The Walking Dead's Steven Yeun: "Glenn Gets Sh**t On The Most"

glenn-bigPhoto: Courtesy Gene Page/AMC.
In not quite four seasons, Steven Yeun's character has been wounded multiple times, sent on several suicide missions, tied to a chair alone in a room with a hungry zombie walker, and been struck by the plague. Now, as Glenn returns to The Walking Dead tonight, we find him stranded again — abandoned and half dead in a prison yard filled with the undead. But, hey, he's got a nice girlfriend, so it's not all bad, right?
In the buildup to his mid-season return, we chatted with the charming Yeun about his role, his comedy background, and what it takes to be, quite possibly, the last boyfriend on Earth.
Now, the last time we saw your character, Glenn, he was barely alive, surrounded by walkers. How much of a preview can you give us for what’s happening to your character when the season returns?
“Honestly, I can only really say what’s been put out there. There are those images of Glenn waking up in a different place. The important thing I can tease is that Glenn is not aware of Herschel’s death. He’s a resilient guy; if you put him in some dire situations, he’s going to try to find a way out. We don’t know his fate, though. The last time we saw him, he was on the bus that was getting shot at. It’s definitely going to be edge-of-your-seat material.”
Actually, that's sort of par for the course, right? Whatever happens, your character always gets the short end of the stick. Like, the group goes to war with the governor and you’re locked in a room with a walker. The prison goes down, Glenn’s stranded, he gets the flu, and so on. How do you feel about what the producers have put your character through?
“It’s true! If you had a running tally of who gets shit on the most, it’s definitely Glenn. As an actor, I welcome it. As a character, it’s tough ‘cause, I mean — you know what? It’s great. As a character, it really does show his real value. Glenn, he’s been to hell and back, and he’s still going. He hasn’t lost it. He hasn’t gone to the deep end. He’s still pretty mentally intact. As an actor, it’s fun to be able to play all these different things and use them to jump off of and build the character more."
Skip to the next page for Yeun's feelings on what it takes to make a good postapocalyptic boyfriend.
glenn2Photo: Courtesy Gene Page/AMC.
Speaking of building a performance, you’ve got a background in comedy, and, while Glenn gets a few laughs, this is a dark, dark show. How has comedy training been useful for you in the context of horror?
“It’s interesting, really. It is under that horror label because of the zombies and gore, but at the end of the day, it’s surrounded in drama. I think it’s all drama at the core. I’ve had really great training at Second City; they teach you not to ham it up or go for the joke, but rather, play it honestly. Some of my heroes come from that place: Steve Carell and Alan Arkin. Those guys can ground a scene and play to the comedy. That’s the only way you can break down comedy on our show. I think there are moments in the first season where we tried to jam some things in with Glenn being quip-y. ‘If bad ideas were an Olympic event, this would take gold.’ There’s room and space for those, but I think, at this point, it’s evolved to a place where comedy spurs from the situation. The key is to have the characters be in on it. If they aren’t in on it in their world, the joke won’t work. Daryl has some great comedy bits, and Carol has some between them. They’re so natural and grounded that you laugh because they’re laughing at it, too. They aren’t unaware of what they’re doing as characters. That’s how I think comedy lives on our show.”
There’s another great moment in the mid-season finale when Glenn was talking about going on a vacation with his girlfriend, Maggie. It was simultaneously funny and touching. As someone who plays possibly the last one on Earth, what do you think makes a good boyfriend postapocalypse?
“You gotta strip it down to the basics. The world we live in now is all about chocolates and flowers. But, The Walking Dead world doesn’t have those anymore. When you strip it down to what a good man is, and, more importantly, what a good person is, it comes to love. Love and the ultimate will to take care of that person; be by that person. I think that’s the glue for Glenn and Maggie. Glenn’s resiliency — not just to Maggie, but to everyone. I think Glenn realizes the power of the other, that he can’t do it alone. He’s stronger because of the people that surround him. It’s important to be there for the people that I love and keep them alive in a sense. It’s basic survival.”
Aw. That's nice.
The Walking Dead airs on AMC, Sunday at 9 p.m. EST.

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