AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead may have dropped its old writers and picked up a new season, but until filming starts, Korea-born, Detroit native Steven Yeun fills us in on his college days, typical ways, and inspirations as well as fears. Oh, and he also discusses his character Glenn’s unknown fate in the upcoming 13 episodes. Who knows if the original series will follow suit with the original comic book series that it’s based on, but one thing we do know — you can get a copy of The Walking Dead Season 1 DVD, out today.
Audrey Magazine: Give us a day in the life of Steven Yeun.
Steven Yeun: I guess it depends what time frame you’re asking about. If you’re asking during filming, it’s pretty much dedicated to waking up, getting to set, and doing what I need. Otherwise in downtime, you know, a day in the life could be anything. I might have a bunch of auditions one day. Yesterday, I had to get my dog spayed, and so I dropped her off. I usually try to fit in the gym and play some basketball, do a little reading, writing, and lately because of Netflix, I’ve been trying to catch one movie a day. And depending on the day of the week, I might have a show that night. I try to be self-sufficient and try to be as busy as I can by myself, but sometimes it’s not as busy as I would like. I’m pretty impatient sometimes.
AM: Following the comic series, will Glenn be romantically involved with anyone in the next season?
SY: Glenn is your young kid who kind of didn’t have much going on before the apocalypse. And all of a sudden, has a new reality, new role, and new responsibilities thrown on, and he’s embracing it. I’m excited to see him get fully developed. It’s a really exciting character, especially, and as an Asian American male, it’s something that isn’t very stereotypical and really kind of stretched to show a lot of dimensions. As for the romantic interests, I have no idea so far and can only go off the comic book. And if you go off the comic book, it looks pretty promising that there will be a romantic interest, but we haven’t heard of it because they haven’t gotten specifically into it until they start filming in the spring.
AM: Playing a survivor among terrorizing zombies, do you have things that scare you in real life? Any fears?
SY: I do have fears. I think my greatest fear is letting my parents down. That might be inherent in anyone, but coming from my perspective, it’s pretty inherent in the Korean culture. [My parents] sacrificed so much for me, and I took them working and toiling their blood, sweat, and tears, and I said I was going to be an actor after they paid so much for everything. I told them I was going to be an actor, which is such a risky thing to do. And yet they stood behind me and they were very supportive, and so this blessing has been a dream come true, even to ease their minds just a little bit. But beyond that, I definitely want to make this a long career and definitely want them to be proud, not just of what’s been going on so far and also to just be able to say that my son didn’t make the wrong choices. And on a larger scale, fears in general, I think I definitely want to make the most out of this. I think Asian Americans aren’t afforded as many opportunities as we would like and to have something this great I think is something I need to embrace and capitalize on. Every day is kind of me trying to push the envelope and hopefully I can continue to kind of climb further and further up this ladder.
AM: During your college years, you took an acting class, which enticed you into the whole field. Can you describe how it all came about?
SY: More specifically, I was in college and we had a school improv team called Monkapult, and I watched the show and one of my good friends was in it and I was like, holy smokes, it’s so fun I wanna do this. And I really had no aspirations for theater prior to that. Maybe like a church skit or just messing around. Other than that, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t really know music. When I came to school, I saw that and wanted to do it, auditioned, and didn’t make it, so I took a class in acting and see how that works and I really loved it and made the team later on in the year and did that for four years. I went to a small liberal arts school, Kalamazoo College. There’s a tendency once you get sucked into one arm of any field at school, they kind of rope you in to the whole thing regardless of what your major is. My major was psychology with neuroscience concentration. I finished with that, but I did so much theater in the meantime. I did improv, a bunch of stage readings, a couple plays, so I caught the bug definitely. I definitely didn’t take it as seriously in terms of play over career when I did hear a little bit of encouragement from my teachers and peers. There are some people that I look up to who even came from my school and did that whole improv route in Chicago and so I decided to follow through and asked my parents. And the rest I supposed is history.
For me people say you wasted your degree and I say, no I don’t think so it’s very applicable. It’s gonna sound so nerdy, but I love knowledge, which is so nerdy, but seriously I come from a very eclectic mix of family. I have the finance people. I have a lot of doctor friends. I have a lot of international random artists, so whenever I see them I always grill them and find out more about what they’re doing. I don’t know why it interests me, but it’s so interesting to see how other people function. I think that obviously you can take that and apply it, especially as an actor.
AM: Did you have an Asian American idols growing up?
SY: It’s not very specific, but I’ve admired Asians doing well in general. I definitely identify with my Asian side heavily, but I also really try to identify with my American side as well. Especially as an actor, in doing something that we haven’t completely trailblazed yet. I think it’s key to look [at what] we have done, like John Cho — looking at them is obviously key — but also looking at American heroes. Looking at that for me has been important — recognizing the Asian American things, but also the American things we’ve accomplished.
AM: In terms of projects, where can we expect to see and hear from you in the future?
SY: I’m just focusing on writing and doing my improv right now and keeping sharp. Hopefully something will be in between, but if not, my focus is just to prep myself for the second season and knock that out of the park.
The second season of The Walking Dead is scheduled for fall 2011. Meanwhile, catch up on season 1 with the DVD, out today.