Ali Wong Loved Her Role In Beef, But She 'Wouldn't Call It Fun'

From her Netflix stand-up specials, "Don Wong" and "Baby Cobra," to her voice acting work on "Tuca & Bertie" and "Big Mouth," Ali Wong is a comedy superstar. However, with her role in Lee Sung Jin's unhinged dark comedy miniseries, "Beef," Wong may have just turned in the best performance of her career.

"Beef" initially starts out with a simple premise: after a road rage incident, a petty rivalry forms between a rich self-made Calabasas mother named Amy Lau (Wong) and a working class handyman-for-hire, Danny Cho (Steven Yeun). It begins with acts of vandalism and scathing Yelp reviews, but eventually, over the course of its 10 episodes, the stakes gradually escalate to "Uncut Gems" levels of anxiety-inducing tension (and if it weren't for Netflix, it could have gone even further). Spending most of the show as disconnected entities, Yeun and Wong expertly craft their individual, flawed characters. But when they collide, they truly bring out the worst in each other, painting an incredible portrait of rage, repression, and generational Asian-American trauma.

As Amy, Wong effortlessly switches between two extremes — her zen and idealistic "girlboss" wife part of herself she shows to her spiritual and artistic husband, and the vengeful and self-sabotaging side of her heart that she keeps locked in. As Amy's tiny acts of revenge spiral into something much more treacherous, the line between these two personas becomes thinner. It's a perfect showcase of everything Wong is capable of as an actor, balancing her neurotic absurdity and the darker, enigmatic parts of Amy's psyche with authenticity.

But, while Wong loved facing the challenge of playing a fresh and complex role, she told Newsweek in a recent interview that she wouldn't describe playing a character with such a heavy burden to be a "fun" experience.

'I wouldn't call it fun, but it was definitely challenging'

"I've [been] sent other dramatic roles before and looked at them honestly with myself, and I think, 'I don't really connect to this. I don't think I could do this justice,'" Ali Wong explained to Newsweek. "And then when Sonny [Lee Sung Jin's English name] approached me with the role of Amy in the show it scared me, for sure. But, I was like 'Okay, I think you can do that.' I'm still really surprised with all of it and I'm really happy I did it. It was an incredible experience."

Many dramatic actors are constantly chasing the thrill of playing chaotic and nefarious characters for the fun of it all, hence Hollywood's industry-wide obsession with method acting. (Take Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy in "Succession," for example.) For Wong, on the other hand, embodying such an angry character like Amy and staying in her headspace wasn't something she found particularly rewarding during the shoot itself.

There's one word Wong wouldn't use to describe the process. "I would not say [the acting experience was] cathartic, like I hear that word, and I'm like, 'No, not that one.' I mean, for sure challenging to play," she said. "To do the actual work and spend time with Sonny, and Steven, and [director] Jake Schreier, and the rest of the cast, that was certainly a beautiful, super fun experience. But when the camera started rolling and actually being this person ... I wouldn't call it fun, but it was definitely challenging and super interesting."

A delightfully messy and real Asian-American character

Even if it took a lot out of Ali Wong to embody her role on "Beef," it was a treat to watch a multi-faceted Asian-American character like Amy onscreen. Too many times, mainstream media is obsessed with giving audiences squeaky clean and two-dimensional representation in the name of celebrating "diversity." It's well-intentioned — after all, media does have an effect on how we interact with the world — but it's important that people of color are also given the space in media to just be real people as well.

Amy Lau is a ticking time bomb of resentment and jealousy living in the upper echelon of society where class and sophistication are more valuable than anything else, and her Asian-American heritage only makes her struggles even more grounded. Lee Sung Jin recently teased that he has a three-season roadmap for the show. If that moves forward, I'll gladly stay tuned to watch Amy find the inner-peace she desires.

"Beef" is streaming on Netflix.