The Internet loves Beef and that’s a fact. The new Netflix show has gone viral for the outstanding performances of Ali Wong and Steven Yeun. If you’ve watched episode 7 and were graced by his voice, you might be wondering did Steven Yeun actually sing in Beef?
According to the film’s synopsis, Beef follows the aftermath of a road rage incident between two strangers. Danny Cho (Steven Yeun), a failing contractor with a chip on his shoulder, goes head-to-head with Amy Lau (Ali Wong), a self-made entrepreneur with a picturesque life. The increasing stakes of their feud unravel their lives and relationships in this darkly comedic and deeply moving series.
Without any spoilers, the handyman Danny takes up the microphone at a Korean church in Orange County, California. Before you know it, he’s singing the praise song “Amazing Grace” and it seems like he’s a complete natural in the setting and verse. So can Steven Yeun actually sing in Beef? Listen for yourself or read more to find out.
Did Steven Yeun actually sing in Beef? Yes, he did and he has quite the experience as a praise leader in the Korean Church. “As an immigrant kid growing up in the Midwest, that was really my only real safe space,” he told Krista Smith on the Netflix podcast Skip Intro. “There was another reality happening [in Korean church] where maybe the ways in which we couldn’t assert ourselves in wider America, we could at least feel for ourselves in that particular place.”
“I just found myself nearing tears every single time they start singing praise songs,” he recalled the emotions he felt when performing in the scenes. “I’m just like, ‘Why am I about to cry? What is happening?'” When he was singing “Amazing Grace,” he said “It wasn’t difficult to necessarily perform that but it was surprising to see the final rendering that was captured on camera and to watch yourself. Because it wasn’t a calculated thing where I was like, ‘I’m going to make sure I jump this much, or I call out this much, or I play this like this.’ It was just like, ‘What will it be if I just try to go back to what I used to do back in high school, and let’s just see what that looks like on camera.’ That’s what you get.”
In a press conference with Beef creator Lee Sung Jin and Ali Wong, Yeun and Lee talked about their experiences while filming and being surrounded by people who have grown within the Korean Church. “Luckily, the setup that Sonny has created is like there were real people that had been going to Korean church, and we’re all just kind of like living in it. So it didn’t feel fearful. I felt like I was actually going back in time, and trying to lead praise as I did in high school. And then you watch it and I realize that’s what I looked like doing that. Or that’s what Danny looks like doing that. I think it was cool to accept it. It feels like not calculated, but it was like being in this mood, in this vibe. To do it from this perspective, and then see what that looks like.”
Yeun also remembered that the experience of singing in front of a camera wasn’t scary at all. “We were working with friends and working with a really chill crew and cast. During the Korean church week, it was very clear that people were just in it. It was a place where everyone could have escaped to judge and shit about it during the whole time we were doing it. It wasn’t like held in reverence. I just felt comfortable.”
Lee also recruited some of his closest friends and their own praise groups to portray an authentic experience on camera. “There was also a lot of familiarity with the people that were there,” Lee said. “Jason Min, who is Justin Min’s older brother and was my best friend in college, started a church out in LA that Steven used to go to back in the day. Many of the extras were from Jason’s church, who then remembered Steve. They asked him ‘Uncle Steve?’ There was just this nostalgic familiarity the whole week, that just makes you feel kind of strangely at home.”
Yeun also praised how the cast and crew, especially Wong, made the filming process seamless. “The conditions were very safe,” he said. “Whenever Danny enters into an Amy space, and I’m with Ali, she does this really wonderful thing. I think it’s subconscious, she just does it naturally, but in between takes she makes me feel safe in that place. It just comes because she wants and desires a connection.”
When getting the script, Ali Wong (who is also an executive producer with Steven Yeun) was “blown away.” “The thriller element blew me away. I just haven’t done anything like that before. As the show has progressed it became so suspenseful. I read every script page right away just with so much anticipation.” Steven Yeun expressed the same sentiment. “You read the dialogue, and and it felt like, ‘Wow, this feels so real.’ It’s such easy but difficult vernacular that it’s written in a way where it was like Sung Jin was there in the room as a fly on the wall and he overheard those conversations. When you get dialogue like that, you know this is gonna be so fun.”
The actual premise of the show is based on a real experience that Lee had encountered with road rage a year and a half before writing the TV show. “It was a typical road rage thing where the light turned green and I didn’t go fast enough,” he said in the press conference. “It was a white SUV BMW. They honked at me and said a bunch of things and raced off. And for some reason that day, I was like, “Eh, I’ll follow you.” I didn’t really have a plan and in my mind, I was justifying it. I was on my way home, and I happened to be behind the person. And I’m sure for the it felt like I was tracking him the whole run of the 10 highway. I thought there was something there about people who are very stuck in their subjective views of reality, and they’re projecting assumptions onto the other person. And yeah that was a core of the idea. So I’m very thankful for that incident.
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