‘Beef’ Creator Lee Sung Jin Teases Potential Season 2 Inspirations and Whether He’ll Pull a Ryan Murphy

The writer and director tells TheWrap the near-sweep at Monday’s Emmys was “surreal” and “humbling”

"Beef" creator Lee Sung Jin holds his Emmy at Netflix's afterparty (Getty Images)

Fresh off of winning an Emmy for both writing and directing in same night, “Beef” creator Lee Sung Jin is contemplating how to capture the same magic in a potential Season 2.

“The theme will always be ‘Beef,’ and there’s so much beef in the world,” Lee told TheWrap of crafting an additional installment on Tuesday. “There’s certainly a lot written in my notes app about things that have happened to me over my life or things that I’ve observed that I’d love to tap into.”

Lee’s real-life road rage incident inspired the impetus for the first season, which scored an Emmy for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series on Monday night, as did its leads Steven Yeun and Ali Wong in their respective acting categories.

As “Beef” dominated Monday night’s Emmys in the limited series or anthology category — as well as last week’s Golden Globes and Sunday’s Critic’s Choice Awards — the writer and director revealed the Netflix dramedy was originally pitched as an anthology, and would gladly make a second installment should Netflix renew it.

“I just really want to try and make something honest again,” Lee said. “It’ll take some time to really lock myself in a dark room with with some writers and look in the mirror and probably have to face some uncomfortable things about ourselves, but I’m looking forward to doing that.”

Below, Lee reflects on the show’s Emmy wins, considers whether he might pull a Ryan Murphy by including his Season 1 cast members in an additional anthology installment and reveals what he thinks happened after the Season 1 finale’s ambiguous ending.

TheWrap: It’s now been three awards shows that “Beef” has dominated its categories. What does the Emmys win mean to you?

Lee Sung Jin: It was so special because out of all the award shows the most amount of our cast and crew were all in attendance together. … That’s always so great because we spent months working so hard [with] long hours and [we could] finally celebrate all together. We hadn’t gotten to really do that.

What does it mean to you that “Beef” has absolutely dominated in all of its categories so far?

It’s surreal, to be honest. I look around that room and there’s just so many people that I respect and admire so much — people whose work has definitely inspired me and the show — so to be recognized by folks like that, it’s really humbling. And it’s also kind of terrifying to be on stage and staring out and looking to the eyes of many of your heroes. I just felt very grateful to be a part of this kind of community.

The show came out last April. Did you expect these wins based on its initial response?

There’s actually a really funny meme that describes art, and it’s a Venn diagram and one circle is “crippling self-doubt” and the other circle is “unhinged narcissism.” And then the overlap is “art.”

Probably the post release of art is also that, where you waffle between “do we have a shot at winning all this stuff?” and then also, at the same time thinking, “maybe people don’t really care about us at all, we have so many other great shows.” I waffled back and forth between those two points on a daily basis.

As you accepted the Emmy for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series, you thanked fans who had reached out to share their mental struggles and how the show helped them. Why was it important for you to acknowledge them?

I definitely wanted to bring it up because that’s been the most rewarding part of the reaction to the show. Whether it’s after screening or Q&A, or even a direct message on Instagram, or an email from someone I haven’t spoken to in decades, hearing from folks who have either struggled with mental health or have people in their lives struggling, it not only makes me feel less alone, I think the conversation of it just helps all of us going forward. I think the most isolating part of that is feeling like you’re all by yourself, and I know it takes a lot to even send an email, admitting any sort of struggles. So I was so deeply appreciative of people who have and that’s really why I wanted to make the show in the first place to talk about characters who feel alone that eventually connect.

The show has also been applauded for its Asian American representation. Would you stick with a predominantly Asian American cast in a potential Season 2?

It really depends on on the on the narrative and the characters. There’s this weird almost channeling that happens when you are trying to write from an honest place, and the story almost comes out and wants to tell itself. For example, in last season — the road rage incident that happened in my real life — the other driver was a white middle-aged man and if I did it literally, we would have cast it differently, but naturally as we were exploring the story, and the characters want to tell a different story, so we chased that.

I’m not sure how this next season — if we get a chance to do it — will unfold, but it will always lead with the characters first. If that leads to an Asian cast, I would love that. If it’s partly Asian, that’s great, too. I hope we get a chance to explore.

Would any of the existing cast potentially make appearances in the new season or are there any actors you would love to work with?

Yes to all the above. I love our current cast. They’re like family at this point. You certainly could pull a Ryan Murphy and work with a lot of the same cast again.

At the same time, there’s also just so many tremendous actors that I admire, that I would love to work with but it’s really hard to say until the writers and I can have a chance to stare into the abyss and see what comes back. Then we’ll start to get a sense of who might be the best fit because I think it’s really hard to do the inverse where you start with an actor and then try to almost fit a character to that person. I think we like to approach it from from the opposite route.

“Beef” is streaming on Netflix.


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