Ever since ‘The Walking Dead’ premiered, its audience has been growing, breaking records, in fact with its season 2 mid-season premiere garnering roughly 10 million viewers. I personally am a fan of the show and, like many others who watch, started out by reading the comic on which the series is based.
I had the delight and pleasure of interviewing Steven Yeun, who portrays the character Glenn on ‘The Walking Dead’ television show. He’s everything you want an actor to be: witty, charming, kind and gracious. I was lucky enough to get a bit of his time to discuss Glenn’s abs, Enya, and the promise of a few answered questions in the season finale Sunday.
So, I have to say first of all, I saw you on ‘Talking Dead’ where Chris Hardwick kept calling you Glenn. It was so funny, but at the same time, that’s kind of an honor, don’t you think, that you’re so perfectly Glenn that everyone thinks you’re him without being on an actual set?
Absolutely, I mean, I didn’t take any offense at all to him calling me Glenn. I knew why he…I mean, he watches the show all the time. That is cool. I think that’s a great compliment to be able to embody that character and regardless of how you’re perceived on the outside you still project that character.
So how do you connect with Glenn?
I think as an actor you’re always taught to find something that really relates to you in that character and find that middle ground in that character so you have a bank of personal knowledge to take from. And so I equated Glenn to me at 19, you know? Kinda had a chip on my shoulder, always wanting to prove himself, and do the right thing, and you grow out of that sometimes and sometimes you reinforce that. I just took that and ran with that. I think that’s Glenn.
Well, you do an excellent job.
Oh, thank you so much!
Of course! I hear you’re quite an animal lover, and I was wondering is it harder for you to watch zombies attacking animals or people?
Because when Carl gets shot, I have a harder time watching the deer get shot than Carl. No offense to Carl.
Yeah, isn’t that messed up? I mean, I think all people, if you own any type of animal, granted, if you have kids, I’m sure it’ll change, but…I don’t know. When I see a dog running around on the street by itself I get really upset, but if I see a homeless person, I’m sad but not necessarily as bad, which…I don’t know what that says about us.
Well, I think for me it’s because the animal didn’t have a choice, really.
Right, the defenselessness of it.
Has a fan ever done anything crazy to get your attention?
Actually, there was this really cool story that happened in Korea. The show is very popular in Korea, which is pretty great, and Koreans are very excited that I am Korean, so it’s awesome to go back to my home country and see what it’s like. I ended up going to this café one time just to grab a coffee. Someone had spotted me and so they took a picture with me and they put it up online, on some fansite that was created, and told everyone that apparently I frequent this café. I didn’t really, it was just close to where I was staying. So I had left for the day and apparently what had happened was people started coming to the café in order to…spot me, I guess. But this one girl – I came home around 2 in the morning from a friend’s place and I was walking back to my hotel in Korea and this girl spots me across the street and she just screamed at the top of her lungs, just freaked out. And she hands me this postcard with her friend and she was 19, maybe, and she had driven 3 hours to come up to that café and waited for me all day at that café. She was about to go home and then she saw me at 2 in the morning and she just freaked out. She was like “I can’t believe this happened!” And I just felt so bad that she 1., waited, and 2., waited for me, so I just bought her and her friend hot chocolate and said “thank you so much “ and took a bunch of pictures and signed some things and then I left. It was really cool.
And that doesn’t happen in L.A.? Or are people cooler about it because it’s L.A. and they see celebrities all the time?
Maybe. Maybe that’s what it is. I mean, why would they care about me when they could see, like, Tom Hanks, you know what I mean?
I would care about seeing you.
Aw, thank you.
So, we just saw Shane die in the show. Do you feel like anybody is a potential for getting killed? I would think you’re a pretty important character, but do you feel like all bets are off now because they’re straying from the comic? How do you feel about that?
Yeah, I mean, that’s definitely something that we’re all aware of, and it’s scary, but at the same time it’s exciting. This show is a phenomenon that I am only blessed to be a part of, and if I can continue to stay on the show, that’d be amazing, but if I am used to make the show even better in some other way, by some timely death or something, that is also cool, you know? I mean, remove the fact that I won’t have a job. That’s the part that’s not as cool. Definitely the fear is there, but it also makes for good television and I’m really glad that Glenn and Robert and Gale [all executive producers] are not afraid of that. I think that’s been necessary to make a good story.
I think Glenn’s pretty central. I wouldn’t worry too much about your job stability.
Well…look what happened…
I mean, we all knew Shane was going to go sooner or later.
Yeah, but Jon [Bernthal] was so good that you would have hoped he would have made it out. And Jeff [DeMunn] too. Aw man. It’s just the worst for us. For us, it’s losing actors.
Right, I was going to ask you, how do you feel about Sophia and Dale dying because they don’t die in the book? That was a big shock to me, at least.
Each death is pretty rough, especially when you spend so much time with everyone, and especially when you spend so much time with everyone on location. If we were in L.A. you could go back to your daily grind, your group of friends, and your life however you lived normally in L.A. and work is work. For us work is friends and work is family. You go there every day and we see each other every day and we go back home and talk to each other, because who else is there to talk to?
You guys are especially close, right?
Yeah, and they’re also going through something as hard as battling the heat and doing something as emotionally draining and physically draining as this show, I think just galvanizes you and when you lose people…it’s rough! For the story, I get it and I think it’s really fun and great, these things these characters do to each other, but in terms of an actor’s standpoint it’s pretty rough.
I think one of the things the show has always had going for it is it’s not just a show about zombies, that’s just the first layer. I think the most important part is how human interactions change when suddenly all the rules are out.
Yes, that’s basically what it is. It’s a drama with zombies in the background.
Do you think Glenn’s respect for Hershel is interfering with his relationship with Maggie? In the episode that just aired, he’s choosing not to go sleep in her room because Hershel is around.
Yeah, you know, that relationship is still being told. There’s a lot going through Glenn’s head at that time, I mean, one of his mentors just died, and he just got the okay from her dad, and without adding too much backstory to it, if you think about Glenn, he’s always the guy that kind of does the right thing. He doesn’t really like to ruffle feathers, but he’s slowly starting to break out of that, and I think getting the nod from Hershel is kind of him trying to be respectful at the same time. Just because you get the nod doesn’t mean it’s game time and time to go upstairs whenever you want. I think it’s that and I think in that moment Glenn just wasn’t in the best place to even think about that, considering what had just happened.
Glenn’s always looking to others to know what to do, he’s looking to Rick and even to Maggie, and this seems to be when he’s starting to make decisions for himself that may not be popular, but he’s doing what he thinks is right.
Yeah, he’s figuring it out. What he’s figuring out is that his instincts were right all the time, all along. He didn’t need another person’s approval, he didn’t need someone else’s first step to make his decision, and I think that is part of being a man is being able to trust your gut, and that’s where he’s headed.
I think that’s a big part of Glenn’s popularity. He comes into this as the newbie and everyman, and as he grows into his own, the audience grows into their own with the show.
I think there’s a lot of times when different characters become windows for the audience, and I think Glenn resonates quite a lot for this specific set of people. I think there’s a lot of guys who aren’t necessarily alpha males that see themselves in Glenn, and they want their time, they want their moment too. It’s all about coming to blows with that and also coming to realize that you can handle yourself, you don’t have to do anything based on what everybody else says. It’s really fun. It’s really fun to play that.
That’s really interesting, I didn’t really think about how not everybody can be an alpha male, because we saw what happened with Rick and Shane.
What do you love most about Glenn and what do you hate about Glenn?
That’s a great question, I’ve never been asked that before. What I love about Glenn is he operates from a place of truth. He’s always honest. Regardless of whatever he does, he’s always honest, and may it be with himself or to another person about himself, he’s always honest, and he’s very aware of that. I think that’s such a cool quality of him. Something I hate? Well, Glenn can have moments where like I said – and he could be growing out of it – he defers, you know? He doesn’t trust himself, he balks, he doesn’t go on the first move all the time. What else do I hate about Glenn? (laughs) I think Glenn needs to work out a little bit. So scrawny.
But then who else is going to fit in the well?
That’s true, but also… Glenn should just beef it up.
That’s his responsibility as a survivor?
I think so. As a survivor, as a boyfriend, as a man…
It’s his responsibility to humanity.
Yes. His responsibility to humanity is to get shredded.
To have washboard abs and show them off.
Yes. I think I just created a lot of work for myself.
You’ve got some time off. Get on it. I will look forward to that.
(laughs) Oh boy. I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.
Do you have a ritual you do to help prepare for your scenes?
You know what’s been really cool is, Andy started this trend which is listening to music. So everybody brings their iPods (well, whoever likes using that stuff). I always wanted to, but this was my first big gig and I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers by doing whatever I wanted so I didn’t do it but then I saw the leader of our show doing it and I was like “Okay, then I’m going to do it too.” It really helps you get into the moment. If it’s a really intense action scene I’ll put on some Rage Against the Machine and bug out and then I’ll get really into it. If it’s a really emotional scene, I’ll play something a little bit more somber.
Do you play Enya? Tell me you have some Enya somewhere in there.
If I play Enya, that’s only for hyper relaxed scenes.
Enya is for when you’re pretending to be asleep.
Right, Enya is for when I go into a coma next season. Enya is coma theme. You flip through the script and it says “Glenn’s in a coma” and you go “Easy!”
(sings) Sail away, sail away, sail away…
Yanni? Maybe some Yanni?
Yeah, you can download that. Get it from the library.
You probably have to get them on tape.
Or VHS. Maybe there’s scenes of waves crashing.
You’re a fan of the comics. Are there any scenes you’re really excited to see?
I don’t know what’s coming up because I haven’t been briefed on the third season, but in terms of what I would like to see as a fan, I would love to see a bunch of characters. I would love to see those moments when the Governor and the camp has its full out war. There’s so much good stuff there.
I’m excited about Michonne.
Oh yeah, she’s a great character.
Not asking you to reveal anything about what you may or may not know in future episodes, but do you have any theories on what Jenner whispered in Rick’s ear at the CDC?
Hmmmmm…I think I’m going to leave that one up to next week [the season finale].
Oh! How about…they’ve been building up to this realization that you don’t have to be bitten to turn zombie. Do you know if there’s an explanation next week, or is it a theme that will continue?
I think maybe I might leave that up to next week as well.
That’s cool, I don’t want to push you. We’ve got a lovely friendship so far and I don’t want to ruin that.
Next week all your dreams will be fulfilled.
I am so excited to hear that! Are you going to have the abs by next week too?
You said all my dreams!
That might…I could call post right now. It might cost millions of dollars, but…
It would be well worth it!
So what’s ahead for Glenn?
Coming from a standpoint where I don’t really know, but coming from a standpoint where these are things I really hope would happen, I think we see Glenn growing. It would only be natural to see him continue to grow. Grow up, grow as a man, grow as a lover, as a fighter, everything. It’s going to be really fun.
Well, congratulations on the show, and just know, you’re one of our favorites.
So, there you go! It looks like we’ll have some answers in the season finale this Sunday when it airs on AMC at 9/8c. And it seems we’ve got a lot to look forward to with Glenn in season three. I’m so glad that Steven is such a thoughtful and considerate person – even more reason to root for him on and off screen. You can follow Steven on Twitter @steveyeun.