[Eye interview] ‘Squid Game’ VIP Actors Criticize Their Performance

John D. Michaels and Daniel C. Kennedy play VIP 1 and VIP 2 in “Squid Game”. (Netflix)

John D. Michaels and Daniel C. Kennedy have come under heavy criticism after appearing on Netflix’s global sensation ‘Squid Game’ as two of the VIPs. They addressed this criticism during a recent interview with The Korea Herald.

Critics said the performances of the foreign actors were overdone and did not match the tone of the series.

Though aware of the criticism, Michaels and Kennedy said they wouldn’t do things differently even if given the chance. They also expressed their respect for director Hwang Dong-sik’s decisions and intentions.

“As far as I know, I gave the performance the director wanted,” Kennedy said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m hesitant to say to myself, ‘Oh, I would do it completely differently.’ He directed us. I have direction. I asked questions on the lines and got answers and delivered them. It seemed like everything was fine. So saying “Oh no, it was all wrong” , it’s also, in part, involving the director and what he wanted.

“I welcome the opportunity to come back and bring nuance to the role or try to make it more subtle. But he (the director) may not want that. He may want the cartoons And if that’s what he wants, then I welcome the opportunity to come back and show it to everyone,” he added coldly.

Kennedy explained that his character, VIP 2, was written from the start as a man who doesn’t take things seriously.

“I learned that my guy was very stupid. I was just like, ‘I’m just gonna play it like some stupid frat guy who’s just here to have fun.’ And none of that is really a big deal for him. And it’s like another party, like a Super Bowl party,” Kennedy said. “At the end there was a scene that we shot that they didn’t use where it was revealed that neither of us had bet on the winner. So we all lost our bets but we’re all like, ‘Never mind. We’ve lost our bets.

Michaels, on the other hand, said his character became less serious during filming.

John D. Michaels speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald.  (The Korea Herald)

John D. Michaels speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald. (The Korea Herald)

“The actual direction I got was very different from the direction he got,” Michaels said, referring to Kennedy. “The direction I got was, ‘You’re very serious.’ But as we went along, as we shot, it became a less straight guy. My character himself kind of gave in to the games, kind of. So he’s just playing with everything.

While respecting the director’s decisions is important, Michaels said, it’s also meaningful for an actor to be part of a project and feel a sense of belonging. He pondered his answer when asked about his best role so far.

“(Regarding) what effect this has had on my life and could have on my life in the future, no doubt, ‘Squid Game.’ But I did a drama called ‘The Spies Who Loved Me’ on MBC. I worked with Kim Tae-woo,” Michaels said. “And the most rewarding acting experience I’ve had in Korea was to work with him. Also the writer and directors, the B-team director that we worked with in particular, she was really open to us re-writing our scenes. We added our own jokes.

Kennedy talked about his first major role in the JTBC drama “Awl” as one of his most significant projects.

“One of my first big jobs here was as a French villain, and I learned a lot from that, both from a behind-the-scenes business perspective, as well as cutting my teeth on set and interacting with the other crew members and cast members,” Kennedy said. “But ‘Squid Game’ opened a lot of doors for me in the States, and as a result, it became more meaningful to me.”

Michaels is from Los Angeles and Kennedy is from Oregon, Missouri. Michaels said he enjoys eating Korean food in Los Angeles, while Kennedy had never tried Korean food before landing here. The two actors also had very different stories behind their trips to South Korea.

Michaels said he came here for short-term work as a videographer.

“The job was cancelled,” he said. “Several months later, I found myself in this very small apartment, Itaewon, near Gyeongnidan. And there was a restaurant there that opened early enough for me to go get coffee because I’m American. I like to do the early morning drinking coffee. I went there and there was a waitress that I became friends with and fell in love with. And now I’m married to.

Michaels said he first started doing voice acting and then got small acting jobs in Korean dramas and movies starting in 2015.

“And then it just picked up and snowballed from there,” Michaels added.

Unlike Michael’s romantic story, Kennedy’s story began with heartbreak.

“I always wanted to be a writer and performer. I majored in English and Theater in the United States. I taught theatrical debate and writing to Spanish speakers from New Mexico in Taos. Beautiful amazing city. But it was very lonely there. I had just got divorced and was depressed, and my friend said to me, ‘You’re teaching a foreign language anyway, come to Korea to teach,'” Kennedy said.

Daniel C. Kennedy speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald.  (The Korea Herald)

Daniel C. Kennedy speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald. (The Korea Herald)

Kennedy worked as an English teacher in Korea for a while, but soon discovered the job wasn’t for him.

“I was thinking of leaving Korea and folding my teaching career and that’s when I started doing voice acting, mainly for education. And then thanks to that, I got a role major in the TV show.

By Song Seung-hyun ([email protected])