In the new action-thriller Mayhem (out Nov. 10), Walking Dead alum Steven Yeun plays a recently-sacked lawyer who takes extreme — and extremely violent — measures to get his job back after everyone in his building is infected with a virus which lowers inhibitions.
“I thought the film was fun and I wanted to experience what it was like to be a lead,” says Yeun of his decision to take the role in the film, which is directed by Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2, Everly). “I also wanted to explore all of the depths of my anger and it was a nice way to experience that in a not-so-serious way.” And is the actor less angry now as a result of making the film? “Yes,” he says. “I’m much more chill.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell us about your character.
STEVEN YEUN: His name is Derek Cho and he is a young lawyer that has found himself in a place where maybe he doesn’t recognize who he is anymore. The fates allow him to explore that in a very aggressive way.
You have a lot of scenes with Samara Weaving, who plays another aggrieved character. What was it like filming with her?
She’s so great and so game. You know, we had some really weird scenes, where we had to spit on each other, and she went for it, and I went for it. What was fun was, we’re in Serbia, in a country that we don’t know, making a movie for a small budget, and trying to do it to the best of our abilities. So, I feel like everybody was just really in on doing the best work that we could.
Tell me about working with Joe Lynch.
Joe is fantastic. He’s really passionate about his work, he’s really serious about his work. I think he’s a really great in general. I just wish someone would give him more money.
As a regular listener to his and fellow director Adam Green’s podcast The Movie Crypt, I can confirm that he wishes that too.
Yeah. Give Joe Lynch more money!!!
He also turns up in the film as a deranged IT expert. What was it like acting opposite him?
It was really fun. I think that’s part of the feel of the group dynamic of what we made. We really did make this on a shoestring budget. We cut corners, and we did the things that we had to do, and we had a wonderful time, and I think that bleeds into the film, that in this crazy nutty premise there’s some heart or joy involved.
I believe you made an ad-lib about the Dave Matthews Band, which caused Lynch to spend months trying to secure a track by them for the soundtrack.
Yeah. I feel bad that he had to go and chase Dave Matthews for a year — but I think [it was] worth it. [Laughs] Those are the moments when Joe was really great at listening. There was a feeling that we could easily have just rushed through, because we were on a schedule, but we stopped for a second and said, “Something doesn’t feel right, I wish we had something more to establish this or that” — even thematically to admit out loud that you’re a Dave Matthews fan. I think these days, it’s hard to admit that, which is stupid. If you like them, you like them, if you don’t, you don’t, but you shouldn’t be afraid to say that you do, and you shouldn’t feel pressured into saying you don’t. It goes along with the theme of this virus, [which] makes you lose all your inhibitions, even openly admitting you like who you like.
It’s almost impossible to watch anything these days without thinking about our current political situation. Do you think the film has a particular message, with regard to that or anything else?
I think we hit on an age-old message, which is, “War against the machine.” Specifically, right now, we’re just dealing [with] another interpretation of that, which is unfortunate So, yeah, I think it resonates. We made this film not even knowing about any of this stuff that was coming, so I feel like, in some ways, it maybe gave it more weight than it would have had if things went a different way. So, yeah, if people can find that, if they can find some sense of relief, or sense of understanding, or are inspired to look at this film as a metaphor for taking the chains off of yourself, that sounds cool, that sounds like a great, great lesson.
Mayhem is released in theaters and on VOD and Digital HD, Nov. 10. Watch the film’s trailer above.