Maybe it’s all those holiday season feelings but I was emotional the other day when I saw Steven Yeun on the cover of the current issue of Variety. He is the star of the upcoming Minari, which won the grand jury and audience prizes at Sundance last year and is on almost every expert prediction list for a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. Minari will be in released in select theatres on February 12, Lunar New Year, which qualifies it for the Oscars, before opening wide in March. So far there is no information about whether or not it will be concurrently streaming – and I hope that’s coming soon because I want to see this film so bad, ever since the trailer came out in September.
As Sarah wrote in that post about the trailer:
“Everyone needs to appreciate how amazing Steven Yeun has been since leaving The Walking Dead. Glen getting killed off was the best thing for him, in retrospect.”
Steven’s character, Glen, was killed off October 2016. Five years later, he could become the first Asian American nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars. Speaking of getting emotional, he has complicated feelings about that… should it happen. And he expresses them beautifully in the Variety cover story:
“It’s probably a bummer that that is the case. This is a hard one for me. As great as it would be to set a precedent or be part of a moment that breaks through a ceiling, I personally don’t want to be ensnared by that moment, either. The truth that I’m trying to understand for myself is who I am, individually,” Yeun says, getting choked up. “I’m happy to serve a larger moment for the community. And I’m happy to push narratives and show who we are because I am that, too. I am an Asian American and the pride I have for that is immense. But also, for me, it’s really about carrying my space and myself through this life and making sure that I tell it true from my perspective. But it would be awesome, and I hope that we can have many more of those and that it won’t be an issue moving forward.”
But the piece is so much more than just a case for a nomination – it’s about Steven’s career, apart from The Walking Dead and Minari, an introduction to it, really, since up to this point, publications with Variety’s reach and profile haven’t really thought to deep-dive on him. While much of what audiences know of Steven has been through his dramatic performances, he started his acting career in comedy in Chicago with Second City. The reason he ended up in dramas though is because:
“I didn’t see a pathway through Second City to get to ‘SNL,’ probably because there was nobody in front of me to lead the way. I was also thinking, who could I even play in popular culture that wasn’t an accented foreigner?” Yeun says. “What’s been nice about recontextualizing that moment is to see what Bowen Yang is doing now on ‘SNL.’ He’s not playing a stereotype, he’s owning the multitudes of what Asian Americans can be or how Asian people are seen. I think that’s the thing that I wasn’t aware of or maybe brave enough to contend with at the time.”
But if we’re talking about pathways to Saturday Night Live, becoming an Oscar contender certainly IS one. I wonder then if we’ll be hearing “Ladies and Gentlemen, Steven Yeun!” in the New Year, ahead of the release of Minari. He has the sketch comedy background, he’s toured the United States with sketch troupes, so clearly he’s an experienced live performer – I can’t imagine they haven’t made the call yet and the time works: February 13, the day after Minari opens in limited release, is a Saturday.
Read the full Steven Yeun profile at Variety.
Yours in gossip,