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'Walking Dead' star Steven Yeun on Glenn's big scene

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Ben Leuner/AMC

[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only of you have already watched Sunday’s “Try” episode of The Walking Dead.]

Steven Yeun has been crushing it lately on The Walking Dead. Glenn not only stepped up as a big time leader last week, but he also had to watch in horror as one of his friends was ripped from his grasp and devoured by zombies in a revolving door before his very eyes. Yeun impressively let it all go in that scene, but he had quite the follow-up waiting for us this week on Sunday’ “Try” episode.

First, we saw Glenn relaying the events to Rick of what had happened with Noah and Nicholas. But while Zero Tolerance Rick appeared ready to move against the Alexandrians, Glenn showed some surprising restraint in his reaction. However, Yeun’s best work came later in a quiet yet powerful confrontation with Nicholas (played by Michael Traynor) by the van. After Glenn ordered Nicholas to never again go outside the walls of Alexandria due to the people that died because of his cowardice, we were treated to the following exchange:

NICHOLAS: “Who the hell do you think you are?”

GLENN “I’m someone who knows who you are. I know what you did. And it’s not going to happen again…. Don’t forget what I said.”

NICHOLAS: “Are you threatening me?”

GLENN: “No, I’m saving you.”

Yeun perfectly nailed the encounter, showing both Glenn’s strength and mercy at the same time. We spoke to the actor to get his take on these two pivotal scenes. (Also make sure to check out our Q&A with Andrew Lincoln about the epic fight scene as well as our react to the episode.)

EW: We have this scene at the beginning between Glenn and Rick where Glenn is telling him what happened, and Rick is taking this very hard line approach while Glenn—who has every reason to now as well after that debacle—doesn’t. After Rick says, “We don’t answer to them,” Glenn replies, “We are them, Rick. We are now. We gotta make this work.” How is he finding it within himself to not go ballistic at this point?

STEVEN YEUN: It’s not that it’s not out of anger. He is upset, he is completely devastated, destroyed, and he sees where Rick is as well. He’s completely able to process that. But I think the shocking horror of the moment in the revolving door—watching the innocence of life just completely destroy himself—he makes a choice in that moment to understand that Alexandria can be a chance to right the wrongs. It can be a chance to live and continue to live, and he sees any unhinging of that balance that exists in Alexandria to be the wrong choice. He wants that place to work. He wants that place to have the ability to give them life and safety. He wants that place to be kind of like an homage to Noah in a way.

When Noah does say, “Don’t let go,” I know it’s easy for a lot of people to dismiss that as saying literally “don’t let go,” but if you watch Tyler’s performance, you can see he’s taking it upon himself to tell Glenn in that moment, he accepts his fate. He accepts his moment there. And he says don’t let go of what Alexandria is. Don’t let go of what you are as a person—the intrinsic hope you have and hopefulness that you have. That’s just as valuable in this world as being able to operate completely savagely, so I think that’s where they’re at right now.

Let’s talk about that great scene between Glenn and Nicholas. What’s Glenn’s intent there when he approaches Nicolas? It looks like confrontation at first—and certainly there is an element of that—but it also turns into something much more. Describe that scene for me from your perspective.

If you want to juxtapose it with what happens in the earlier scene with Rick, definitely Glenn is at a place where he is definitely not happy. He definitely understands that Alexandria is not perfect and it costs the life of someone he cares about. Regardless of the price he had to pay, he understands that place is a place he still needs to make work for Noah, for Maggie, for everyone that’s there. And because of that he approaches Nicholas initially in such anger and hatred because he did what he did. And Glenn is a normal person and he can’t help but fight those urges. Then he realizes that it’s pity. It’s not anger that he feels—it’s pity that these people have been in there.

This is a mirror for him as well, just as much as Noah was a mirror for him to see an earlier version of himself. I think Nicholas is a bizzaro version of himself, to see what he would have been like had he been in a cage like this and had a wall where he thinks the world is all fine and you can just kind of operate in it safely and not worry about the outside. He doesn’t know. He’s pathetic. So for Glenn, why kill an ant? Why kill a fly? It doesn’t know what it’s doing. Instead, through that particular conversation, he’s trying to tell him, I understand what you are. You know what you are. So let’s keep it that way. You’re lucky to be alive and you’re lucky to be here. And you’re lucky that you’re not dead. And I’m not going to kill you. I’m not going to do anything like that, but you better stay inside, because you’re a liability and you got my friend killed. And if you do that again, trust that there won’t be another chance. It’s like this.

Yeah, I love your delivery on that last line where you say, “I’m saving you.” It comes out with the perfect mixture of pity and disgust. How did you and Michael approach working out that scene together?

We just let it become organic. Michael Traynor is a really good actor. But also, for someone to be on a show like ours you can come in and look at it as “This is my opportunity to be a cool character,” or say, “Hey, I’m going to make due with this moment and try to make it an iconic character” or something like that. But Michael embraced the pathetic part of himself and the pathetic part of that character and he didn’t waver on that. He didn’t ever say, “Oh, I don’t want to be pathetic—it makes me look bad.” He went for it. And because of that, people might not like his character, but you cannot take anything away from what he did and what he does. So for that particular scene we just played it as real as we could, given the circumstances and the characters. He’s awesome, so it just naturally flowed.

Check out our Q&A with Andrew Lincoln about filming that epic fight scene as well as our episode react/poll on whether Rick went too far. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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