Steven Yeun poses with his Golden Globe for his performance in the limited series “Beef” after the awards ceremony in Beverly Hills, California, on Jan. 7. (Reuters/Yonhap)
Steven Yeun took home a Golden Globe for his starring role in the limited series “Beef,” marking the first time an actor of Korean descent was awarded a prize for best actor at a major American film and television awards ceremony.
Written, directed, and produced by Korean American creative Lee Sung-jin, “Beef” features an ensemble of Asian American actors and depicts the lives of Korean immigrants in America. The series was one of the big winners of the night, taking home three trophies in total, with Ali Wong winning for her leading role and the show itself winning best limited or anthology series.
The 81st Golden Globes took place at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, at 5 pm on Sunday (local time).
“The story I usually tell to myself is one of isolation and separateness — and then you come up here and you have this moment and you can only just think about everyone else,” Yeun said in his acceptance speech, thanking his family and the production staff.
“Beef,” a 10-episode Netflix original series released in April 2023, is a black comedy that shows how one small incident can set off a chain reaction that ends in catastrophe, as two Asian Americans direct their pent-up rage at each other.
Yeun plays Danny Cho, the eldest son of Korean immigrants to America endeavoring to bring his parents back to the US after they were forced back to South Korea when their business went bust as well as taking care of his unemployed younger brother.
Steven Yeun in “Beef.” (courtesy of Netflix)
The series captured in depth the lifestyle and mindset of Korean immigrants through details like the depiction of the Korean church community or how families bond over a bowl of ramyeon, while also touching on the universal emotions of alienation and anxiety felt by many in the modern age.
Yeun, along with John Cho and Sandra Oh, is a Hollywood actor of Korean descent who has seen major success in show business. Born in Seoul, he immigrated to the US with his family when he was 5. He first took an interest in acting while majoring in psychology in college.
After graduating from college, he was active in theater troupes in Chicago before moving to Los Angeles. Six months after the move to LA, Yeun scored his breakout role starring as Glenn Rhee in the popular zombie series “The Walking Dead.”
Yeun was widely beloved for his portrayal of Rhee from Season 1 (2010) to Season 7 (2016) of the series, as his character shed the stereotypes usually imposed upon Korean American characters — instead of being timid and selfish, he was earnest and courageous.
When it comes to the silver screen, he has also actively worked with Korean directors, starring in Bong Joon-ho’s first Netflix movie “Okja” (2017) and Lee Chang-dong’s “Burning” (2018). In Jordan Peele’s 2022 science fiction horror film “Nope,” Yeun dazzled as Korean American child-star-turned-carnie Ricky “Jupe” Park.
The actor reunited with Bong for “Mickey 17,” which is due to hit theaters in early 2024. Yeun was the first Korean American actor to be nominated at the Academy Awards in 2021 for his role in “Minari,” a movie that he also produced. His win at this year’s Golden Globes makes history.
Steven Yeun and Ali Wong pose with their trophies after being awarded for their roles in the Netflix limited series “Beef” after the awards ceremony in Beverly Hills, California, on Jan. 7. (Reuters/Yonhap)
Lee Sung-jin, who created and produced the series, also immigrated to the US with his family at a young age, much like Yeun.
Korean Canadian director Celine Song’s film “Past Lives,” which was nominated in five categories, went home empty-handed. Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” won five prizes, including those for best motion picture, best director, best actor, best supporting actor, and best original score.
By Kim Eun-hyoung, senior staff writer
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