SPOILER ALERT: Read on only after you have already watched the beginning of The Walking Dead season 7 premiere, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be.”
The big question heading into The Walking Dead’s season 7 premiere was whether the TV show would follow the lead of the comic and have Glenn Rhee become Negan’s first victim. The answer — we now know after a six-month wait — was no. But he wasn’t far behind.
Negan brought his barbed wire covered baseball bat down on Abraham first, but after being attacked by Daryl, he decided to take a second victim and then brought Lucille down repeatedly on Glenn’s face, signaling the end for both the character and the man who has played him since the very beginning, Steven Yeun.
Yeun was one of the original six actors — along with Andrew Lincoln, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, and Lennie James (who left and then came back) — who had been on the show since season 1. The actor spoke about the end for his character and his time on the show while appearing on Talking Dead right after the season premiere.
When asked by host Chris Hardwick how he felt the death from the comic played out on screen, Yeun said he actually, in a weird way, was looking forward to it. “Personally for me, I think the death in the comic, Robert wrote such a messed up but at the same time incredible way to take something away — to make a story as impactful as it is,” said Yeun.
“You read that comic, you kind of don’t want that to go to anyone else. It’s such an iconic moment and I think I even said, ‘Don’t give that to anybody else.’ It’s such a gnarly thing to say but sincerely, living that out was very wild but at the same time, that moment happening and being realized on television in a different medium and to do it in the way that we did it I think is brave and at the same time super affecting. And for me, that was the motivation to be like, ‘Yeah, that sounds great.’”
Yeun also talked about what it was like carrying the secret of his character’s demise for so long. “It came with its own set of difficulties,” said the actor. “Going into it, there was excitement in the sense of when you know something someone else doesn’t know, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I know stuff. It’s cool.’ Then after a while you’re like, ‘I don’t like knowing this by myself.’ And then you just dive into a hole after a while because you’re not allowed to say anything. But I’m very lucky to have my castmates and my friends here to bounce my feelings off of or however I’m processing things…. It was fun to lie to people for a minute. But after a while you just can’t lie anymore so I just stopped talking to people.”
Yeun also recalled one of his memories from his time on the show, and a painful one at that. “I got a tick on my penis. It was bad news. What was cool though was for me I was kind of glad that it happened to me because I knew in my head I was the only one who would be willing to share it with everybody.”
When asked for his favorite non-tick-related memory of the show, Yeun pointed to his final episode. “I’ve had so many wonderful experiences with everybody,” he said. “I think what’s cool is that I didn’t watch this episode until about a week before. And going in, you’re like ‘Yeah, I know what happens. I’ve seen it. I lived it. I did. It’s going to do what it’s going to do.’ But watching it you realize the way [Scott M. Gimple] constructed this episode, the way [Greg Nicotero] directed this episode, the way that every single person crushed it. Every single person crushed it. You look at the whole of that and you realize all of those memories just imbue every look part of that episode. You get that whole full rush of like seven seasons of watching this show and it was really gnarly to see that. And so for me, the lasting memory is that, this whole experience.”
And Yeun also believes Glenn’s lasting legacy is in his final words “I think Glenn died in a very Glenn way,” says Yeun. “Still not thinking about himself. It’s appropriate that he ends there, and it’s also appropriate that he kind of puts those last words out there as a final ‘look out for each other.’”
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