Filming the new Squid Game reality TV show threw up “a lot of problems” including concerns over how to “shoot” contestants, its producer has said.
Squid Game: The Challenge will see 456 contestants from around the world competing for a huge cash prize, just like in the hit South Korean fictional drama.
It was commissioned by Netflix after the remarkable success of the original Squid Game, in which the poor are lured to play lethal versions of children’s games, risking death for wealth.
The fictional series was viewed in 142m households and accumulated 1.65bn viewing hours in the first 28 days of its release in 2021.
“It’s a very unusual project,” Stephen Lambert – whose Studio Lambert was hired by the streamer to produce the reality show – told the Radio Times.
“But to have a hugely successful drama that includes a game that could be played for real gave an almost unique opportunity for crossover. Although it throws up a lot of problems to play it for real.”
The fictional show included games such as Red Light, Green Light, a more brutal musical statues, in which contestants were machine-gunned to death if they were caught moving when a gigantic doll swivelled her head around and stopped singing.
“There was general agreement at the beginning that it wouldn’t be a good idea to kill contestants,” joked Lambert, whose previous reality TV shows include Gogglebox, The Circle and BBC One’s Bafta-winning The Traitors.
He also said the producers thought hard about how to depict the “shooting” of the losers, in the context of frequent US school shootings as well as global wars including in Ukraine and the Middle East.
“The decision was made that on the squibs the players wear that explode when they are eliminated, the liquid should not be red, but black … It’s never gory.”
Apart from the elimination, the spin-off is otherwise remarkably similar to the original. “We assumed at the beginning that they couldn’t possibly expect us to cast 456 players but they were absolutely clear that they did,” Lambert said.
He added that Netflix was also “clear that they wanted a large number of North Americans because, in their terms, the show really has to work there, but the series was a global phenomenon so it had to be a global opportunity in the casting.”
Lambert said he was pleasantly surprised that the streamer “absolutely insisted the prize money would be $4.56m”, the equivalent of $10,000 a player – making Squid Game: the Challenge the biggest gameshow in TV history, with the largest single prize.
“The fact that the prize is so big is the solution of how you adapt a drama that is all about being shot when you can’t shoot them,” he said.
“The prize is life-changing. So, when you are eliminated, the dreams that came from entering just die. And the fear of that happening drives how the contestants play the game and interact with each other.”
Earlier this year, Netflix said “claims of serious injury” during the filming of the show were not true, after an unnamed contestant alleged multiple people had required medical attention due to cold temperatures in the studio while competing in a game.