When we first meet Paul Cho (Young Mazino) in Beef, he’s really busy—playing video games on his computer—and can’t be bothered with his older brother Danny’s (Steven Yeun) problems. “I’m in the middle of a game,” he hollers from his messy bedroom as his brother lectures him to pick up after himself.

Paul is a classic younger sibling in many ways, shirking financial responsibilities (he lives rent-free with his brother) and pursuing his dodgy passions (video games, working out, and investing in shady cryptocurrency). Paul could have remained a himbo caricature, but thanks to Mazino’s breakout performance, we can’t help but root for him, even when he makes questionable decisions. Even as Danny stays at the center of the story, Paul goes on his own journey, falling into a catfish Relationship and then an Affair with a married woman, and eventually getting out from under his older brother’s dark shadow. “Paul is definitely somebody I understand,” Mazino tells Vanity Fair. “I understand his head space and the kind of mentality where you feel like the world is against you and you’re in this bubble.”

For Mazino, who grew up in the suburbs of Maryland, he was struck by how much he related to Paul. “At a certain point I might have been Paul,” he says, “but as I continue to grow and pursue art and pursue my truth as a human, I think I morphed out of that.” Similar to Paul, who never went to college, Mazino dropped out of school, and instead went on to study at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. “Knowing, in my community where I come from, when you’re a college dropout, there’s a stigma to that,” says Mazino, who is Korean American. “So all of these things, I tried to amalgamate it into this character I was building.”

Young Mazino on the set of Beef



Beef centers on a quickly escalating game of revenge between two strangers, Danny and Amy (Ali Wong), who first meet during a road rage incident and then begin to interfere in each others’ lives. Their actions soon affect their families, including Amy’s husband and daughter and Danny’s brother Paul. 

When he sent in a tape for his audition, Mazino was back at home living with his parents in Maryland, and assumed he didn’t have a chance to join a cast that already included Yeun and Wong. Mazino auditioned for the series with a self-tape, and immediately assumed he didn’t have a chance, because of the caliber of the talent already attached. At the time, Mazino had returned to live with his parents in Maryland after about seven years of living in New York and traveling around the world. Much to his surprise, he got a call back and then later did chemistry reads with both Yeun and Wong. 

When Mazino was studying Stella Adler, he was asked to write down the names of actors whose career he would like to emulate. Back then, Yeun was one of the names he listed. He calls the experience of working with Yeun and Wong “surreal” and a master class in acting, especially in improv. “That gave us the freedom to just play,” he says. “I had this trust where, no matter what I threw, they could just throw it back at me tenfold.”


Before Beef, Mazino had just finished working on a documentary with a friend of his. His friend’s younger brother had tagged along, and their dynamic immediately reminded him of what he saw between Danny and Paul. “I had a great point of reference,” he says. “Mentally, emotionally, he’s overshadowed by his brother. That was where I based my character.”

Mazino moved to Los Angeles a few weeks before filming began. At the time, he didn’t have a computer, so he would go to the gaming cafes as part of his research, both playing games and watching how the regulars would act. “It really is a form of escapism. It’s a way to just get away from everything,” he says.

He also went to a Korean nightclub, the kind that Paul would frequent. He texted creator Lee Sung Jin about what he’d observe when it came to how the young men would dress and carry themselves. “Paul would want to try to emulate this kind of streetwear, hypebeast kind of stuff, but he’s not quite getting to that point,” he says. “He’s maybe 30% of the way. Because he grew up in the church, he’s a little awkward.” Paul’s costumes began a mix of the two. For example, he may wear a gold chain and Nike Air Force 1s, but the rest of his clothes still look like he’s coming from Korean church. 

A few weeks before shooting, Lee asked Mazino to work out to get as bulked up as he could before filming, so Mazino added muscle to his fit but wiry frame. But he decided that he would hide Paul’s bigger frame for the first few episodes in the way he carried himself. “I think normally, if you go to a gym and people have that kind of physique, they’re chest is out. It’s like fuck-you energy,” he says. “But while Paul has that body, internally, he doesn’t have that confidence, for a number of reasons. So he’s still a little concave.” As the season goes on, Mazino began to have Paul walk taller as he found his own identity, like in the final scene in which he has to use his larger build to literally escape a perilous situation, leaving his brother behind. 

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