'Squid Game' Star Lee Jung-jae Makes History With Drama Actor Emmy Win

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Lee Jung-jae just made Emmy history! The Squid Gamestar became the first South Korean actor, as well as the first actor of Asian descent, to win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. It was his first Emmy nomination and win.

With his historic, record-setting win Monday night, the veteran actor joined a prestigious shortlist of actors of Asian descent to have taken home an Emmy for acting, following past winners Riz Ahmed, Archie Panjabi, Darren Criss and Shohreh Aghdashloo.

"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."

It was already a big night for Squid Game, which had previously won four Emmys at the Creative Arts Emmys the weekend before, most notably for Lee Yoo-mi for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. It also picked up another win on Monday for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. The South Korean survival drama made headlines when nominations were announced in July as the first non-English series to crack the top Drama Series category.

The Netflix series, which is slated to return for season 2, is up for seven more awards on Monday, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actress for Jung Ho-yeon and Outstanding Supporting Actor for Park Hae-soo and Oh Yeong-su. Any win in any of the categories would be history-making.

"First, I would like to share my sincere gratitude. It is a tremendous honor to be nominated together with these brilliant actors," Lee said in a statement following his Emmy nomination in July. "I would like to share this honor with the Squid Game fans around the world, who showed us endless love and support, and the Squid Game team, who worked very hard to make everything possible."

Lee's win caps off an impressive awards run for the Squid Game team during the 2021-22 awards season, following major wins at the Critics' Choice Television Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Independent Spirit Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The series was also nominated for several British Academy Television Awards and Television Critics Association Awards. 

Though Squid Game won't launch its second season for a while, last November creator Hwang Dong-hyuk revealed to ET that he was working on the season 2 plan.

"Season 2, I'm in the middle of brainstorming. Yeah, I mean, after this huge success, we've got to do something about season 2," Hwang shared at the time. "So it will come out. I believe it will come out."

"Season 2, it's all cooking in his brain right here," Lee, who walked the carpet with Hwang, told ET. "So there's high expectations for the second season. Because of such huge success for season 1, I feel like a lot of expectations have been built up, so it's going to be tough to meet them. But again, it's all in his head right here."

The 74th Primetime Emmy Awards hosted by Kenan Thompson were broadcast live on NBC and Peacock. In the meantime, check out the full winners list and stay tuned to ETonline.com for complete Emmys coverage.


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