A zombie-killing hero from TV’s “The Walking Dead” recently stopped by the Shelby Township Veterans Memorial to honor some real-life heroes.
Afterward, Steven Yeun, who plays pizza-delivery-boy-turned-resourceful-apocalyptic-survivor Glenn Rhee on the acclaimed AMC show, visited Shelby Township for an interview with Shelby TV. The interview will be broadcast later this month.
Shelby Township Veterans Events Coordinator Phil Randazzo greeted the Korean-born actor at the memorial June 13, where they paid tribute to the fallen Shelby Township veterans.
“They gave their lives for freedom, for us and for the South Korean people, also,” said Randazzo, a Vietnam War veteran, while standing in front of the names of local military personnel who died in the Korean War.
“I have a lot of friends who are in the armed forces,” said Yeun, who was raised in Troy and graduated from Troy High School. “Whatever your leaning politically, left or right, at the end of the day these people are sacrificing their lives to keep us safe. This is the least we can do to honor them. It’s sad to see, in a way, but it’s also cool that their legacy can live on.”
Yeun’s visit and interview was coordinated by David Shin, reporter and founder of The Michigan Korean Times, an online Korean language news site. Shin said he knows Yeun’s family through their church.
Yeun, 29, said he flies in several times a year to visit his parents, Jay and June Yeun, who still live in Troy and own two beauty supply shops in Detroit.
Jay Yeun said he was proud of his son’s success, though initially he was skeptical about his choice to pursue an acting career, knowing the tough road. He was hoping for Steven to be a doctor or a lawyer.
“Acting, it’s not easy,” Jay Yeun said. He noticed that Steven was a good actor after seeing him act in productions while enrolled at Kalamazoo College.
“Right now, I’m very proud of him,” he added. “God helped him.”
After graduating in 2005 from Kalamazoo College, where he majored in psychology, Steven Yeun moved to Chicago. He did improv for roughly four years, including touring with the Second City improv group, before moving to Los Angeles to further his career.
He landed an audition for “The Walking Dead” roughly four months after the move.
“It was perfect timing,” he said. “I’m very fortunate. It’s been a great experience.”
Yeun said he has read the comic books on which the series was based.
“It’s just cool to be able to work on a show that people are watching. It gives you a little bit of that good pressure where you just want to keep coming back and doing your best work and trying to outdo yourself.
“I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the business, about acting. I’ve just grown a lot as a person over the course of the four years I’ve been on the show. I guess I’m very blessed to be a part of it, in that way, because I could have just as easily been a part of something that didn’t do anything.”
Yeun said he couldn’t share any details about the upcoming season, due to air this fall, but teased, “It’s going to be good.”
He said viewers can expect to see his character, Glenn, continue learning how to be a man.
“The character is constantly evolving,” he said. “He’s kind of the window for the audience in terms of what it’s like to grow as an adult within the confines of that apocalypse.” The character of Carl, protagonist Rick Grimes’ son, is another example, he said, but Glenn was a bit older when the zombie apocalypse struck.
Now Glenn is learning how to protect those he cares about, including his new fiancé, Maggie.
But fates are uncertain, especially in a series like “The Walking Dead,” where major characters are just one wrong turn from their last episode. So Yeun knows to make the most of the show.
“You just try to do a good job, so you don’t go out looking like you did a bad job,” he said.
Yeun’s interview for The Michigan Korean Times will be broadcast June 21-23 on Channel 20 for Comcast subscribers, Channel 18 for WOW! Subscribers and Channel 99 on Shelby TV 2.
The interview will run at 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. June 21, 2:30 and 9 p.m. June 22 and at 2:30 p.m. June 23, or anytime on The Michigan Korean Times website, www.mktimes.com.
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