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January 01, 2014

Dead Reckoning: Steven Yeun

Second City alum Steven Yeun talks of how his SNL aspirations led him to a true dream role.

Eric Noland

It’s a pretty standard Hollywood story: a son of South Korean immigrants, reared in Michigan, considers going to medical school, winds up at the Second City in Chicago, dreams of being a cast member on Saturday Night Live, but instead moves to Los Angeles and lands a job dodging zombies on AMC’s The Walking Dead.

Even Steven Yeun chuckles at the convoluted turns his life has taken.

He admits that comedy remains his first love — he can often be seen doing improv at iO West in L.A. — but he doesn’t feel it’s such a creative leap to the role of Glenn Rhee, the sweet-hearted survivalist on the most- watched dramatic series in basic-cable history.

“If you’re able to dig into the human condition enough that you can comment on it, call it out and make fun of it, that means you’re also aware of how dark and dramatic it can be,” Yeun says.

Certainly Bill Murray, a fellow Second City alum, has successfully straddled both worlds. Unlike his more famous comic brethren, Yeun never got to the main stage of SNL but instead worked cruise ships and pulled understudy duty for the Second City touring company before eventually landing on The Walking Dead.

It’s a leap that, on one occasion anyway, has taken guts: he once had to drape himself with zombie entrails to blend in with the deadly walkers during a foray into town.

There was considerable irony in this, because Yeun has a reputation for being quite the natty clotheshorse off the set.

So what lies ahead?

“I want to do everything. Direct. Write. I want to make until I can’t make anymore," he shared.

"I don’t know what that means yet. I’m sure that’s what foolish young people say when they come into this industry, but I’ll stick with that.”

Of course, he’ll also be shopping his screenplay — a "comedy caper.”

Naturally.

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