Steven Yeun: AAPI Heritage Month Actor Highlights

We tip our hat to AAPI star Steven Yeun, the first Asian American nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, for his moving performance in this year's "Minari."

Chuck Walton

By Chuck Walton

Steven Yeun AAPI Heritage Month Minari

© A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

Our highlighted performer for AAPI Heritage Month today is actor Steven Yeun, one of the busiest and beloved entertainers in the industry.

How You Know Him

Film critics and various Hollywood guilds took note of Yeun this past year in a special role. He played the hard-working immigrant who tries to build a life for his family in early '80s America in "Minari." For the part, he was nominated for Best Actor by both the Academy and the Screen Actors Guild.

On television, Yeun's known as Glenn Rhee on "The Walking Dead." For six seasons, Glenn evolved from cheerful pizza delivery boy to resourceful leader. His departure is often cited as a turning point in the show's quality.

As well, Yeun's made an impact in other movies and animated series. The actor was acclaimed for his supporting role in South Korea's mystery film "Burning."

© Well Go USA / courtesy Everett Collection

© Well Go USA / courtesy Everett Collection

And he appeared in Boon Jong-ho's "Okja" and Bootsy Riley's fantastical "Sorry to Bother You." Beyond roles on shows like "Weird City" and "The Twilight Zone," Yeun's one of the main voices on the cartoons "Tuca & Bertie" and "Invincible."

His Life So Far

Yeun was born in South Korea, but grew up in Michigan. His parents named him "Steven" after a doctor they met. The family operated several beauty-supply stores in Detroit. Yeun attended Kalamazoo College, where he joined a comedy improv group. He went on to join the famed Second City group in Chicago before moving to LA in the late '00s.

The actor immediately attracted a fanbase through his role on "Walking Dead." From 2010-2016, Glenn was one of the most popular characters. His jarring death scene at the start of seaon 7 left lots of fans cold. For many, it was the time to move on from the show.

Thankfully, Yuen's been busy with film and tv projects after "Dead." The Bong Joon-ho collaboration "Okja" competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. One year later, Yeun earned acclaim for South Korea's "Burning" and appeared in the stellar sci-fi dramedy "Sorry to Bother You."

© Annapurna Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

© Annapurna Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

The Movie to See

"Minari" is the feather in Yeun's cap so far. His performance is subtle and heartbreaking. While the movie's an American story, it's also a specific tale about this Korean man and his family doing all they can to make ends meet. It's funny and truthful. Without a big budget, the movie is one of the most entertaining, moving films of 2020. We highlighted this Steven Yeun project in an earlier AAPI Heritage Month story. It's worth highlighting again.

© A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

© A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

What's Up Next

Look for the actor in A24's upcoming family drama "The Humans." The film co-stars Richard Jenkins, Beanie Feldstein and Amy Schumer. It's an adaptation of the 2016 Broadway play. That version was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and won the Tony Award for Best Play.

Chuck Walton

Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango,, MediaTrip, and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.

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