Talking to Steven Yeun is always an enlightening experience. The guy tends to be quite thoughtful and candid when discussing The Walking Dead. Sure, we get into all the stuff you would expect, like what we will see from Glenn in the upcoming season. Yeun has plenty to say about all of that (as evidenced by the headline above). But he also enjoys veering the conversation into other directions, and they are always interesting. So read on to hear Yeun talking about not only about the show, but viewer reaction to it, and what it will take for The Walking Dead to remain a viable and vital program moving forward. Good stuff, folks. (Click through both pages to read the entire interview.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start by talking about what we saw in the season 5 trailer. How does Glenn feel about Abraham’s mission to Washington D.C. to cure the zombie plague? Is he on board with that plan?
STEVEN YEUN: We gotta see. I think the first call to action is to see if they really truly make it out of Terminus. There’s a lot of danger there still, and I think that is something still to be very aware of. I would say what Glenn’s mindset is from even before, from last season, is that, when that thing was proposed… I think he sees it as the ability to fix everything. He sees it as the ability to have a life. I know early in season 4, the worry for Glenn for having a baby. The thought of having his child or raising his child in this world, which I’m sure he would love to do, it’s terrifying. But if he can fix this world, then he can live that life. And if you fix that world, then there’s a lot of other questions to face, which are: How deep have you gone in this savage world? And are you able to come out of it to live in a normal — or as normal as you can — world? And I think that’s something that Glenn is also fighting too. He’s very hopeful for humanity, and I think that’s part of what drives him to correct, to help fix the situation if he gets out of Terminus.
Give us the Glenn and Maggie status update. How are they as a couple?
I think they’re solid. I think they’re sound. I think nothing’s really gonna get in between those two. I think we established that very well in their journey last season. And I think that journey also solidified in them individually, the idea of searching for humanity, of holding out hope that in spite all odds that there can be salvation. If the goal last year was to do the impossible by finding your loved one in what was probably the most dangerous situation, and the most impossible situation, and they accomplished it — then, I mean, what else can’t they do, you know? And I think to them individually it’s been a really great growing lesson, for the both of them and also individually.
What else do you want to say about Glenn this season?
I always mention to people that he is on his course to be a leader. And I think it is no longer a course to be a leader—I think he is a leader. I think he is now a sounding board for big, big questions. He’s listened to, he’s respected in the group. He showed his gumption and he showed his resilience. I mean, he almost gets killed every single season and somehow he makes it through. And I think that’s a testament to who he is and what he’s become. And so as we stand now, as they’re in this train car, Glenn is someone to definitely look to as a leader.
Tell me about getting the gang back together after being in much smaller groups the last half of last season.
You know it comes with its own difficulties, in terms of just — if you’re thinking of it from an actor’s standpoint—just having so many people to cover. But it’s awesome. You’re bouncing things off of so many different personalities and so many people. It’s always good to have the gang together. It feels most natural on our show when it’s the O.G.s, you know. Not to say that the people that are new aren’t great — they’re fantastic. But it just feels right, and it feels like the backbone is solidified there when that happens.
You know, I personally see Glenn as the kind of the person to really foster in the new people on a pretty regular basis. I think Glenn is usually the first person to come in contact with whoever might be coming in, most of the time. And I think that is something that has been really good, to be able to have that responsibility, but then also to have the joy of bringing them in to the fold of our original group. And as it gets bigger it gets more and more exciting.
You guys are on the move again, shooting out on location a lot more now, as opposed to when you were on the prison set, or Hershel’s farm. What’s that been like for you guys, especially with having fans around trying to get a glimpse of you guys? That can pose challenges, but it can also be fun.
[Laughs] Absolutely. You know what, I mean, you’ve been covering us since the beginning, and I’m sure you have a unique perspective on it all and I’d be so curious to know how you feel. But it’s been a wild ride, and frankly sometimes when I do see fans waiting out for us, I’m stunned, you know. It still feels like our little show. And yet you come to Comic-Con and it’s become this massive thing and I sometimes can’t really just comprehend it. But for me, I want the fans to be surprised. I don’t want any spoilers to get out, and I don’t want things to be up in the air. Or even really discuss it. I just want people to watch and just be shocked as they do watch.
But moving around new territory is always a joy. Our first season, the beauty of it was Georgia became a character. It became part of the cast. And the second season was a little bit less of that, and third season and so on, but now we find ourselves really digging in to what Georgia has to offer, and really feeling out this landscape. And that’s always fun because it gives you something to work off of.
Showrunner Scott Gimple always says he looks at the show as being in eight-episode cycles. One cycle might be a bit more action, and another one might be more introspective and thoughtful. He’s been talking about how this next cycle is going to be pretty crazy right off the bat. What can you say about that?
I think we’re still dedicated to our character study. We’re still dedicated to the stories that we’re telling with these people. You know, I’m going to take a slight detour — I hear the word “badass,” and I hear people talking about who’s tough and who’s not, and who’s gonna survive, who do you want to live and who do you not want to live. And I know sometimes we say, like, “nobody is safe,” and as true as that is — nobody is safe — that’s ultimately not what our show is. And I know you know that, and I know a lot of people do know that.
But then sometimes I do get discouraged when I do hear some people like, “Hey, this guy’s such a badass, why aren’t you a badass anymore?’ Or like, “Why are you a badass now?” and it’s like, you know this show is interesting because there’s a plethora of characters. There’s so many different people and they all have their own way of surviving and their own way of choosing how to live in this world, and I think that character study is so beautiful. And really what the core of it is — and probably what people really enjoy about it but can’t explain, so they just default to “I like explosions” and “I like this.” They don’t realize that they’ve been listening and hearing and watching this really great character study that we’ve been trying to tell for each person.
And as we move forward, I think the pacing, yeah it definitely is picking up, because the stakes are higher. People are changing their characters and morphing and evolving as they go, and they are kind of spreading more toward either pole — being completely savage or still trying to maintain a hold of humanity. And I think as you see that, you will see the stakes ramped up, you will see the pace ramped up, you will see the action ramped up. But still amidst that, you will still see really introspective character development, and out of people that you don’t expect. I remember going throughout these press things at ComicCon, and people saying like “Why is Abraham crying?” And I don’t want to speak on his behalf, but you know, it’s like “I thought he was a badass, why is he crying?” And it’s like…what? We’re not just meat machines with muscles. That’s a character, That’s a person that we’re trying to convey. And I think that is what we’re really striving for this season, and that’s really the beauty of this season, and what all of our seasons have been trying to do.