Steven Yeun wasn’t necessarily looking to get away from the world of zombies when he auditioned for a role in “I Origins.” The “Walking Dead” actor wanted a project that would take on deep ideas and ignite some worthwhile conversations.
It didn’t hurt that the film was being directed by Mike Cahill.
“I saw his film, ‘Another Earth,’ and I was blown away,” Yeun says. “It was amazing to see something so science fiction that was also so grounded. I knew I wanted to be part of anything like that.”
In “I Origins,” scheduled to be released on DVD Dec. 9, Yeun’s character gets pulled into a project by a molecular biologist studying the evolution of the eye. This work becomes both academically and spiritually important when the scientist discovers the mapping of his girlfriend’s eye matches a young girl in India. His attempts to disprove the existence of God may end up being scientific proof.
Yeun was not let down after working with Cahill.
“He’s going to be huge. His directing style is that perfect kind of happy medium of letting an actor perform and steering them to his vision. He knows the ins and outs of acting and has an eye for making everything work,” Yeun says. “I could have just said every line like it was on the page. But, instead, working with Mike is a very collaborative and open situation.”
Yeun particularly liked how much freedom he was given to improvise in scenes. The improv skills come from years of practice and work. Yeun, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, began acting when studying at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Although he initially thought about a career in medicine, Yeun quickly realized he liked acting much better.
Since launching his TV and film career five years ago with the film “My Name Is Jerry,” Yeun has worked on “The Big Bang Theory,” “Warehouse 13,” “Law & Order: LA” and commercials for Best Buy and Milky Way. Nothing has done has been as big as “The Walking Dead,” where he plays Glenn Rhee.
He’s still surprised how big the AMC show has become. Not only has “The Walking Dead” given him a role on one of the most-watched shows on TV; Yeun has also seen his character turned into toys, action figures and other merchandise.
“We often marvel how big it’s become. It’s really fascinating, because we live and work in this enclosed box of a tight group of friends. Then you step into the world and you realize this not such a little show.”
Being on “The Walking Dead” has opened many acting roles for Yeun, including his current work on “I Origins.” Even with the series success behind him, Yeun still faces a lot of hurdles because there are still some who only consider him for Asian roles.
He’s shown with “I Origins” and “The Walking Dead” that his ethnic background doesn’t always have to be a part of the role. He just keeps working hard to get people to see him differently.