Zombie Nation: An Interview With Steven Yeun
The Walking Dead returns to our screens on Sunday October 16th. With cast and crew busily putting the finishing touches on the remaining five episodes of the new season, we sat down to talk to Steven Yeun about zombies, acting, and what’s in store for fan favorite Glenn this season.
“Every day is different,” Steven tells me, describing the unique appeal of working on a show like The Walking Dead. “Nobody ever phones it in because it’s getting boring. Every day is a whole other adventure. I think that’s what keeps us all so happy and so excited to do this work,” he reflects. “It is really hard work but there’s this benefit in getting to work with a fabulous cast and crew. We’re all very close.”
It’s clear Steven finds the show’s predominantly outdoor scenes a welcome challenge. “The added bonus is doing cool things. Even a simple driving scene we appreciate because we get to drive around in a rickety old car around the back roads of Georgia and act! It’s loads of fun. Super fun. What other shows get to do that? Other shows are on a sound stage. They have coffee breaks. They have air conditioning.” He pauses for a moment before adding with a laugh “We’re just in the shit all the time!”
Steven assures me that the weather is getting better, currently measuring a cool 78 degrees Fahrenheit. “Before, it was pretty bad. We were hitting high 90’s to 100 degrees with one hundred percent humidity. It was pretty brutal.”
And what’s all this we’ve been hearing about ticks? “Yeah. That happened,” he laughs resignedly. “There’s just a lot of bugs and they like to crawl all over you.”
The current season consists of 13 episodes and will include, among other things, a storyline for Glenn involving Maggie, the daughter of Hershel Green, a familiar character from the Comic Book series. With much of the season taking place at Hershel Greene’s farm, Glenn gets to stretch his wings romantically.
“The actress who plays Maggie is Lauren Cohan,” Steven says. “She is fantastic. We’ve had some great scenes. It’s looking to be a really interesting plot line. Glenn initially really didn’t have much to live for. He was just trying to make his mark on the world. He was living recklessly. It’s interesting to see him reassess his priorities once something of value comes into his life.”
In many ways I thought Glenn was the one character on the show who has kept his sense of optimism and joy alive. (Who can forget that red sports car from the first season!) I ask Steven if he agrees with that assessment of his character.
“Absolutely,” he says. “At the end of the day, he does not want to die, but I think he is living recklessly. He’s seeking thrills and also seeking approval. Before, he didn’t have much going on with his life. I mean, he was delivering pizzas. It’s gotta be an amazing thing [for Glenn] to have people rely on him and say ‘Hey, you are very valuable to us.’
“And that’s why he puts himself out there. He’s trying to chase that admiration. And that all comes into question when he figures out that ‘hey, maybe I shouldn’t live so recklessly. Maybe there’s another reason I should be living, besides for fame and glory’ – which is for another person.”
Steven attended the San Diego Comic Con in July, along with the rest of the cast and crew. The Walking Dead Panel was attended by over six thousand fans, which Steven describes as ‘just a ridiculously amazing situation.’
“In the middle of filming you don’t really know what people are anticipating, or if people are excited. To see that there was a great feeling. It was so nice for us to take a break from the rigors of shooting and come to such a lovely place.”
I ask Steven about the internet factoid which states that he decided against a medical career in favor of acting.
“Well that’s what I went to school for, initially,” he confirms. “It was actually between medicine and law – which is so cliche of the Asian family. My parents definitely wanted me to do that. I was about to take the LSAT. I was about to take the MCAT. And I just didn’t do it because I found something else that I would rather do. I asked my parents if I could get some time to do this and they gave me a little bit of time and a little bit of time turned into a career and so thank God for that!
“The first thing I appeared in was a Best Buy commercial, but I had also been doing theater in Chicago during that time. When I moved to LA I did a couple more commercials and then the first TV show I appeared on was Big Bang Theory.”
I mention his recent appearance on Syfy’s Warehouse 13.
“Yes, I shot an episode of Warehouse 13 just before we started this season. It was fun because I’m actually friends with Allison Scagliotti (Claudia). We did a project together a while back – an independent film called My Name is Jerry. It was nice to see her again and get to meet her on her show and work with her.
The tone was obviously a little bit lighter than on The Walking Dead. “Oh yeah! The tone was a little bit different,” he jokes.
Steven is also a fan of The Walking Dead Comic Book series. “I was into the comics before I even knew that the show was happening,” he tells me. “And it was just an added bonus that I got it. How amazing is that? The comic is great.”
I fess up and admit that I haven’t read the comic.
“You should check it out, but be prepared to fall into a deep hole of depression afterwards,” he warns. “It’s pretty dark and bleak.”
I can’t let Steven go without snurching his top tip for surviving a Zombie Apocalypse.
“Hm, I would say, find someone who knows what they’re doing and latch onto them.”
And if the Zombie Apocalypse should come to pass, which would Steven find more scary, slow moving shufflers or fast moving stalkers?
“Definitely the fast ones. The fast ones are the most terrifying. They look terrifying. … they just run with this reckless abandon … the flailing … ”
Catch all new episodes of The Walking Dead on AMC, Sunday October 16th 9/8c.