Glass meets actor Steven Yeun

STEVEN Yeun has an approach to his career that can mostly be described as zen. This is at least a vibe which was welcomingly picked up when talking to the 33-year-old Korean-American actor about going from strength to strength from the last role to the next. Born in South Korea’s capital, Seoul, Steven moved to Canada for a period with his family, then settled in Troy, Michigan in the United States soon after. As he traversed his studies at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, going on to eventually receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology, it was acting that piqued an inquisitive side of Steven.

An enthusiastic freshman he found out what improv was thanks to the college’s improv group and in the process found this was for him. A move to Chicago then prompted the pursuing of any and all acting roles Steven could relate to. In 2010 a role in AMC’s phenomenally successful series based on the comic book series of the same name, The Walking Dead, made him known the world over.

Doing his turn in the highest rated series in cable television history soon enough heralded other television spots where the actor could finesse his abilities to relate to a variety of roles in the likes of Law & Order: LA and NTSF:SD:SUV::, feature films, of which you are sure to be aware, are where the actor finds himself exceeding at present. We speak to Steven about the road he’s been on so far, the signs that put him in the right direction and a little about the ride he hopes to continue on.

Steven Yeun by Ssam KimSteven Yeun. Photograph: Ssam Kim

In your breakthrough role in The Walking Dead you developed the character of Glenn from being a pizza delivery guy, pre-outbreak, to becoming a vital survivor. From there you were cast in other television roles and then feature films. What did these offer you?
More film roles came from The Walking Dead than television roles. There were lots of really cool television roles of course, the kind I wouldn’t have expected before. I think this was a lot to do with the time spent on Walking Dead, which allowed me to establish some semblance of who I am as an actor. If anything, other television roles offered me an idea of what I definitely didn’t want to do.

Steven Yeun by Ssam KimSteven Yeun. Photograph: Ssam Kim

How did you deal with being part of such a hugely successful television franchise and the subsequent success that has followed?
Maintaining a normal home life helps. Coming home to my wife is a huge part of this – she is incredible. Especially when I find myself having to get lost in roles to do my best at becoming another person, she can always reset the tone, reminding me who I am and reaffirming what makes me, well, me. The fame stuff always takes me by surprise. It was never something I strove for because I was just happy to have a job. From that point on you learn how to deal with it appropriately in order to stay sane.


Steven Yeun by Ssam KimSteven Yeun. Photograph: Ssam Kim


So what are your interests outside acting?
I find myself drawn back to my work all the time. Whether it be just researching or wanting to get more proactively involved behind the scenes. Other interests, like photography for instance, only stem from this. Aside from that, perhaps you could say I’m not crazy into anything outside acting pursuits. Is that boring!? Let’s say my main hobby is downloading information. That sounds good.

Steven Yeun by Ssam KimSteven Yeun. Photograph: Ssam Kim

You are also a family man of course. What does that bring to your life?
I think, and I think the same goes for most fathers, starting a family really gives you a much larger mission in life that transcends all the smaller “tasks” throughout your life. That sense of duty is a big motivation in the purest form. It’s certainly put my priorities in order for sure.

Steven Yeun by Ssam KimSteven Yeun. Photograph: Ssam Kim

Back to acting though – what’s your favourite kind of genre to work in?
I’ve often been drawn to roles which fit within the horror genre before, but now I find myself floating from genre to genre. This has been invaluable, allowing me to focus in on myself and hone my ability to adapt.

Steven Yeun by Ssam KimSteven Yeun. Photograph: Ssam Kim

When did you know that immersing yourself in acting was what you had to do?
I try to pay close attention to things the universe tells me and then go with the flow. Although I’m usually the complete opposite of that kind of person, more of a control freak really. When I was younger I was a bit of a control freak and wanted to take life by the horns and steer it myself. Luckily my will wasn’t strong enough to push me away from what has turned out to be best for me. In college I constantly wanted to get involved in performing and that’s when I found out about the school’s improv team, Monkapult.

I had absolutely no idea what that really was at first but it was so fascinating and the prospect of being a part of it all was so exciting. So I just went for it, which I never would have done a few years before in high school. It’s interesting to look back on it now. I must have just seen college as a hard reset, becoming a yes person in the process. I’ve been saying yes to most of what feels right in my gut ever since.

Steven Yeun by Ssam KimSteven Yeun. Photograph: Ssam Kim

This year we’ve already seen you in feature film Okja, and are due to see you again in the star studded American Christian comedy animation, The Star. How have you found taking on bigger roles?
I’ve been leaping into any new roles than feel right. Big or small, I always know I’ll get a new and exciting experience that I can look back on when I review the final product – and the part I played in that. I feel like I’m now on the right path to being the actor I want to be, which is reassuring. Bigger roles are daunting by nature, even just thinking how large scale some of the productions are, but I just get my head in the game and do the best version I can of the role I’m given.

Steven Yeun by Ssam KimSteven Yeun. Photograph: Ssam Kim

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming an actor?
Listen to your gut. Part of that, and crucial before you really listen to your gut – fully, is to take time to get to know yourself. We put things into boxes so readily because our perceptions of life allow us to do so without a second thought, but nothing needs to fit into a box. Instead of letting those around you guide you in this, dive deep inside yourself. That is such a luxury. Start there and you can go anywhere!

Steven Yeun by Ssam KimSteven Yeun. Photograph: Ssam Kim

Steven Yeun by Ssam KimSteven Yeun. Photograph: Ssam Kim

Steven Yeun by Ssam KimSteven Yeun. Photograph: Ssam Kim

by Livia Feltham

Photographer: SSAM KIM

Taken from the Glass Archive issue 31 – Patience

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Photography Assistants DAVID PAUL, THOMAS LINE

Styling Assistant MIKAELA TALBOT

Production coordinator ERIN YEJI KIM

All clothing by Gucci Fall 2017 Collection.


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