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Ali Wong and Steven Yeun Set Relationship Goals High on Tuca & Bertie

Before embracing rage in Beef, the actors voiced love birds Bertie and Speckle.
  • Speckle (Steven Yeun) and Bertie (Ali Wong) in Tuca & Bertie (Photo: Netflix)
    Speckle (Steven Yeun) and Bertie (Ali Wong) in Tuca & Bertie (Photo: Netflix)

    There is a thin line between hate and love. In Netflix’s Beef, it’s an obsessive loathing that keeps Ali Wong and Steven Yeun tied to each other. They put increasing effort into exacting revenge on each other after a road rage run-in, an amount of effort that parallels the work that a loving couple might put into a loving relationship. Wong and Yeun may not have played enemies before now, but they’re no strangers to playing characters with a similarly intense emotional bond on the other end of the spectrum. When the anxiety gets to be too much, squash the Beef and instead turn to the late Tuca & Bertie to visit a world where Wong and Yeun live in harmony as one of TV’s best couples.

    The animated series Tuca & Bertie followed the friendship of the titular characters voiced by Tiffany Haddish and Wong. A kind of spiritual spinoff of BoJack Horseman, the series was created for Netflix by Lisa Hanawalt, whose signature animation style defined the look of both shows. Both series also dealt in unraveling complicated issues related to addiction and mental health, but Tuca & Bertie centered two vivacious bird women throughout three seasons (Seasons 2 and 3 were on Adult Swim before the show was canceled in November 2022). In the very first episode, Bertie’s boyfriend Speckle (Yeun) moves into the apartment Bertie once shared with Tuca, sending the series’s exploration of evolving relationships into motion.

    Speckle and Bertie’s love story is a classic tale of robin meets song thrush — or at least, a classic in Birdtown. The pair’s meet-cute (as we see in Season 2’s “Sleepovers”) happens when they awkwardly try to pass each other on the stairs at a raging house party. On their first date, Bertie is overly anxious, but Speckle doesn’t pull any punches to assuage her fears. “I’m super into you, was that not clear?” he tells her as they split a plate of fries and a pickle.

    That dynamic carries through their entire relationship. Bertie is an overachiever who finds joy in order and being prepared for the worst case scenario. Speckle has more of a go-with-the-flow attitude and more than often than not says exactly what he’s thinking without considering the consequences. They balanced each other out, and over the course of three seasons were able to grow as individuals together.

    When Bertie says her depression and anxiety make her feel like a haunted house, Speckle shows his appreciation for the building’s good bones. When Speckle cracks under the pressure of his own people-pleasing tendencies, Bertie pulls out the “worry vacuum” to suck up all of his anxieties. It would all be vomit-inducing levels of cute if not punctuated with a healthy amount of existential crises and poop jokes for good measure. Not all their behavior in the relationship is entirely healthy, either — Bertie supports Speckle’s unrealistic architectural visions and Speckle is at times too accommodating to Bertie’s co-dependent relationship with her best friend Tuca.

    Wong and Yeun’s talents lend themselves perfectly to the ups and downs of Bertie and Speckle’s lives. Each can readily change the tone of their voice from deeply earnest to chaotically frenzied, grounding their characters in some sense of emotional reality without losing sense of the fact that said characters are wacky animated birds.

    Bertie and Speckle first operate from a place of understanding and have a deep desire to empathize with each other even when the other person (er, bird) is unable to express how they truly feel. And they genuinely enjoy each others’ company, sharing jokes, adventures, and sexual fantasies. Things aren’t perfect along the way, but they’re trying their best and they really love each other. It’s all two cartoon birds (and the humans who watch them on TV) could ever want.

    Tuca & Bertie Season 1 is streaming on Netflix and Seasons 2 and 3 are streaming on HBO Max. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: Tuca & Bertie, Adult Swim, Netflix, Beef, Ali Wong, Steven Yeun