Young Mazino interview: ‘Beef’
Before getting cast on “Beef,” Young Mazino had mostly appeared in small guest star roles on shows like “Blue Bloods” and “New Amsterdam.” But Mazino’s relative lack of experience in tackling complicated characters on screen belied the training he received at Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York.
“It’s always a weird thing because in drama school you work on very wonderful texts like Chekov and Jason Miller, Arthur Miller, Shakespeare – you work on these complex characters who have so much development throughout the course of play,” Mazino tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview. “But then as a rite of passage, you go through the procedural world and do co-star roles and one-liners and you don’t get a lot of room to play. And then suddenly, I was given Paul … and I got to kind of use as much of my training as I could.”
Created by Lee Sung Jin (who also goes by Sonny Lee) and starring Steven Yeun and Ali Wong, “Beef” is initially about a road-rage incident between Danny (Yeun), a depressed handyman trying to find his way through life, and Amy (Wong), a wealthy small business owner who has her own personal struggles. Mazino plays Paul, Danny’s younger brother who eventually finds himself involved with Amy as well. A limited series, “Beef” often defies genre: it’s a comedy with heavy dramatic elements and a tragedy about the power of connecting with another person no matter the odds.
“Sonny told me stories of how people reach out to him and let him know that, at one point, they were suicidal even a few days before watching and then suddenly they feel seen, they feel less alone, which is kind of the real milestone that Amy and Daniel’s characters find together,” Mazino says of the show. “The whole thing continues to be a very surreal, lovely journey.”
Mazino grew up in Maryland and was always interested in the performing arts as a musician and an actor in school plays. In his early 20s, he dropped out of college and moved North to pursue his acting dreams in New York. Over the next decade, he worked regular jobs while attending drama school. Paul, he says, is a character he understood extremely well.
“I think back to the character description: ‘He likes to play video games and stream with his friends. He didn’t go to college and has a hard time holding a job.’ Immediately there were several people popping up in my mind, just from personal relationships and people I grew up around,” Mazino says. “At one point, when I was a very disillusioned youth, there was a Paul in my life, too.”
One of the aspects of the character that really resonated with Mazino was Paul’s interest in staying physically fit – even if he initially hides his physique on the show.
“There are a lot of guys who use their physique or physicality to kind of mask whatever internal things that are going on. And that becomes this kind of a maybe a reflection of self-confidence that they can view themselves with and they see themselves in the mirror,” Mazino says “Paul is not the most confident guy at first. If you didn’t go to college, and if you’re not really working immediately – especially growing up in the Asian-American community – people will tend to judge that. So at least he has his brawn. But of course EQ-wise, he’s still on the come up. I really recognized a lot of elements of myself growing up in Paul, in the sense that I would be Paul if I never grew up.”
Mazino more than holds his own on “Beef” – he’s currently ranked sixth in the combined Gold Derby odds in the Best Movie/Limited Series Supporting Actor Emmys race – so it should come of little surprise that even his acclaimed co-stars were left impressed by his work. As the story goes, after “Beef” wrapped production, Wong pulled him aside and said, “You can have the career that you choose.”
Asked about that comment now, Mazino says it was very “surreal” and he compares it to the feeling he gets while riding up a steep incline on a bike trail.
“We’re going on up a mountain for six hours – just climbing and everything’s burning. And I found what helped me was just to look down and look at each individual pebble that come across. Then, hours go by and I look up and I’m on the top of this beautiful mountain,” he says. “It kind of feels emblematic of this journey, where I just was in the weeds for so long just trying to survive, and then also working on my craft and I certainly look up and the world has opened to me. That being said, if things can go well, things can also go south. I have no idea what will happen. But right now, things are looking beautiful. And I’m just appreciating the new view of the new landscape.”
All episodes of “Beef” are streaming on Netflix.