Actor Steven Yeun, the star of Minari is on the April 2021 cover of GQ and in the issue, he talks about his career, the pandemic, and the Golden Globes slotting his American-produced and shot film in the Foreign Language category.
His role as Glenn Rhee on AMC’s The Walking Dead—a Korean American pizza-delivery guy with great hair and a big heart—quickly transformed Yeun into an object of fan obsession. Then, after seven seasons, Glenn’s skull was pounded into the dirt by a guy with a baseball bat. It was around this time that Yeun had a “nagging feeling” that the ride was done. Glenn was tied to him in such a “meta way,” and he was feeling limited by the character’s lack of dimensions.
“To be quite honest, as an Asian person, sometimes accessing your own humanity when you’re outside in the world is not that easy. Because you’re usually kind of just shrunken down into your label. To not have that in my real life and to not have that in my show life was frustrating. And so I think it just started this journey of just, like…dude, I can’t. I’ve got to feel full. I’ve got to feel real.”
The fact that all this success is happening during the backdrop of the pandemic has been its own journey for Yeun.
“Life is mad real right now,” he says, staring off to the side. “We had a couple of COVID deaths in our families, and I mean… everyone’s been touched by that. And I’m not saying who gives a shit about these [awards], like, anybody would want them.…” He says he’s been trying to lean into the gratitude, to be accepting of the honorifics as they come.
As for the Golden Globes categorization of Minari, “I wasn’t surprised,” Yeun says. “I have no desire to try to massage both sides in this situation, but it really just comes down to the idea that rules and institutions can never capture real life. And it can never really understand that what builds a place like America and what makes it great is all the people that are contributing to it.”
Minari won the award for Foreign Language film at the ceremony last month, and Yeun says, “If this is the thing that helps to expand these institutions and rules? Cool. That’s why we make this stuff.”
Read the full interview at GQ.com.