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Steven Yeun had several critical roles on the set of Okja, the new satire now streaming on Netflix: Not only did he play K, one of the radical environmentalists that kidnaps the movie’s titular super-pig, he also acted as a translator for much of the American cast when the production was in Korea, where Yeun was born and spent his early childhood.

“It was a very meta experience overall,” Yeun told Inverse in a recent conversation, looking back on the shoot with both fondness and maybe a bit of Inception-like wonder. Yeun, now 33, took the role in Okja because it was written for him by writer/director Bong Joon-ho, who is best-known in the United States for the 2013 dystopian flick Snowpiercer. The filmmaker is a legend in Korea, a Palme d’Or-winning auteur who makes genre movies packed with meaning — and a very deceptively dark ending.

Okja, which premiered at Cannes and was nominated for the Palme in May, is no exception. In the movie, which was co-written with Jon Ronson, a mega-corporation called Mirando — which is about as loved as Monsanto — uses GMOs to create a race of gigantic, meaty pigs and in an attempt to win back public goodwill gives ten of them to young people across the globe, to raise in natural habitats for a decade. One of them, a happy swine named Okja, becomes a beloved companion for a young girl named Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn), who in turn becomes determined to save the pig when it’s taken back by Mirando and its goofy CEO (Tilda Swinton). K is a member of the PETA-like group that travels to Korea to liberate Okja and infiltrate Mirando, and their adventure leads to a comedy of errors, cultural misunderstandings, corporate espionage, and emotionally devastating moments.

Yeun spoke to Inverse about returning to Korea to make the film, working with Bong Joon-ho, and another fan-favorite graphic novel adaptation that hangs in the balance.

You emigrated to America at a young age and have been an actor for a decade; what was it like to go back to Korea and shoot a movie?

It wasn’t the first movie that I made in Korea. I took a trip maybe like three years prior where I just kind of jumped into this omnibus film [*Like a French Film*]. It was like an anthology film where they have a bunch of short stories. I just had the privilege of working with a really great indie director Shin Youn-Shick. That was my first experience, but that was kind of low-key. This was my first big budget Korean film experience. I would also kind of say it wasn’t really a full Korean film. It’s kind of an international experience.

So now that you’re shooting a big movie in the center of Seoul, what was that experience like for you?

It’s pretty great. It can be a very interesting experience. I think for me personally going back at 30-years-old — I’ve been back there before many times, but just to go back at 30, the age that my parents immigrated with us, it was a little surreal to be there and working as an adult. And to also be there and live out the same kind of thing that K, the character lives out, was interesting too. It was a very meta experience overall.

I imagine you didn’t actually take a giant rampaging animal hostage, so how was the experience meta?

Right. I was a translator in the movie and I was also kind of translator outside of the movie for the rest of the cast. Maybe a little bit better of a translator [than in the movie], but not that much better. It’s this splitting of cultures to know that I look like I’m supposed to be there but when I get there sometimes they don’t fully understand me. It was interesting because people’s inclinations would be to treat me like a native, but then they would meet me and they would be confused as to how to treat me.

You’ve said that Korean-Americans can find certain subtleties in your translations that the subtitles don’t reveal. What should viewers who don’t speak Korean know?

I don’t even know if I can explain it to people. There’s so many layers to the movie that you could kind of take from it whatever you want, but one particular sliver that also exists is the Korean-American experience. I think to put it very broadly, when I watch it or when other Korean-Americans that I talk to watch it, they hone in on that same feeling, which is they feel alien. They feel isolated, on an island. In that same way, K goes through that same journey where he’s his own island, because for him, he’s just trying to fit in somewhere. He’s willing to do whatever he can to fit in anywhere even if it means doing the wrong thing. I think that’s a very unique experience, not specifically to Korean-Americans — but in this particular film, I think Korean-Americans will get that feeling.

Are you hoping to go back to Korea to make more movies? Perhaps work more with Korean directors when they come stateside to make movies?

I don’t know if there’s any impetuous for that. I would say Director Bong is rare. He can cut through a lot of cultures and split that right down the middle in a great way. I don’t know if that’s for everybody. I think part of the reason why that works for director Bong is he’s kind of his own unique thing. You can’t pinpoint him down to a style or an aesthetic. He just comes with himself. I think that’s the beauty of his work is that this film, nobody else could have made it like this. Would I love for there to be more collaborations between cultures? Absolutely. For sure, but it truly is not for everybody.

During the big chase scene in downtown Seoul, you guys are running from and chasing after a giant super pig as it’s skidding through the mall, but obviously it didn’t actually exist. How did that work, shooting in such a crowded city, stuff being knocked over all over the place by a non-existent animal?

We actually had a live pretty close to real size version of Okja. He just obviously didn’t run. It was more like a foam, but a well-built puppeteer-able kind of thing. It wasn’t like [CGI-placeholder] tennis balls or anything. We had three wonderful operators inside a very simple version of Okja. There was something to touch. There were things to hold onto. They did a great job that way.

You were cast in the movie adaptation of Chew, as the lead in the voice cast, and I’ve read you recorded your lines. But we did an interview with the creator, and he said it’s now not happening?

I don’t know. I’m kind of in the dark about it to be quite honest. We set out to do a recording of the first book to kind of use that to get into the live action version of the next dates, but I think we’re kind of in a limbo right now. I don’t know. I think the creators would probably be the best people to ask about that. I love Chew, Chew is great. I would love to do something with that. It obviously depends on how they’re going to execute that, but it’s a great property. John Layman is wonderful. I’m totally down.

I’m sure people still ask you about The Walking Dead, because people loved Glenn, and I bet some people still ask if he’s coming back.

Yeah, he’s super dead.

But do you still watch the show?

Yeah, I do. I still check in to watch my friends and see where they’re taking it. It’s wonderful. I definitely still watch it.

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STEVEN Yeun has swapped zombies for a cuddly super pig in his latest film role. The Walking Dead star plays an animal rights activist in Korean director Joon-ho Bong’s eclectic Netflix action adventure drama Okja.

Bong wrote the character K, a Korean-American animal lover with technical expertise, specifically with Steven in mind.

“When you’re signing on to a Bong film you know what you’re getting into, which is something deep and beautiful but at the same time poignant and fun,” he tells Weekend.

“For me it was just about getting to work with him period.”

The film follows a headstrong girl, Mija, who has spent 10 years raising her pet super pig, on loan from a multinational company, in the idyllic mountains of Korea.

But when the company takes back its property for the much-touted super pig competition, Mija risks everything to rescue Okja.

“Luckily we didn’t have just a tennis ball to work off of,” Steven says of the CGI-animated animal.

“We had a great, near-sized depiction of Okja puppeteered by a couple of people, which helped us really realise and see what we were working with.”

Viewers first meet K when he and a ragtag team of animal “liberators” arrive in Seoul to kidnap Okja. As the only Korean speaker in the group, it’s up to K to translate for Mija.

As a South Korean native who emigrated with his family to Canada and then the US, Steven says he could relate to K’s unique position.

“We wanted to make sure he was very Korean American; someone who bisects both cultures but doesn’t fully belong to either one,” he says. “If you’re a Korean American you have a very specific experience other people might not have and this is a really wonderful exploration into that.

“His duality is part of all of his decisions. He’s doing the right thing but he’ll use not great tactics to get that done. I always like to imagine he’s probably a guy who sneaks a burger here or there on occasion.”

While he’s not advocating that anyone stops eating bacon, Steven hopes the film reinforces the importance of knowing where your food comes from.

“The film spoke to me about our relationship with nature as a whole and how we interact with the natural world,” he says.

“Some people can’t tell the difference about where their steak comes from; they might as well believe steak grows on trees. That’s not a great place to be.”

Okja is available to stream on Netflix now.

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Hey everyone, I added a few more promotional images from Steven’s film Mayhem!. I don’t believe there is a release date yet, all I heard was this fall 🙂


Hey everyone, I added a few promotional stills of Steven from the film Okja! Enjoy!


BELOVED as fan favourite Glenn from The Walking Dead, Steven Yeun had a dream run on the high-rating global hit.

But all things must come to an end and for Yeun’s character, that ending was gruesome and brutal.

Moving on from a show you called home for seven years is made a little easier when your next big role is working with one of highest regarded directors in the business in a film that could be seen by as many as 100 million people around the world.

That director is Bong Joon-ho and that film is Okja.

South Korean director Bong’s films — The Host, Mother, Memories of Murder — have travelled well beyond his native country while his first English-language movie, Snowpiercer, was a critical and commercial hit.

The Netflix-produced Okja is the film that should catapult Bong beyond the realm of cult icon. The charming and accessible story about a girl and her giant pet pig stars Tilda Swinton, Ahn Seo-hyun, Paul Dano, Jake Gyllenhaal and, of course, Yeun.

It screened in competition for the Palme d’Or at Cannes last month, but not without controversy.

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Finally freed of battling flesh-eaters on The Walking Dead, Steven Yeun is back on screens this week in a very different role.

He plays K, an animal rights activist seeking to save a little girl’s beloved super-pig from destruction, in Netflix’s new big-budget movie Okja.

While on a recent flying visit to Sydney to promote director Bong Joon-Ho (The Host, Snowpiercer)’s sci-fi tinged eco-adventure, which also stars Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano, the 33-year-old South Korean actor spoke to Stuff.

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His character’s death caused outcry among fans of The Walking Dead.
And a year after Steven Yeun left the show, the actor has revealed he is open to reprising his role as Glenn Rhee.
The 33-year-old actor told The Daily Telegraph: ‘If it makes sense [in the storyline] I am totally down.’

In 2016, Steven’s Walking Dead character Glenn was brutally killed by Negan in the opening episode of season seven.
Now with Glenn’s wife Maggie Greene, played by Lauren Cohan, due to give birth to their child, Steven feels the timing could be right for his character’s return.

The actor said he would like to return for a guest stink on the show in a dream or flashback sequence as long as it fit into the story line.

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It looks like Steven has a new project coming up! According to this article he will appear in the film ‘Sorry to Bother You’. You may read the article linked below.

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It’s been one full season of The Walking Dead since Steven Yeun’s character, Glenn Rhee, was brutally murdered at the hands of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s sadistic Negan, and fans of the show are still in mourning for the beloved character, who had survived with the group for six seasons.

Yeun stopped to talk with ET’s Jennifer Peros at the New York premiere of his new fantastical drama, Okja, and the star opened up about his “impactful” final scene on the AMC zombie series.

“I think I’m just grateful for it,” Yeun shared. “I’m grateful that the character got to leave on such a high note. It’s really cool.”

While Yeun’s gory bludgeoning ended his time on the series, the 33-year-old star says he still watches the show, and will continue to when season eight premieres in October.

“I want to see my friends,” Yeun said, referring to his long-time castmates and former co-stars, whom he remains in contact with. “Absolutely, they’re the best.”

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Over the weekend, The Walking Dead’s beloved Glenn actor Steven Yeun broke his silence since departing the AMC series with the Season 7 premiere. In fact, the episode was filmed over a year ago, now, and Yeun has managed to avoid discussing the brutal events which saw his character exiting upon the arrival of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan.

It was during a panel at Walker Stalker Con in Nashville, Tennessee where Yeun opened up about the departure from the series which served as his first acting job, beginning in 2010. You can check out his thoughts on the impactful departure in the video above.

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