Jake Schreier and Steven Yeun Gave Danny Grace – IndieWire

One of the most memorable scenes in Lee Sung Jin’s “Beef” isn’t about the escalating psychological warfare between Danny (Steven Yeun) and Amy (Ali Wong). It’s a subtle wordless scene (except for the lyrics) in episode 3 where Danny is moved to tears in a church, the reasons for this display are known only to him and never revealed to the audience.

Episode 3 is one of six episodes directed by Jake Schreier, who spoke with Yeun on the IndieWire Awards Spotlight. Several episodes included scenes in the church, so the “Beef” production team filmed them all in one week. When the time finally came for Yeun to cry openly in the church, she couldn’t.

“That’s the thing about Steven … he doesn’t give a single false moment,” Schreier said. “He didn’t want to force it.”

Although Yeun and Lee share Danny’s Korean roots, both looked to Schreier for more guidance on the character, balancing his pain with his inner and outer strengths.

“Sunny was the place where I could go, like, ‘Yeah…this is embarrassing, right?’ Yeun told Schreier. “When Sunny and I talked, we left the judgment to Danny. And then when you and I talked, there was a grace you allowed Danny that allowed me to recalibrate and trust his whole process.

When Yeun couldn’t muster the tears for this key scene, Schreier spoke to her off-camera and then filmed another scene. When they returned with the full musical performance, the shift in Yeun’s feelings towards the character was broken.

“What does it mean to give true grace?” Yeun said. “It’s about taking everything and saying, ‘It’s all about you, we’re here for you,’ because somehow that didn’t lead to the truth.” When we did just the right thing and there was no judgment, when everyone else started singing, I just started sobbing. This is the moment for Danny; it is not a moment of isolation, but a moment of deep connection.”

A man holding a wrench hovers menacingly over another man sitting on the floor of a warehouse;  still from it
Justin H. Min and Steven Yeun in ‘Beef’ANDREW COOPER/NETFLIX

Another scene they both loved was Danny’s outburst in episode 8 when he learns that Edwin (Justin H. Min) didn’t burn down Danny’s home, but rather begrudgingly bought magazine subscriptions on his behalf.

“What you did was not nice!” Danny shouts. “It’s not nice to do that!”

Yeun explained that at that moment, Danny created a narrative for himself in which he was the righteously indignant villain; when it turns out it’s not the cast, he has to channel the anger it’s stirred up, leading to the enraged declaration.

“He’s still so proud that he can’t quite come down and say, ‘Hey, man, I’m really sorry for what I did, it’s not okay what I did,'” Yeun said, starting to laugh. “Instead, you should yell at him one more time.”

Schreier added that no one in the scene is lying, which is rare in a “Beef” movie. “It was that beautiful bike that Sunny built that made it all,” he said.

Danny’s anger is genuine, but like so many things, he feels it towards himself and directs it at others.

Watch Yeun and Schrier’s full Awards Spotlight conversation in the video above.

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