Supermodel-turned-actress Jung Ho-yeon from hit Korean survival drama Squid Game said that being on Korea’s Next Top Model prepared her to play her character on the Netflix original series.
Jung Ho-yeon in a still from Squid Game. Photo: Netflix
Jung starred as Kang Sae-byeok (Player 067), one of 456 adults on the brink of financial ruin who are invited to play children’s games to win 45 billion won, or about US$40 million – but losing the games has deadly consequences.
Jung was tasked with portraying a North Korean defector who took part in the deadly games with hopes of using the prize money for her younger brother and to help her mother escape the country.
Before starring in Squid Game, Jung was one of the runners-up in season four of Korea’s Next Top Model in 2013, and in 2016, she landed a contract with Louis Vuitton and walked the runway for luxury brands like Chanel and Gucci.
Jung said she tapped into aspects of the modelling competition show to develop her character.
Jung Ho-yeon in a photo shoot during season four of Korea’s Next Top Model. Photo: @koreanxmodel/Twitter
“I didn’t think I grafted the competitive and strong-willed versions of myself from Korea’s Next Top Model to Sae-byeok’s character,” Jung told NBC Asian America. “But thinking of it now, maybe I still have those aspects within me, which helped me understand the role. And I’ve grown to accept that part of me, as well.”
She acknowledged the difficulty in physically trying to portray a North Korean defector given her career as a model, and said she instead focused on psychologically understanding Sae-byeok’s life to accurately portray her character.
Jung Ho-yeon has recently been named as a Louis Vuitton ambassador. Photo: @hoooooyeony/Instagram
“To tell you the truth, people might think going from a model to a North Korean defector would’ve been difficult in appearance,” Jung said. “For me, the focus was not on the external but internal side of things, to fully understand Sae-byeok’s life.”
Jung Ho-yeon was the runner-up during her season of Korea’s Next Top Model. Photo: @putomiah/Twitter
In preparation for the role, the actress said she wrote in-depth, extensive journal entries in the mindset of her character, painting a backstory to Sae-byeok that never made it to the screen. She included specific aspects that explored her family separation, describing details she would have felt the day she last saw them or the last words they would have shared.
“I tried to write it down as much as possible to understand her character,” Jung said.
Jung Ho-yeon posing for a promotional photo for Squid Game. Photo: @netflixkr/Instagram
The Korean drama became Netflix’ most popular series ever, trending as the platform’s top show in more than 90 countries. It has been subtitled in 31 languages and dubbed in 13, with about 95 per cent of viewers outside South Korea, Netflix told The Wall Street Journal.
Jung’s fan base skyrocketed in the wake of the show’s success, going from less than one million Instagram followers to more than 20 million after it premiered on September 17.
This article originally appeared on InsiderInternet Explorer Channel Network