“Beef” stars Steven Yeun and Ali Wong as two people involved in a road rage incident that spirals out of control and begins to consume their every waking moment. And despite the fact that Yeun and Wong have no actual beef with each other, that anger has also begun to consume them outside of the show — except in real life, it came in the form of hives.
During a Q&A after the world premiere of “Beef” at South by Southwest, the actors were asked how they managed to decompress after performing such an explosive tantrum on set.
“Our bodies are shutting down,” Yeun said.
“Steven and I both broke out in hives after the show. Mine was on my face. His was all over his body because he’s weak like that,” Wong said, to wide audience laughter. “It definitely put a strain on us, but we didn’t even didn’t realize until after the show was over. I mean, I won’t even talk about what happened to your elbow.”
She continued: “I don’t think we knew this was going to happen. Had we known what we were about to put our bodies and minds through, we might not have said yes, but we’re really glad we did.”
Series creator Lee Sung Jin knows a thing or two about that kind of anger. On stage, he revealed that “Beef” was inspired by a bout of road rage that he actually experienced himself.
“It was with a white SUV. BMW, not Mercedes,” he said, as Wong’s character drives a white Mercedes in the show. “It honked at me, cursed at me and drove off. And for some reason, on that day, I was like, ‘I’m going to follow you.’ It didn’t end like it did on the show – that’s why I’m here, able to talk to you today – but it certainly made me think about how we live in such subjective realities where we project onto people we don’t know. .”
“Beef” is not the first collaboration between Jin, Wong and Yeun. Jin was a writer on “Tuca and Bertie”, in which Wong and Yeun voiced main characters. Jin said Yeun was one of the first people to hear the idea for “Beef”: “We talked for about three hours. Conversations with Steven usually start like, ‘Hey, I want to talk to you about this show,’ and then three hours later, we’re like, ‘Why is God the way he is?'”
“What attracted me is that we can play with something that we’re not asked on the surface, which is our shadows,” Yeun said. “This whole show is every character’s shadow self, and we all have that. So tapping into that – and getting paid for it – is great. And hopefully also make you feel seen, because this shit is very common.”
His previous connections with Jin and Wong made the role easier for Yeun. “It keeps you feeling safe, and it helps you be more honest. You are not left on your own vulnerability,” he said. “When you can express this in that safety of friendship on set, you go home like, ‘I’m not really exploring that anywhere.’ So it wasn’t too bad. It just keeps the tension, which was really knotty.”