Steven Yeun opens up about his experiences working in Hollywood and his time on The Walking Dead.
Steven Yeun from The Walking Dead is arguably one of the most beloved characters on TV history. Now, hes appearing in an award-winning film, Burning, which is produced by South Korea director Lee Chang-dong. The award has received high reviews from this years Cannes Film Festival and is gaining more attention among movie fans.
Yeun plays an emotionally troubled individual who reveals he enjoys setting things on fire. In an interview with Slate, Yeun explains why the role is unlike anything in his acting career. Yeun adds his time on The Walking Dead was not as fun as he imagined it would be.
Yeun explains, After reading the script, I was like, Wow, Im really going to get to play, to feel what its like to live in this persons skin, be present in his present. I realized in hindsight that nothing I had done prior gave me that feeling.
Yeun adds the number of opportunities for Asian American actors in Hollywood do not provide this level of freedom. He says, Ill come back from Burning, and Ill be like, Will I ever get this experience again? Will I ever feel this free in a character? Will I ever feel like theyre looking to get my best performance? Down to the lighting, the makeup, the boundarylessness that they project on me?’
Yeun argues the roles he is offered as an Asian American do not define who he is as an actor. I wont speak for other Asian American actors, because I dont know what theyre being offered. But for me, its like: nice guy, dependable, supportive, benign. Beige. And as a Korean man, I am not beige.
Yeun argues that he was frustrated playing Glenn on The Walking Dead. A role he played for six seasons. Looking back, Yeun says, I felt beige with Glenn. That was a little bit of the frustration that I could never explain to the wider society, to fans of the show.
But, he does not regret working on the show and in fact, says he had a wonderful time. I made lifelong friendships. I got to learn so much. But I will say that I felt cramped. I felt like there wasnt space for me to fully spread all of who I was, and that was partly due to me, too, because when I started, all I was trying to do was to work within the parameters that they were giving me. And then, over time, I just outgrew it.
Yeun continues by that he was mostly stuck playing a beige character. Thats why it was beige. Because he was meant to be the heart of that show. When you look back, you go, Thats great, everyone wants to be represented that way. Why wouldnt you want to be a perfect being? But I dont wanna [play]perfect because were not perfect. And thats a thing that I wasnt able to feel for a while because I was holding up this ideal that was way bigger than me, way larger than any single human can possibly do. I became less and less interested in doing that.