In Netflix’s new comedy drama series, BEEF, leads Danny Cho and Amy Lau, played by Steven Yeun and Ali Wong, are slowly consumed by an incident of road rage, which brings to light other issues and pressures they face in their lives. Newcomer Young Mazino, who plays Danny’s brother Paul Cho, holds his own next to veterans Yeun and Wong and proves himself a great addition to this stellar cast.
We first meet Paul in the apartment he shares with his brother. Inside his room, the blinds are closed and a bed sheet is tacked onto the wall, presumably to prevent any glare on his monitor. Danny asks him a question and Paul, slouched in his chair, mumbles back that he’s in the middle of a game. As the series progresses, we see that there are more sides to Paul than just being the gaming, crypto-gambling, irresponsible younger brother, and we witness the complexity of sibling relationships.
During a conversation with Timid, Mazino reflects on his character, the important relationships in his life, and his career.
Timid Magazine: Can you tell us a little about BEEF?
Young Mazino: I would describe the show as a hilarious and tragic poetic look into the modern man and woman. It reaches into the deepest core of our toxicity and pulls it out, and everything else kind of follows and you see what's laid out on the line. Anyone who has felt like we live in an abstract world where things seem kind of irrational or feels existential with where they are [would enjoy the show]. I think it has a far reach in that sense.
TM: Do you ever experience road rage yourself?
YM: At times, for sure. I mean, I've had someone wave a gun at me at a stoplight in LA. But I've never instigated anything. It's just more like muttering. I just think careless drivers would make me a little mad. I'm a really chill driver. I'm usually getting honked at because I'm going too slow under the speed limit most of the time.
TM: Were there aspects of Paul's life that you could relate to that helped you in this role?
YM: Oh, a ton. He's a gamer; I've always been a gamer. I think we share a sense of “aloneness”—but for different reasons. He uses his physique as a means of confidence and to keep him at least in control of his body because he feels like he has no control elsewhere. I dropped out of college and Paul never went to college. So that's something I get because—and maybe it's my self-projection—but that always weighs on the back of my mind.
TM: Do you have any siblings or relatives that remind you of Paul's relationship with his brother and family?
YM: I grew up with two older sisters so that dynamic was different. In my house, if I raised my voice or showed any emotional outburst, it was game over for me. But I've grown up around friends with brothers who would just get into fistfights anywhere; I've seen them fighting just on staircases, in stadiums, on the streets. But I also have one friend who has a big younger brother—he's like this gentle giant who was very timid and is more in his own world and then the older brother is a little bit more militant and domineering so that was a cool reference. But yeah, that's where I pull from.
TM: Did their relationship bring back any memories for you like growing up?
YM: Yeah. That energy flares up in so many relationships between siblings, regardless of gender. I grew up going to Korean church, so I saw a lot of those brother dynamics or relationship dynamics. In Korean American culture, there is a hierarchy based on your age, but it's also different because we're not in Korea and we're kind of assimilated into American culture so that creates its own thing that people navigate without really knowing about—definitely a lot of good stories come out of that.
TM: What went through your mind when you first learned that you would be playing Paul? Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when you found out?
YM: It felt like I had years of built-up Ls to kind of empty out. Yeah, it just felt like a big sigh of relief of like, “Ah, I'm not delusional. Holy crap.” Like I finally got to have that realization.
I was back at home with my parents at my parents' house [when I found out] and I was on the deck outside staring at the trees drinking tea. My manager called me with my friend and they were like, “Did you eat lunch?” And I'm like, “Yeah,” and they were like, “What’d you have?” I said I had chicken. And they were like, “Oh, we had beef.” I was like, “Okay, nice.” And they're like, “No, no, you got it!” And that was a moment for sure.
TM: Who has been your biggest source of inspiration in life? How do you stay motivated?
YM: My parents, for sure. I think of what they went through and where they came from, and just the history of all that—it gives me the perspective to power through whatever it is I’m going through now, which is not much in comparison. My dad came to the United States from Korea when he was 16 and ever since then, he's been working his ass off. [He put in a lot of] work just to provide and support us. My mom sacrificed her time for what I thought was just me exploring hobbies, but she was helping me develop my capabilities as an artist with my extracurricular activities. As I got older, I started to realize just what exactly they went through, and what my grandparents went through—[those were] definitely tumultuous times; it was a struggle for a lot of people back then. So I keep that in mind and know how much has been put into getting me here.
TM: What has been the most rewarding part about your career so far?
YM: Getting to work with really talented people. There's nothing better than stepping onto a set knowing I'm the rookie and everyone else is levels above. That gives me so much room to grow and explore. It's intimidating and challenging, but that's what keeps me going.
TM: Who would you say has been your favorite person to work with so far?
YM: That's so tough. I mean, Steven [Yeun] and Ali [Wong] are tremendous actors. There's something about working with David Choe—it was just so fun because I never know what to expect, and he's so raw with his energy. There's such a massive amount of talent inside him beyond acting, so it's really fun to work with him. But I think it'd be a tie. Each day was great, regardless if Ali, Steven, or David.
TM: What has been the best career advice you've ever received?
YM: It'd be a tie. [First is] the saying, “The truth of the moment comes after the moment.” Whatever event occurs or happens, it's only in hindsight or introspection where that moment really illuminates its truth. The other one would be, “Go slow to go fast.” Which is something I learned just from traveling. In a sense, just [focusing on the] journey over the destination and stopping to smell the flowers along the way has helped me a lot.
TM: Was it always a dream to go into acting? What would your 10-year-old self think about your life now?
YM: It wasn't a dream. When I was a kid, it was a form of play. It was something that I felt natural in—just being on stage and acting in plays, then it became a form of escape when I was in college and facing depression and my existential crisis and thinking, “There has to be more than this.” So I escaped to New York to at least pursue acting to see if there was something there. My 10-year-old self would probably be a little mind-boggled because I feel like I'm returning back to that childlike sense of possibility and imagination that was suppressed and kind of stifled through my adolescence and growing up as an adult, which I think happens a lot to artists.
TM: How does it feel as a Korean American actor to see more AAPI films and shows coming out and gaining recognition?
YM: It's cool, it's great. It’s crazy that I'm reaching where I am now and seeing this all happen in front of me. I've always thought that there's yet to be this wave of what we can call real classics—like Casablanca or the Breakfast at Tiffany's—but within a culture that I relate to. But I always think about quality or quantity. I love that there are more voices and more opportunities, and with that, good talent will come. I'm just excited to see what we can achieve or what the community can create. But I also would say that I don't think art should be this great movement of like, “It's our time!” I think it should just be, “Let's make great stories and good storytelling.” And that's what I think BEEF is—it just happens to be grounded in Asian American culture but that's hardly the focus, which I think is very, very refreshing and cool to see.
TM: Do you remember the first time you felt represented on screen?
YM: I will say I remember seeing Daniel Dae Kim and his broken Korean on Lost. I saw the person and was like, “Holy shit, it's the Korean dude.” And then I saw John Cho and Steven Yeun. And it was only until later when I saw Better Luck Tomorrow and I was like, “Oh, Asian American actors have been around. They exist, they just never got the spotlight.” So Daniel Dae Kim really led the charge for me.
TM: What types of projects would you like to be involved with in the future? And what kinds of stories do you want to tell?
YM: I have a big heart for manga and anime. I think that live action anime spaces have a tremendous potential to create some really, really cool stuff. But I also have a heart for good old cinema. I would love to work on something like Taxi Driver or just be in the world of Tarkovsky and Stalker or be in something like Pierrot le Fou by Godard. I love arthouse too, and I don't mind action and adventure but I think for me I gravitate just purely to good storytelling, good scripts.
TM: Is there any actor or actress that you would like to work with?
YM: I would have loved to work with Philip Seymour Hoffman. I always found him to be incredible. And of course Steven, Ali, and everyone on BEEF. Daniel Day-Lewis—I want to see what that intensity is like, or Tom Hardy or Shia LaBeouf. Yeah, there's a long list. There are so many actors I admire and I'm a fan of Michelle Williams and Tilda Swinton—it’s just endless.
TM: What would the perfect future look like if you could do anything? What would you do if not acting?
YM: I would work on films six months out of the year, and then the other six months, I would travel and teach or write or paint. [If not acting, I would probably pursue] some kind of journalism. Or maybe zoology. I could imagine myself laying in a swamp for three days with a long lens, just waiting for the right shot of some rare species. That'd be really cool. That'd be fun.
Netflix’s BEEF premieres on April 6, 2023.
Disclaimer: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.