Image credits: Getty for Netflix
Phill, Player 451 From Squid Game: The Challenge on Their Emotional Turmoil & Crucial Unseen Moments
This year, Netflix decided to take the ultra-popular South Korean drama Squid Game a step further and create a real-life competition named Squid Game: The Challenge, in which 456 contestants fought for a 4.56-million-dollar chance to change their lives.
In the final episode, the two last contestants, player 451 Phill Cain and Player 287 Mai Whelan,faced off in a Rock, Paper, Scissors game, which ultimately crowned Whelan the winner.
We got the chance to have an in-depth interview with the runner-up, Phill, who walked us through the entire emotional rollercoaster they went through, some important moments viewers didn’t get the chance to see in the final cut, and much more.
Squid Game: The Challenge. Player #451 Phill. Credits: Netflix
MyPersonality: So, Phill, you are player 451 from “Squid Game: The Challenge.” How are you feeling after last night’s finale?
Phill Cain: You know, feeling great. Obviously, I’ve had a lot of time to process what happened since the show, and I truly feel blessed to have been a part of it. I’m feeling good, and I’m feeling hopeful about the future (smile).
We know you’re 27 years old and originally from Brazil. You’ve moved to Hawaii and taken up a job as a scuba instructor. What else can you tell us about yourself?
I’m actually in a band; we just started a new band called “Six Ways to Saturday,” and actually we’re putting out a new single called “Fantasy” today.
What other hobbies and interests fill up your free time besides scuba diving?
So, I’m actually a professional quadball player. Quadball is a new sport; it’s kind of like a cross between rugby, dodgeball, and handball. I play in 3 different leagues: I play for New York Slice in the United States quadball, and I also play in a pro-league, major league quadball with the New York Titans. I’ve also been the captain of the Brazilian national team, and we just won a gold medal last summer.
Had you seen the original Squid Game series before you found out about the casting?
No, so I actually didn’t watch the original show until after I got casted, and I didn’t get casted until 3 days before I flew out, so I really had no idea what I was getting into (laughs).
How did you find out about the casting for Squid Game: The Challenge?
I just saw an ad online. I’ve been following some casting pages for a while, and I’ve done some background work, like I was a CSU Technician Number 2 on an episode of “Hawaii Five-0,” and that was kind of my claim to fame before all this.
So I had been following some casting pages, and I was interested in it, and I applied to some reality shows before, but I hadn’t really heard back. Then I saw this one, and I was like, wouldn’t it be funny if I just kind of sent it to see what happened? And look at me now (laughs).
Did you do anything to prepare for the physical and mental challenges before going into the show based on the original scripted season of Squid Game?
Nothing too specific, but I feel like I’ve been kinda preparing my whole life, you know, like moving around so much kinda forced me to be able to practice making friends and creating communities and creating really deep and meaningful connections with people, so I think that that really helped me out a lot during the game.
Which game was most challenging for you, psychologically?
I honestly gotta say “Red Light, Green Light” was probably the worst. I mean, that was the most mentally and physically challenging thing I’ve probably ever done in my entire life. I mean, it took so long; it was so cold the whole time we were there. It looks like you’re playing it for 10 or 30 minutes, but in fact, we were playing it for 6 or 7 hours, and we had to hold those positions for like 15 to 30 minutes at a time, so it was really intense.
By the end of it, getting through that, I knew that if I get through that, I can get through anything.
What was the hardest decision you had to make during the competition?
The toughest decision I had to make was definitely choosing Hallie to put the box on her desk during “The Circle of Trust.” That really broke my heart. That was a decision that I didn’t want to make, but I knew that I kind of had to, in the moment, and it sucked because, at that point in the game, we'd grown so close to each other that we really got to hear each other’s stories, and at that point, I don’t think anyone deserved the money more than anyone else, so having to directly take someone out like that was really tough.
Can you bring us to a moment from the show that was particularly emotional for you?
Obviously, I’ve made a wealth of friendships and really beautiful relationships with people in the dorms, but specifically, I became very close to Jackie, player 393, and I saw her go down on the glass bridge, and that was really probably one of the toughest moments of the entire show because that kind of broke me.
Up until that point, we were kinda each other’s rock; you know, no matter what, we always had each other; we were each other’s go-to person, and so, to lose that, I felt like I lost a part of myself, and it really made it a lot more difficult to go on. That was the worst part—we didn’t get to say goodbye.
Let’s talk a bit about the final game. In the final episode, you said you had no strategy, right? Were you playing just by luck, or did you employ any strategy that we didn’t get to see in the final cut?
I didn’t know that there was a strategy for “Rock, Paper, Scissors” (laughs). I thought we were both kind of winging it, but she whooped my butt; for real, she really earned that victory.
You can’t really tell in the show, but we played like 33 rounds and she won most of them, and there were 40-something keys in the chest, and we went through most of the keys, and it’s tough because the key that she picked, I had seen in there, and I was like, ‘eh, it’s probably not that one,’ so definitely, I have been thinking about that moment every single day for the last 10 months (laughs). But no, she really earned that one.
How did you feel when you heard Mai unlock the safe?
In that moment, it was like a disappointment, for sure, but there was also a big sense of relief, because, you know, it’s over, it’s finally over, I get to go home, I get to sleep in my own bed, eat delicious food, and so on, but in a way, it was almost a relief.
What was the first thing you did after leaving the show?
I flew directly back to Hawaii, and my partner Mac was actually waiting for me because we had booked a trip before I was even casted for the show, and we still kept the trip because I was like, ‘I’m probably gonna get out of the first game; I’m not gonna be there that long,’ so they were actually waiting in my apartment for weeks, waiting for me to come home, and I also had to tell them, ‘Hey, I was so close, but I didn’t quite make it’ (laughs).
It was really funny, but it was also really nice; we got to decompress a little bit and enjoy each other’s company, which was, I really think, necessary.
Who was it more difficult for—for you or for them?
Yeah, I think it was equally difficult for both of us, not knowing what was going on.
Was it hard keeping it a secret how the show played out for another 9-10 months after filming?
It really was, but I did something bad. I ran my mouth as soon as I found out that I was a cast for this show because I didn’t think it was gonna be that big of a deal. I didn’t think I was gonna make it that far, and then I did make it that far, and when I flew back, people were like, “Oh, how did the Squid Game go?” I would be like, “Oh, no, I wasn’t on that; it was something else," you know (laughs).
Are you still in touch with the other players, and who became closest to you, besides, obviously, Sam and Jackie, which you mentioned?
Yeah, so we called ourselves “The Breakfast Club." It was me, Jackie, Rachel, Alex, Scott, and Tabatha. We were kinda like a little clique for a while, and it was really nice because it didn’t really feel like an alliance; it felt like a genuine friendship and genuine care that we had for each other, and we didn’t really have to force that, which really helped us out emotionally, getting through everything, because we always knew that we had a little family in there.
However, it did make it very tough to watch them one by one get picked off, so that was really tough, but at the end of the day, we still had each other. It was me and Jackie in the end, and actually even Sam kinda became an honorary member, too, which was nice.
What did you learn about yourself through this experience?
I learned that I’m a lot more resilient than I thought I was, and it really taught me that having so much time to think about the money and thinking about what I would do with it and how I would follow my passions with it sort of made me realize that I don’t really need it to follow my passions.
So, that’s why the first thing I did when I came out was get the band back together and start making music again because that’s always been my passion. So, now I know that I don’t necessarily need that in order to continue with it and sort of bring my love and share my love through music with the world. I’m really proud that we’ve been working on that.
Were there any misconceptions about the show that you’d like to clarify?
I think just across the board, I don’t think people understand how long it took to shoot, because we were there for weeks and weeks, and they made it look like it was just over in a few days.
A lot of people are saying, “Oh, why are you crying?" or “Why do you care about this person so much? You barely know them; you’ve known each other for a week," but it’s a week of 24 hours, no outside time, no outside distractions, only talking to each other and hearing each other’s stories, and you really do form a deep emotional bond with these people very quickly, especially going through so much hardship together.
Personally, I feel like I’ve made friendships that are gonna last a lifetime, and I’m really happy about that.
Is there something you haven’t shared publicly about your experience on the show that you can reveal to us now?
Yeah, so actually, something that got cut was Mai actually sticking her neck out for me twice. She not only offered to take my jump on the glass bridge, but she also offered to roll my dice for me, and those were moments that really stuck out with me, because it really showed me how much she cared about me and how she was willing to throw it all away just to help me out, and I didn’t accept, of course, because I wanted to try and be fair, but that really made me trust her a lot more, and it sort of deepened our connection with each other.
It was really tough, but it was also kind of nice, because, at the end of the day, no matter who won, I would be happy with that person winning. That was a really special moment that we shared together, and I’m really glad that I got to share it with her.
We published a piece on the key Squid Game: The Challenge contestants on MyPersonality, and we aimed to get everyone’s personality type based on what we saw in the show. We believe your personality type is INFJ. Did we get it right?
Yes and no. I think that's generally accurate, but I have kind of a tough time categorizing myself because of the way I see personality types, and I did learn about that kind of stuff at school, but the way I see them, it really is a spectrum.
It’s not only on the spectrum, but it’s also situational; it depends on who you’re around, so I think it’s tough to narrow down someone’s entire being in four letters, but I guess, generally, yeah. I’m an introverted extrovert, for sure.
I definitely get a lot of energy from being with people and making connections like that, even though I might not be the first to speak up in a new situation, but it’s definitely the thing that carried me through the most of this entire show.
Would you say you were making decisions based on logic or based on what you felt was the right thing to do in the moment?
You know, I think it was a little of both. Fortunately, I didn’t get put in many positions where I had to make an impossible and potentially negative choice, but I think that a lot of the people who were just a little bit too eager were some of the ones who got out first.
Again, it wasn’t really a strategy; it’s just the way I am, just kinda laid back; let’s see what happens; let’s go with the flow, and that’s what ended up carrying me so far. But definitely, you know, always observing, always watching, always listening, seeing what’s going on—that's just my nature; that wasn’t like a specific strategy or anything.
And as an introverted extrovert, how did you handle the intense social pressure during the challenge and all the publicity you received after the show?
It was tough, but I feel really blessed because I was kinda going into it thinking that it would be like a classic reality show, where you have like really mean people, really dramatic people. I was a little bit worried about that, but honestly, across the board, everyone was really genuine and kind, and I didn’t really expect that, and so that made it a lot easier to form these deep and meaningful relationships.
And, on the other hand, it also made it hurt a lot more to lose them in the eliminations, but I think that there was a sense of camaraderie in the dorm that I think was really unique because we were all going through the same thing. Even though we were directly competing against each other, it never really felt like that; it was more like us vs. The Game.
Finally, what message would you like to share with the readers of MyPersonality who are also big fans of the show?
Be kind, courteous, be respectful, and I think that's gonna carry you so far. I feel like The Game is almost a representation of our society, and it sort of pits us against each other, like late stage capitalism; it sort of pits everybody against each other; everybody’s scrambling to make ends meet and sort of competing against each other.
But, I think The Game really showed the true nature of humanity, which is that, if given the opportunity, we are willing to work together and we are willing to make it fair, so we have a little bit more faith in humanity. Have a little bit more faith in your community and each other. And also, check out my band, Six Ways to Saturday; we’re dropping a new song today called “Fantasy”!