For Paycheck or for Passion? Steven Yeun on 'Burning', 'Sorry to Bother You,' and Building a Career
After a strong 2018, Steven Yeun has some strong opinions on selectivity.
It's hard to coin Steven Yeun's year as "breakthrough" since the South Korean actor has been a figure in the public's eye since his first appearance as Glenn from AMC's The Walking Dead in 2010. But with starring roles in both Boots Riley's Sorry to Bother You and Chang Dong Lee's Burning in 2018, he has all but cemented himself as a leading man on the independent film scene.
It's been a long road to get to this point. In the years between the role that made him famous and now, Yeun found himself on set feeling more like a placeholder than an actual human being. As we discuss in our interview, however, growth comes from self-motivation. For him, this meant taking on meatier projects and ignoring those that were nothing more than a nice paycheck.
The realization that no one was going to have the answers to questions about his career, combined with an opportunity to work with two visionary directors put Yeun in a prime position to succeed. His chilling performance in Burning, a film based on a Marukami story about an eccentric millionaire with a deadly secret, is indeed one of the best of the year. Yeun and I sat down at the New York Film Festival where we talked best practices for actors looking to succeed and how directors can help to support them.