‘The Walking Dead’ star Steven Yeun takes to the big screen in ‘I Origins’.
In the event of a zombie apocalypse, Steven Yeun is prepared — but not in the way you’d think. While his starring role as Glenn Rhee on AMC’s “The Walking Dead” has given him loads of on-camera experience fighting off corpses, if he experienced the real deal, Yeun’s philosophy would be much more fatalistic. “I’d find some good friends, so worst case is you’re holed up, but at least you’re not surrounded by people you don’t like. If you go, you go,” he jokes. “If you’re not with people you want to be with, then maybe just get bitten. Maybe it’s awesome.”
The post-apocalyptic series, which follows former police officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the group of survivors he leads (including Yeun’s character) as they battle zombies and rival communities, is currently filming its fifth season, due to premiere this October. And while Yeun is required to stay tight-lipped, he does say, “We’re definitely going for it. We’re coming back with bruises and cuts and dings. We just finished a pretty intense week [on set] — we’ve done some stuff in the last couple weeks where it’s like, ‘Man, I can’t believe we’re going to show this on television.’ ”
If there’s one thing to be said for Yeun, 30, it’s that he’s not afraid to take risks — both on camera and off. In 2005, the Michigan native graduated from Kalamazoo College and opted against medical school (he had studied psychology with a focus on neuroscience) in favor of moving to Chicago to pursue improv at Second City. It’s where he picked up the skills that keep him convincing on “The Walking Dead.” “Coming from the Chicago school of thought, [improv] isn’t necessarily meant to be comedy,” he says. “It’s just truth and honesty. The comedy comes from committing.”
After four years in the comedy group, Yeun headed for Hollywood, where he had what he calls “a very fortunate six months,” culminating in his career-launching role on “The Walking Dead.” “Life is very different [now],” he admits. “You go walking down the street and people recognize you. Sometimes it’s amazing and flattering. Sometimes it’s like, ‘I don’t know if I deserve this. This is kind of weird.’ ”
On July 18, fans will get to see Yeun tap into his research background as a scientist in the new sci-fi flick “I Origins.” The actor claims that “the less I explain, the more people will enjoy the movie,” but reveals that the plot hinges on his character and two other scientists (one played by fellow Chicago native Brit Marling) as they attempt to uncover the origins of the human eye, debunk creationism and prove evolution once and for all — but that starts to fall apart when they stumble upon bizarre evidence of reincarnation. “For me, it was fascinating on multiple levels,” he says. “The feeling that all of us are connected in some way, shape or form — that’s something I was very into.”
With his big-screen debut on the horizon, Yeun is focusing on the connections that keep him grounded: his family, his friends, his dog Agnes and his long-running series. “An actor’s life can be a struggle and can be daunting,” he says. “To have some semblance of security — or as much as you can on our show —is really nice.”
In a fire, I’d grab …
“My guitar, a camera and my [Detroit] Tigers hat.”
Favorite Chicago spots
• “I go to Maxwell Street Market [800 S. Desplaines] to get a pork chop sandwich and a kielbasa.”
• “A couple of my friends started Ruxbin [851 N. Ashland, inset]. Every single time I go to their restaurant, it blows me away.”
• “Café Selmarie [4729 N. Lincoln] — they have the best corned beef hash I’ve ever had in my life.”
I buy too many …
“Comic books. I’ve been reading Manhattan Projects. It’s crazy.”
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