- Film & TV
- 25 Apr 23
Ali Wong and Steven Yeun star in the new Netflix dramedy BEEF, which shows how a simple incident of road rage can lead to all-out-war between two strangers.
We’ve all experienced a little road rage. But hopefully not to the same degree as showrunner Lee Sung Jin depicts in his newest Netflix/A24 black comedy series, BEEF.
When unfulfilled plant artist and self-made entrepreneur Amy Lau (Ali Wong) gets into a road rage altercation with down-on-his-luck handyman Danny Cho (Steven Yeun), nothing is off limits. Throughout the course of this dark, laugh-out-loud series, an escalating feud overtakes the characters’ lives, and allows these polar opposites to unleash their mutual anger.
BEEF brings a new meaning to the concept of ‘revenge’, with the leads inflicting creatively unhinged behaviour on one another. A dark comedy, the series also tackles existential issues and anxieties such as unsatisfying careers, parental disappointment, living on the edge of poverty, and trying to gain control over your own happiness.
“I was blown away by the pitch,” Wong reflects. “I haven’t done anything like this before. It’s so suspenseful and I’m reading every page with so much anticipation. I never knew what was going to happen.”
Yeun says after Jin, who friends affectionately call Sonny, first pitched the series, there was one detail that got him on-board right away.
“When Sonny called me and we were just having a random conversation, he said, ‘Hey, I have this idea for a road rage thing,’ and I was like, ‘That’s it.’ It was as simple as that.”
Jin recalls a real-life incident of road rage that inspired the series.
“It was a white SUV that honked at me, said a bunch of things and raced off, and for some reason that day I was like, ‘Eh, I’ll follow you,’” he reminisces. “I’m sure for that person it felt like I was tracking him the whole run of the 10 highway, so I thought there was something there about people who are very stuck in their subjective views of reality, and projecting assumptions onto the other person. I don’t advise road rage but it does lead to shows.”
Yeun talks about what it was like portraying Danny, a failing contractor prone to poor decision-making, without revealing major spoilers.
“Oh man, I’m usually an all-in or all-out type of person,” he chuckles, remembering what he can and can’t disclose. “My favourite thing about playing Danny is that it makes me face my own shame about myself. Yesterday I ran into a glass door and that felt like a very Danny thing.”
Wong laughingly interjects: “He still looked like a beautiful, porcelain, chiselled model! The last time I ran into a glass door I chipped my tooth and had a huge bump on my head.”
Elaborating on his experience playing Danny, Yeun admits the role came with its challenges.
“I’m just judging him, and cringing, and trying to make him not make sense, but you gotta make him make sense. Every day I was like, ‘Why are you making me do this?’” he quips to Jin.
The showrunner jokes back: “Sometimes I wasn’t sure if you knew it was a comedy!”
BEEF is a new chapter in Wong’s career, as the actress confesses she was terrified to partake in certain adventure scenes, such as running in the forest in the middle of the night while wearing a trenchcoat.
“I was excited about this whole thriller element, but when you’re actually doing it, it’s scary,” she explains.
On the other hand, Yeun’s days on the set of The Walking Dead prepared him for scenes like this.
“Steven was hopping around in the forest like it was this playground. It was interesting to see him so at home in the forest at two in the morning while I was like Shelley Long in Troop Beverly Hills,” Wong laughs. “What was challenging was hiding how terrified and uncomfortable I was and trying to be a fraction as tough as Steven. It was like two acting jobs.”
Unlike their characters, Yeun and Wong are not likely to have an altercation any time soon, but Wong admits she wasn’t sure what to expect from her on-screen arch-nemesis when the cameras weren’t filming.
“Because I didn’t know Steven and his process that well, I was like, ‘Since we’re playing enemies, in between takes and during lunch, is he going to throw a donut at my head?’”
• BEEF is on Netflix now.
The new issue of Hot Press is out now.
- Film & TV
- 27 Sep 22