Each year, television’s bevy of familiar faces gives way to a handful of actors who seem to come out of nowhere to captivate viewers with indelible performances. This season’s standout characters include a ruthless daughter, a funny drug lord, and an attractive younger brother. The Envelope reached out to the actors behind these performances to find out what drives them.
He had spent seven years in New York trying to pursue a career in acting, but in 2020 young Mazino returned to Maryland and lived with his parents. “I was tired, stressed, and tired of feeling crazy about my delusions about being an actor,” Mazino recalls. “I’ve decided I’m done.”
A few weeks later, Mazino changed his mind when he got the breakdown for “Beef.” “Ali Wong, Steven Yeun, A24 – it’s going to kill me if I don’t understand that,” Mazino thought. “At the behest of my sisters, I sent in a tape and two chemistry tests later I was offered the role of Paul.”
In showrunner Lee Sung Jin’s road-rage dramedy, Mazino plays a toned slacker who falls for Amy (Wong), his older brother Danny’s (Yeun) nemesis. To mentally and physically engage in the sibling rivalry, Mazino took Yeun to the basketball court. “We clash in these intense duels, trying to score and outplay each other,” Mazino says. “On the last play I made a layup and Steven fouled me, but I made it. I landed and we both said “That is the energy we need.”
Paul’s ill-fated affair with Amy drew on skills Mazino discovered in New York while taking classes at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. “I’ve found I have an affinity for lyrics that deal with the problems of love,” he says. “In ‘Beef’ Paul is naive. Because he and Amy had that intimacy through sex, he believes they are that Romeo and Juliet power couple. When Amy sets her boundaries, it feels like a betrayal.”
“Little Beautiful Things” (Hulu)
Young Clare Pierce is mad with grief, has sex at the funeral home after her mother dies, drunk defecates in a nightclub parking lot, fails her college degree because she refuses to write a short story essay , who despises her and falls in love with a charismatic musician and gives birth to her baby. That’s a lot, and Sarah Pidgeon, who plays the 20-year-old version of Kathryn Hahn’s 49-year-old antihero in Tiny Beautiful Things, sometimes wondered if she could express fear on command. “I’m such a good actor when I’m alone and nobody’s looking,” says Pidgeon with a laugh. “But on days when we had intense scenes, I got nervous: will ‘it’ be there? Will I feel real in the scene?”
As it turns out, Merritt Wever, who portrays Clare’s cancer-stricken mother with “incredible warmth,” inspired Pidgeon to embody grief, anger and bitterness with heartbreaking conviction. Pidgeon says, “If your mother figure of the last three months – Merritt – has two weeks to live, a lot of the emotional heavy lifting will take care of itself.”
Pidgeon grew up in Michigan, attended Carnegie Mellon University, studied acting at the Drama Center London and appeared in Prime Video’s desert island adventure series The Wilds for two seasons. After securing a spot on Beautiful, Pidgeon took part in workshops with showrunner Liz Tigelaar, director Rachel Lee Goldenberg, and key cast members. “The workshops were about cultivating the inner world of your character by connecting it to your own individual experiences,” says Pidgeon, who was able to draw from a lot. “I lost my father at the same age that Clare lost her mother,” she says quietly. “I miss him a lot. Clare’s experience is different from my own because I had a great support system and I didn’t distract myself the way she did. I’m just grateful that this show gave me another chance to to mourn.”
“Mayor of Kingstown” (Paramount+)
“That’s the part where it gets really scary,” says Nigerian-British actor Tobi Bamtefa after 20 minutes in his account of the tortuous path that led to his breakthrough role opposite Jeremy Renner in Mayor of Kingstown. led. Bamtefa had already recapitulated why he skipped drama school (too expensive), quit his bank job (too boring) and decided to become an actor after seeing Julius Caesar in a West End theater (goosebumps). The freaky part? Bamtefa went to see Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and announced during the break that he wanted to work with Tim Roth. A few weeks later, Bamtefa got his first television appearance in a series with…Tim Roth.
Roth’s crime drama Tin Star put Bamtefa on the map in England, and in 2021 he himself recorded his audition for “The Mayor of Kingstown,” drug lord Bunny Washington. “Parts of Bunny are like me in that he uses humor to approach tense situations,” says Bamtefa. “I do that too, because it takes the edge off! This is how I attack life.”
Bamtefa learned the American accent by studying YouTube videos and watching all five seasons of “The Wire,” then flew to Toronto. There he ruled over his territory in the role of Bunny on a garden chair in the front yard of a housing project. “There’s something quite royal about it because this is Bunny’s domain,” says Bamtefa. “I tell myself, ‘Here I am if you want to attack me, but you probably won’t survive.'”
In Season 2, Bunny goes to jail. “It was really nerve-wracking,” recalls Bamtefa. “There must have been around 500 background artists and some had spent some time in prison. Some were gang members. I knew if I couldn’t convince, it would show on their faces. The humor in Season 1 was a mask that Bunny uses. In Season 2, the mask has to be taken off or everyone will see him as an idiot.”