Actor in Focus: Steven Yeun

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Seoul-born, American actor Steven Yeun’s most notable roles include his portrayal of recurring character Glenn Rhee in the AMC television adaptation of the post-apocalyptic comic book The Walking Dead (2010-) and his role in 2018 Korean psychological thriller film Burning. He has certainly built a name for himself in film industry circles due to his varied acting credits. From low-budget indie flicks to high stakes serial television, Yeun’s filmography shows his strengths in straddling both American and Korean markets, both of which are extensive and interesting and very much deserving of an in-depth focus piece.

The infamous horror/drama television show The Walking Dead, which first aired just 10 years ago, helped build a name for Yeun through his portrayal as the nerdy and lovable Glenn Rhee. His character, who seems to be the only one in the whole show with any morals and sense, became one that was appreciated by many and his performance allowed him to quickly and surely build up a strong and supportive fanbase. As such an important character in the drama-fuelled show, it was a huge surprise when Glenn Rhee’s death was broadcast to millions of audiences across the globe. The outcry that creators Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore faced after the episode aired was extensive, proving to audiences and filmmakers alike just the strong connection Yeun had built between himself and fans, as well as demonstrating the brilliant talent he had to offer.

After his shift on The Walking Dead, which spanned an incredible 6 years, Steven Yeun began his venture into both international and independent feature films, with the beautifully quirky Okja being his first. The action-adventure film, which competed for the coveted Palme d’Or in 2017, starred a host of famous Hollywood actors and was directed by Bong Joon-ho as a Korean-United States co-production. Alongside this, Yeun had a central role in Boots Riley’s black-comedy film Sorry to Bother You, which I personally believe to be one of his best roles to date due to his brilliantly spoken one-liners and overall angst. Voice roles have also been an important part of Yeun’s career and span its entirety, including his work on the television series Final SpaceThe Legend of Korra and Netflix’s recent release Legends: Tales of Arcadia (2020).

In more recent years, Yeun starred in Lee Chang-dong’s Burning as the elusive character Ben. His performance was acclaimed by audiences and critics, and won him multiple Best Supporting Actor awards at a wealth of notable festivals, moving Yeun back into more serious roles similar to those from which he started out. Just this year, Yeun starred in the A24 produced film Minari (2020), which explores themes of immigration, family and relationships. Yeun also served as an executive producer for the film, which we can only assume will be his first of many.

Future projects for Yeun include the much anticipated one-act play adaptation of Stephen Karam’s The Humans (2016), in which Yeun will star alongside Amy Schumer and more. I can’t wait until we can see Steven Yeun’s latest role as he goes from strength to strength throughout his film career. Maybe one day we’ll catch him directing? (I can only dream so much).

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film masters student and ex-records/live exec 20/21

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