Korean actor who immigrated at age 5 says it’s been his best year yet
[MiAsian=Tackyong Kim] Korean-American actor Steven Yeun, 40, of Michigan, won the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Anthology Series or Movie at the 75th Annual Emmy Awards held at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles on Monday (May 15).
After Steve Yeon won Best Actor for his Netflix drama “BEEF”, director Lee Sung-jin won Best Director, Best Writer, and Best Picture, and female lead Ally Wing won Best Actress, and casting, editing, and costumes were added to make “Angry People” an eight-picture winner.
Directed by a Korean director and starring a large cast of Korean and Asian actors, “BEEF” was nominated for 13 awards in 11 categories. Steven Yeun, best known for the movie Buttercup, is nominated for Best Actor in a Miniseries, while Korean writer/director Lee Sung-jin is nominated for Miniseries Directing and Writing.
After winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a TV Miniseries for “BEEF” at the American Film Institute’s Golden Globe Awards on April 8, Steve Yeun won the award for Best Actor in a TV Series for “Angry People” at the 29th Critics’ Choice Awards held in Los Angeles on April 14.
In addition to Best Actor (Stephen Yeun), “BEEF” also won three awards at the Golden Globe Awards, including Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series and Best Actress (Ally Wong). At the Critics’ Choice Awards, in addition to Best Actor, “BEEF” also won Best Actress for Steve Yeun’s co-star Ally Wong. Thus, “BEEF” was fully recognized for both its writing and acting.
This will be the second consecutive Emmy win for a Korean actor, as Netflix’s “The Squid Game” won six awards at the 74th Emmy Awards in 2022, including wins for director Hwang Dong-hyuk and actor Lee Jung-jae.
“BEEF” is a well-made series about everyday anger from director Lee Sung-jin, 41, a fun-loving Korean-American who works as a creator in Hollywood.
The drama, starring Korean and Asian-American actors, opens with Danny Cho (Steven Yeun), a Korean laborer, engaging in a road chase with Amy (Ally Wong), a Chinese immigrant who drives a white Mercedes-Benz SUV, who screams and curses at him when he reverses his car at the grocery store.
While the so-called “road rage” proceeds within the comedic genre, the film gradually introduces more serious stories, showing the difficulties that Korean Americans face as immigrants and their adjustment to American society.
Born in Seoul, Korea, and immigrated to Michigan, USA, via Canada, at the age of five, Steve Yeon became famous for his role as Glenn Lee in The Walking Dead, a popular cable drama on AMC that began in 2010 and follows the struggles of survivors in a zombie-infested world. In the mystery film “Burning” (2018), directed by Lee Chang-dong, he played the role of the mysterious Ben, and in the 2020 film “Buttercup,” he played the role of Jacob, which showed the sensitivity of Korean-American immigrants.
The Emmy Awards, presented by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, are the most prestigious awards in the U.S. broadcasting industry, and are considered the broadcasting equivalent of the Grammys for music, the Oscars for movies, and the Tony Awards for plays and musicals.
Hwang Dong-hyuk, lead actor at the 94th Emmy Awards, had to say about his work. “I was surprised to hear that ‘BEEF’ was nominated. Although director Lee Sung-jin’s nationality is American, there is a unique cultural sensibility and code in the work that only Koreans can have,” he said. “I thought that such unique points were fresh and different from mainstream American drama series, and I felt that the era of cultural diversity that is loved by everyone beyond nationality, culture, and race is opening.” He shared his thoughts on the drama.
“We initially wanted him to be a doctor, so he majored in psychology at Kalamazoo College, but he started to discover talent when he was in the theater club in college,” Yeon’s father, Jehong Yeon, told us. Steve asked his parents to give him two years after college to do what he wanted to do, and he recalled that his father, Mr. Yeon, was initially against it, but he accepted his son’s wishes and told him to come back if acting wasn’t for him. Steve Yeon, who worked his way up through the comedy clubs of Chicago’s Second City to Hollywood and finally to the top of his game doing what he feels passionate about, has also taken the time to give back to the community, visiting Detroit’s Sejong School juniors several times to give speeches.