Welcome to Filmographies, a column for completists. Each issue brings a working actor’s résumé into focus as we learn what makes them so compelling. In this post we introduce Steven Yeun’s filmography.
Be Steven Yeun Fan means appreciating slow burn in several ways. Since his six year run, he has played one of the most popular characters on AMC the Walking DeadIn his filmography, he made incredibly tasteful and varied decisions.
As a personal longtime fan, there have been times when I watched Yeun’s trajectory on screen and complained about his lack of lead roles. However, looking back is valuable as Yeun has rarely actually been marginalized in his works. While I very much prefer to see Yeun play the protagonists of his own stories, his penchant for extremely good work in ensembles should be recognized as a valued skill.
His resume shows discernible mindfulness for exactly what he can bring to the table. When we see Yeun, we appreciate his determination to champion certain stories, especially when they specifically break down Asian-American stereotypes in the media.
His roots of entertainment first blossomed in the wild world of improvisation. Among several plays in his home state of Michigan, he was notably part of the famous comedy troupe The Second City before officially venturing into work in Hollywood.
As we see in our in-depth look at his filmography below, Yeun’s application of his trained comedic expertise seems a breeze in his early roles (ignoring his clearly productive role as “North Korean Soldier 2” in the Crysis video games of the late Aughts) ). The way recklessness is intertwined with authentic emotions would be the main strength of his career.
My name is jerry (2009)
Steven Yeun’s first full-length feature film was My name is jerry, a Doug Jones vehicle that follows a middle-aged door-to-door salesman of the same name. Jerry has lost his zest for life. A shy disposition, combined with the traps of a dead end, leaves this leading man utterly desolate until he is revived by the local punk scene of the promising youth in his community.
Yeun has a supporting role in the film as a clerk at a record store called Chaz, a friendly bond for the clumsy Jerry to dip his toes into the aforementioned subculture. The character is also the goofball slacker resident in the movie, who easily teases his protagonist and encourages him to take part in funny offenses.
Given the abundance of worn characters and storyline tropes in the film, Yeun and the rest of the cast need to develop a sense of realism and relativity to balance the melodrama of the story. Fortunately, actor’s flawless comedic timing embellishes Chaz with silly, delightful calamity. Yeun also digs into Chaz for an underlying streak of sweetness that clearly sets him apart from everyone else.
The Walking Dead (2010-2016)
The Walking Dead will always be an integral part of Steven Yeun’s career, as the series gave the actor several seasons to create a character so early on that was beyond all gimmicks. Starting with the pilot, Glenn Rhee von Yeun – as part of the show’s original cast – decidedly sets the tone for many narrative arcs and twists. Additionally, Glenn’s sheer virtue ensures that audiences have something uplifting to hold onto as the show grows exponentially gloomier over time.
Based on the comic book of the same name, The Walking Dead creates life after a zombie apocalypse. All remaining human survivors must not only defend themselves against these bloodthirsty hordes of undead known as “Wanderers,” but also face the task of rebuilding civilization from scratch and trying to overcome lawlessness with belief in morality to tame.
Glenn meets the series protagonist, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), for the first time in an abandoned Atlanta, Georgia. The young ex-delivery boy quickly established himself as a point of contact for a colorful crew of strangers who have teamed up against the city, which is infested by hikers. Glenn’s open heart and caring nature are his greatest asset. He remains extremely loyal to his newfound family as they escape the city limits in hopes of finding new ways to hold on.
Season after season, Glenn evolves from an exuberant, slightly naive young man into a traditional hero archetype. His initial shtick as the group’s comic relief deepens and doesn’t even completely dissolve, with humor making up a large part of his humanity.
Regardless of the shock factor of The Walking Dead, Glenn never loses his hold as a basic force of compassion and clings to the basic human values that others in his camp have long lost. Yeun is romantic in the most realistic way possible, and perfect when it comes to tapping a fountain of Glenn’s wounding rawness without indulging in hubristic sentimentality.
The Legend of Korra (2013)
Aside from Steven Yeun’s commitment to The Walking Dead, his small-image work mostly includes guest appearances on other popular TV shows. He makes single-episode appearances in series like Department store 13, Drunken story, and American father!, among other.
Yeun ran in The legend of Korra This is also the largest of these companies and offers a significant introduction to the world of animation and text-to-speech.
The Legend of Korra is a sequel to the popular Nickelodeon anime-inspired series Avatar: The Last Airbender. The show continues to focus on people known as avatars – people who are designed to maintain balance between spirit and human by manipulating the elements of water, earth, fire, and air.
Yeun plays Wan – the very first avatar – on the show’s second season. The two-part flashback arc “Beginnings” tells of the humble beginnings of the character as a streetmart child with a Robin Hood complex. Wan’s quick temper and impulsive tendencies make him notorious in the eyes of his hometown elders. But if he foolishly steals the sacred element of fire for himself, he will be banished to the wild and must learn to live in harmony with nature in order to survive.
Wan is a fun, action-oriented young man. However, its significant growth over several episodes makes it unforgettable.
Yeun treads this balance delicately through an impression of personal warmth in his speech output. Wan’s humorous overconfidence is often offset by moments of true empathy. The qualities of character become even more complicated as it promotes understanding of the deep-seated conflicts between the physical and the spiritual realms. Yeun approaches these incongruities with sheer conviction, so that Wan’s fallibility – and its far-reaching consequences – are deeply felt.
I Origins (2014)
Steven Yeun’s more conventional start in feature films soon gives way to a more curated resume on big screens that reflects a particular artistic direction. He’s starting small in that regard, first in Mike Cahill’s 2014 science fiction romance I origins. Yeun doesn’t do much in the movie – his role is functional for the plot, by the way, and he blows naturalistically. However, working with a director with such a special cinematic vision is a promising precursor for other exciting feature projects.
Like a French Movie (2015)
Shin Yeon-shicks omnibus Like a French movie tells four different love stories using conventions that are common in the film tradition that gives the film its title. The anthology marks Steven Yeun’s first foray into the Korean-language media. The actor appears opposite South Korean actress Soy Kim in the heartbreaking third segment about an unraveled romantic relationship.
This part of Like a French Film is about a culturally diverse young couple grappling with a roadside fortune teller’s frightening prediction. This incredibly accurate woman assumes that the two only have a hundred days left to live together. Yeun, who portrays an American with little understanding of the Korean language, tries to get his girlfriend to treat her days spontaneously. Unfortunately, his lack of understanding of her overwhelming fear of the unknown drives a wedge between them.
Yeun is essentially a ruthlessly romantic lead role in Like a French Film, his tone full of hope and his words full of vague promises. In particular, the character values personal independence and rejects the traditional family-oriented structures in Asian families. Unfortunately, this makes him tend to ignore the piety expectations that make his girlfriend feel guilty.
The segment is all the more sad that the couple’s priorities in life just don’t match. Aside from possible supernatural events, there is something very real about the realization that love cannot heal all wounds. When Yeun and Kim seem like they are arguing in a circle, it is merely to avoid an inevitable collapse of their union, and both actors are causing a riveting tragedy.
Voltron: Legendary Defender (2016-2018)
Voltron: Legendary Defender is one of Steven Yeun’s first major voice acting commitments. DreamWorks’ eight-year reboot of the Voltron franchise of the 1980s haunts five young pilots chosen to manage the 300-foot robot of the same name to wage a long-running intergalactic war against a tyrannical empire from space.
This choice of warrior – or paladin – is determined by the traits and qualities of each pilot, which most closely match the mystical quintessence of the giant mechanical lions that make up Voltron. Yeun is Keith, the brutal and calculating man who first takes command of the unpredictable, stubborn Red Lion.
At first glance, the differences between Keith and Yeun’s The Walking Dead hero Glenn are pretty stark. While the latter is praised for his generosity and empathy, the taut, reserved face of the former combined with entrenched trust issues makes him aggressive and isolated. Keith is having the hardest part integrating with the rest of the Voltron Force. Sometimes he even initiates conflicts within the group.
The more Keith becomes friends with his paladin colleagues and learns to work as a team, the more he proves himself to be a strategic asset. Although he is endowed with the ability to divide his emotions and think about improving the Voltron Force, his volatility still adds depth to his devotion to justice. Keith easily joins the ranks of other beloved, polished characters in Yeun’s filmography – those who give the actor the space and time to cultivate multifaceted ingenuity.