In these days of rage — from hate-tweeting threads to public confrontations — one thing is pretty clear: “Beef” is on the menu.
Served up by Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, the new television show created by Lee Sung Jin drops Thursday on Netflix. The 10-episode “Beef” follows an epic feud between two strangers, played by Yeun (“The Walking Dead,” “Minari”) and Wong (“Always Be My Maybe”), that stems from a wild case of road rage.
The plot points may go to the extremes for entertainment but Yeun believes “Beef” actually says a lot about society, and he’s “proud” of that.
“I just see a giant mirror up to all of us,” he said in a recent interview. “We’re living in a lot of isolation, building a lot of stories up in our head. Maybe all we really want to do is connect to somebody.”
Wong agreed, adding that their characters Amy and Danny keep their feud going because each finds it strangely enjoyable.
“They’re letting walls down. They’re seeing each other at their ugliest,” Wong said. “There’s a deep acceptance that’s obviously very cathartic and very necessary. I think that’s the most unexpected and beautiful part about our show.”
The more Danny and Amy reveal their true selves to one another, the more they hide from their loved ones. Amy grits her teeth and smiles at her husband George, as she secretly resents that she’s the family provider, taking her away from quality time with their young daughter while George stays home and creates bad pottery. George, in the meantime, feels inadequate that his wife is the breadwinner.
“I just wish you’d unload the dishes sometimes,” George complains to Amy in a scene.
“I barely have time to eat off those dishes,” she replies.
“Once any partner has a sort of resentment that they hang on to and suppress, and it’s not communicated, it boils into something else,” said Joseph Lee, who plays George. “Something will explode at some point.”
Portraying so much anger actually helped Yeun to choose to take a more Zen-like outlook.
“At first it was cathartic to play anger. I was just like, ‘Cool, that’s fun.’ Then after a while, I was like, ‘I’m tired,’” Yeun said. “To be angry for this long is so tiring. Like, what are we doing? Why are we so angry? It was just very clear to me, to like, just chill, so it was illuminating for me.”
Wong is quick to point out that despite the rage expressed on screen, offscreen it was very different.
“There was a lot of joy being had in between takes that we don’t see on camera … like me and Steven laughing,” Wong said. “The friendship I developed with (castmate) Ashley Park and a lot of the other people is like by far the best outcome of the show, no matter how it’s received.”