He yells, gesturing so madly that he sends his webcam flying. “I’m on the hottest show in the world. I received fanmail. Just today I have a woman who said to me, “Send me your autograph. I did, and two hours later she sent me a photo where she had a “Geoffrey Giuliano, VIP Four” tattoo on her forearm. He pauses. “There were also sexual invitations, from men and women. “
Daniel C Kennedy, who plays VIP two, doesn’t feel so festive. He has been playing in Korea regularly since 2014, but is very open to the criticisms he has faced. “I suffer from extreme clinical depression so it was a bit of a challenge,” he wrote by email from Seoul during a hiatus in his busy filming schedule. “At first I was sickened by the comments but, over time, distance and honest personal reflection, I have been better able to filter the comments into items that I can use to improve myself next time around. , compared to those who are bound to come when you are part of a project that gets worldwide recognition.
Between these two poles is John D Michaels, who played the first VIP. An affable, bearded 50-year-old who has made a living acting in Korea for the past five years, usually as a career military or politician, Michaels is most keen to put criticism into context.
Seoul is his home – he visited for a videographer job in his forties, fell in love, and never left – and, incidentally, for a while, it was also mine. When I lived in Korea almost 20 years ago, foreigners were often drawn into extracurricular work. My Canadian friend’s father once came to visit him and, within hours, was approached by an agent acting on the street. I was briefly spotted doing some very inane modeling work. Things have changed a lot since then, thanks to a visa crackdown and a more regulated cast, but it’s a reputation that still haunts Western actors.
“I think the first thing to dispel is this myth that they pick us up from the streets,” Michaels says, noting that every role he’s played has come at the end of a long audition process. Along with her on-screen work, Michaels also writes and directs, and has years of experience as a performer.
“It’s different for every show, but non-Korean artists often act with dialogue translated by a non-native – sometimes even by Google Translate – so it may seem unnatural,” he says. While actors have the freedom to fix awkward dialogue, it often happens at the last minute and comes with a lot of restrictions. “And a lot of times we don’t have the scripts for the rest of the series,” he adds. “We’re only given our scenes, so we have no idea what the tone is. “
Kennedy says this problem has been exacerbated on Squid Game. Not only did the VIPs surrender their scenes without context – which meant they had to make up their own stories for their characters, who they described to me as “total idiots” and “dirtbag millionaires” – but “We all wore very heavy plaster masks, and sat on sofas at least 20-30 feet from the nearest VIP. We all must have vaguely yelled our lines in the air, which added to the odd tone of the delivery.
Additionally, Kennedy says all of the acting on Squid Game – and Korean drama in general – is purposefully heightened, something non-Korean viewers might have missed. “Whether watching with a dubbed or subtitled version, non-Korean speakers lack the understanding to fully judge the performance of a Korean actor. What may be caricature or broad about them is lost in the translation, whereas the VIPs did not have such luxury ”.
Sometimes, Michaels says, these problems can be made worse by the editing process. Naturally, an editor who doesn’t speak English as a native language may end up using an imperfect take. “If I were to edit a Russian-speaking Russian actor, I would have no idea if he was saying his lines correctly, or if his intonation was natural,” he says. “There could be two takes. One of them could be perfect, the other in wood. If I edit it, the wooden one might move faster or cut easier or the continuity might be better, so I would do with that.
“Perfect example,” says Giuliano. “My first line in Squid Game, you see me say, ‘Look, I’m going to give anyone a little slack. This is not what people say. They say “I will to cut someone a little slack ‘. In all subsequent takes, Giuliano made sure to say “let it go a little slack”. But in the final version, “they went with the ‘give’. “
It is by no means a Korean phenomenon. Indeed, when Marvel decided to add some Korean lines to Black Panther in 2018, most of the world simply accepted it. But for Koreans, the scenes stood out like a sore thumb. “The Korean in this movie was so bad it hurt me to watch,” one Reddit user said. “Getting a random Korean on the street would have been better. Sound familiar?
It’s also worth pointing out that the popularity of Squid Game makes it a huge anomaly. It went global in a way that very few shows do, but deep down it’s still a Korean drama designed primarily for Korean audiences. “For viewers around the world, K-dramas are a welcome alternative to Hollywood,” Michaels says. “The last thing international K-drama fans, including me, want Korean dramas or films to become westernized. I think we should let them fend for themselves.
“Unless otherwise requested, we are not playing against Westerners as we know them,” he continues. “We usually offer an interpretation of what a Westerner is from the perspective of a different culture. For western viewers, there can be that kind of weird valley feeling that comes with it. But as an actor, unless I think it’s unnecessarily abusive, it’s not for me to question a director’s perspective on my culture. And as a human being, I can learn from it.
Giuliano, meanwhile, believes the very nature of Squid Game’s VIP characters demanded increased performance. “It was stylized crap,” he says. “By the way, the creator of the series?” He’s a Kubrick monster. Listen to the music he plays when we are on the big stage. It is from 2001. So it was a stylized performance based, I believe, on the kinship of the director. [with Kubrick]. «
Cinema is never an actor’s medium. To act is to put your trust in the hands of a screenwriter or a director and hope for the best. Talk to any actor, playing in any production of any scale, and they will always complain about a lack of control. But when you’re playing in a language that isn’t necessarily spoken by the production crew or viewers, that disconnect only gets worse. This is a problem Michaels has encountered before. “The only thing I think needs to be changed is that they need to spend more time with the foreign actors,” he says. “Explain the tone of the show, bring them early so everyone is on the same page, because we all have the same goal of making the best show possible. “
Despite the negative reaction to their performances, none of the Squid Game VIPs have a bad say in the show itself. “I love Squid Game,” Michaels says. “For me, the show expressed the feeling that we are all just a bunch of destitute who stand against each other, fighting for crumbs while all these giant corporations and billionaires amass all the wealth as the world is dying. I think the show expressed that very well.
“This project raised me from absolute and utter obscurity,” adds Giuliano. “I’m getting my signature tattooed. I receive invitations for a blowjob. I am a star! “