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Phill & Sam Talk About Being LGBTQ+ & Becoming Squid Game Finalists

Phill & Sam Talk About Being LGBTQ+ & Becoming Squid Game Finalists

Phill and Sam attending the Squid Game The Challenge event
Netflix

In an interview with Out, Phill and Sam open up about being a part of the LGBTQ+ community and how they created a special bond while competing on Squid Game: The Challenge.

It turns out that Squid Game: The Challenge was so queer!

After starting with a mind-boggling cast of 456 players, the endgame of Squid Game: The Challenge came down to three contestants: Sam (Player 016), Phill (Player 451), and Mai (Player 287). Two of them, Sam and Phill, happened to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community, making it an incredibly exciting finale for queer viewers.

Sam (he/him), a 37-year-old artist from Broward County, Florida, is a cisgender gay man who discussed his coming-out journey on the show and the heartbreaking rejection he received from his family members.

Phill (he/she/they), a 27-year-old scuba instructor who was born in Brazil and lives in Hawaii, describes themself as a polyamorous, genderfluid straight person. Though their gender identity wasn’t highlighted on the show, Phill did open up about the relentless bullying they experienced as a child after moving to the U.S.

Squid Game: The Challenge

Image: Netflix

From the very beginning of Squid Game: The Challenge season one, Sam and Phill joined an alliance of so-called “outcasts,” and as some of their closest friends went on to get eliminated, they started to form an even stronger friendship with each other.

“We started pretty much on day one,” Phill tells Out. “We sort of found each other and identified each other… I think a little bit like outcasts. That really helped us bond with each other. It didn’t feel like an alliance like some of the other groups. It felt like a genuine friendship, genuine relationships, and that’s what carried us forward.”

Sam adds, “My best friend Dani, who was my shadow and hid behind me in ‘Red Light, Green Light,’ she was eliminated in the star right across from me. It was heartbreaking. When I came in [to the dorms] I was like, ‘I’m going to take her bed so I can remember her.’ But there was already a jacket on the bed, so I went around asking, ‘Who is 393?’ That was Jackie’s number. I found her and I was like, ‘Hey, would it be cool if I had that bed?’ And we had a very nice conversation. She could have said no and I would’ve been okay, but she was very open. So I kind of got into the group and met Phill and I met Rachel and just the ‘Amazing Breakfast Club.’”

Watch Out’s full interview with Phill & Sam from ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’!

Even in 2023, we really don’t get a lot of representation of trans, nonbinary, and/or genderfluid contestants in mainstream reality shows, which is something that Phill was very aware of. “I’m kind of glad to be the representation that I wish that we had growing up. That’s a huge honor,” Phill says. “It’s tough for a lot of kids like us. We do get bullied a lot. We’re targets growing up. But it’s sort of nice to be able to be who we are. Live as authentically as we can, without fear of repercussion, because now we’re the ones that are out there. We’re the ones that are representing. I feel like that’s important to those in the community.”

With the recent push for more LGBTQ+ players on juggernaut reality series like Survivor, Big Brother, and The Amazing Race, we are currently in a new age of queer representation within reality TV. Time after time, however, we see LGBTQ+ contestants on these shows sharing the horrible experiences they had with family members who didn’t accept them, only to find out that those dynamics change completely after the show ends. Certain families suddenly change their minds after queer people make it onto television, gain some fame and notoriety, and earn some money. But according to Sam, he is treading very lightly when it comes to those situations.

“After a certain number of times being burned, you don’t want to grab a pot again,” Sam says. “I’m very reticent. I’m not completely shut off to the opportunity, but there’s gonna have to be a lot more good faith on their end and not just an ‘I’m sorry.’ I feel like that time has passed. Yes, a lot of people will come for me saying that they’re family, but they have demonstrated that they are a relation… they’re not my family.”

Sam and Phill from Squid Game: The Challenge

Image: Netflix

Somehow, these two wonderful friends make it to the top three together. The only competitor left to beat is Mai, a 55-year-old immigration adjudicator who flew from Vietnam as a child refugee and currently resides in Virginia.

So the three finalists are asked to put on suits, and they get to have a gorgeous final feast together. As soon as dinner ends, a new game is announced: the ‘Button Test,’ which consists of three buttons. It is up to the player to decide who will press a button first. If the button turns gray, there is no consequence. If the button turns green, the player moves forward to the top two and picks who they want to take to the end. If the button turns red, it is an automatic elimination.

Mai quickly realizes that the odds are stacked against her. If Phill or Sam get green, they’re taking each other to the end. If she gets red, she’s eliminated, too. So she steps up to press the button first, and it’s gray, which leads to no consequence. It is now up to Phill and Sam to decide which of them is pressing a button first – which could lead to both of them making to the end (green) or one of them being automatically eliminated (red).

Phill, Mai and Sam on Squid Game: The Challenge

Image: Netflix

“Sam really stepped up for both of us, and I have so much to thank for that, because I really did feel kind of like a coward in that moment,” Phill says. “But it was one of us who had to do it. It was tough. At that point, we all cared about each other. Me and Sam, we were besties, but we did care about Mai, and we knew that she would do good by the money too.”

Sam adds, “Part of it was me trusting my gut. Part of me was… Phill took a risk jumping on the bridge, so I felt like this was my time to make a move, and it was. I’m happy with where I am. I’m happy with how I placed. I’m happy with the two people that I got to the end with. I mean, would I have loved $4.56 million? Yes, but I know it’s going to go to a good place, and I know that good things are going to happen with that money.”

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Bernardo Sim

Bernardo Sim experiences and explains the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim experiences and explains the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.