Beef is quickly becoming one of the go-to hits of Netflix’s current winning streak. As well as commercial hits like The Night Agent, the streaming platform has also found a nugget of brilliance in the A24-produced Beef.
Starring Ali Wong as Amy Lau and Steven Yeun as Danny Cho, the two characters are thrust into the titular argument following a road rage incident. What starts out as a simple game of retaliation suddenly becomes dangerous when, after Danny’s car is vandalised, he attempts to torch Amy’s car, only to realise at the last second that her daughter is inside.
It was a hair-raising premise which saw Danny go through a moment of deep reflection inside a church, breaking down in a heaving cry and eventually finding comfort in the pastor. It all goes down in the third episode, titled ‘I Am Inhabited By A Cry’ and was written by showrunner Lee Sung Jin.
“That scene was one of my favourites,” the showrunner told Mashable. “Jake Schreier, our producing director, shot that; it’s shot so beautifully. Larkin [Seiple], our DP, shot it in a very honest way, it didn’t feel like we were glamorising the moment but also not making fun of it either. We just really wanted to reflect this Korean church experience as honestly as we could.”
Yeun also explained the power of the church: “That one was interesting because I’m familiar with that feeling of going to a collective place where you’re overwhelmed by this feeling of, like, you’re holding so tightly to yourself until you go to those places, and then you’re able to let go because everybody’s communally doing something.”
The scene was particularly difficult to shoot as Yeun struggled to produce the tears needed for the heart-wrenching moment. “What we ended up doing is we switched the song,” explains Lee. “We had prerecorded that track with the band, and I think what Steven needed was the original song that he had grown accustomed to. Once we played that, and he felt all the extras singing along, I think that sense of community broke him down.”
Yeun explained the experience: “I remember walking into that church sequence, and they were shooting most of the other actors there. I think I’m emotionally there, it’s going to be good, I think I’m going to be able to get there. Then they flipped the cameras on me, and then for sound, everybody else stopped singing, and then I couldn’t go there.”
This silence was stifling the actor, and he knew what needed to be done. Explaining, Yeun noted: “I realised, oh, I need them to continue to sing, because they’re all watching me, and it’s taking me out of the reality — you’re supposed to lose yourself, but everybody’s staring at me as we’re shooting this. Once everybody started singing again, it just came really easily. Then that taught me that’s what’s happening to Danny here — he’s feeling the joy and the emotional catharsis of losing himself.”
Watch Beef on Netflix now.