Ed note: If you aren't caught up with the current season of Walking Dead, proceed with caution! Spoilers ahead.
Steven Yeun, who plays Glenn Rhee on the Walking Dead, jokes that he'd like to someday have a case-study performed on the cast of AMC's hit zombie drama: "Our cast is so intense and driven, and we get put through so much while filming. I think we're all going to have PTSD in five years." Indeed, this season has been particularly hard on Yuen's character, who, as of the show's latest episode, had been taken hostage and left to fight off a gnashing zombie while tied to a chair. To gear up for the show's mid-season finale this Sunday, we chatted with Yeun about the ways his character is changing, his days with Second City in Chicago, and how he's going to unwind when this season wraps up.
You're filming in Atlanta now, right?
We film in Senoia, Georgia, which is about 45 minutes south of Atlanta.
I've read quotes from your co-stars that it gets really hot.
Yeah. It...sucks. No, it's actually great. It's an isolated studio and it really kind of gets you into character with how miserable it is and how desolate everything feels. There's literally nothing around. It just feels real.
The characters living in the prison have really been struggling to survive, while your other co-stars living in the town get to look showered and have fresh clothes. David Morrissey recently said in an interview that the actors in the prison always look like they just got back from Woodstock.
Yeah, Morrissey gets Ralph Lauren crap to wear and we're stuck with, like, rags. But, no, our costume designer Eulyn Womble does all this crazy stuff to make our clothes look so bad -- she distresses them, dyes them, burns them, rips them and makes them look like shit so we can look like shit. It's great.
Based on that insane fight scene from last week's episode, it seems like Glenn is really coming into his own. Is this a new side of him that we'll see more of?
People are going to look at this past episode and say, "Ah, man, Glenn has turned into a bad-ass. He's going to kill everybody." But I think it will be more interesting if Glenn takes this moment and really kind of overshoots it. Rage does different things to different people and I think for someone like Glenn, it will make him overcompensate or think irrationally. It's so easy to have those stories of the guy who just suddenly transforms into some fearless hero, but we'll see what an experience like that actually does for Glenn.
Glenn fights off a zombie while tied to a chair in that scene. Was that tough to film?
It was only semi-choreographed, and a lot of it just ended up being me doing what I wanted. Even down to that part at the end where I screamed. That wasn't scripted. We did a bunch of takes and on the third take, I just screamed. It felt so good. I'm glad it made it in because I felt like it was so representative of Glenn changing.
You read the comic books before, but did that make things harder? It seems like actors on dramas like this are always saying they don't know what's going to happen with their characters until they get the script.
Well, it's still really different from the comic book. I remember in the first season when they started changing things from the comic book for the show. I was like, "I don't know if people are going to like this!" But the way we've been doing things is the only way to do them. There are things in the comic book that should never be shown on TV. It's really just two different mediums. I'm just glad that they can exist separately as two different things that people can get into equally.
You studied acting in college and then did Second City in Chicago. Did you want to be a comedian?
Well, I'll be honest and say that I've never been the funniest person in the room. I'm not the class clown or the jokester or the guy who can walk into a room and make people laugh at any time. I think that what I understood, though, was that the realer you play something, the funnier it was. I love comedy and I really studied it and just nerded out on it. I still nerd out on it. But I'm just glad that I got to do both comedy and drama. I've learned things from doing both that apply to the other and vice versa.
Do you know people from Second City who are also on TV now?
Oh man, yes. There's a new wave of Chicago talent that is blowing up right now. It's so exciting. I used to tour for Second City with Vanessa Bayer, who is on SNL right now. And Tim Robinson, who just got onto SNL this season, was also around at the same time. He's from Detroit and I'm from Detroit and he's so hilarious. But Mike O'Brien, who now writes for SNL, is maybe one of my modern-day comedy heroes. The guy is comedy. If you've ever seen his one-man show...the dude is a genius. There's this one part in his one-man show, where he acts out the lyrics to "Drops of Jupiter" by Train. It was like a totally choreographed stage play. At one point, the crowd was just dead silent and there was this big reveal and I accidentally shouted, so loudly, "Oh my God!" It was really embarrassing because everyone heard, but I was just so in awe of what he had pulled off.
You have a lot of photos of your co-stars on your Twitter and Tumblr. Are you all friends?
We're all pretty tight. We get thrown into hell. You get thrown into shit and you just kind of come together because this is all we have.
You also have photos of your dog. What kind of a dog is she?
She's a twenty-pound golden retriever-poodle-bichon mix. Her name is Agnes.
Does she come to the set?
Are there other dogs there?
There are a million dogs on set. There are eight dogs on set right now and two that have been adopted just this year. We live and work in the countryside and people out here have dogs they don't want anymore and just set loose. So there are these dogs just roaming around that will make their way on to our set. And people who work here will be like, "I'll take that one."
Was this season tougher than others?
I had a tough time this season, with where the character ended up going. I remember I'd show up to work and I'd be fine and then I'd get into the chair and they'd put that giant bruise on my face and blood and you can't help but feel that pain. And once you lock into that, it just stays. Not that I was doing anything like crazy method acting or Daniel Day-Lewis stuff, but I remember a couple of [crew members] coming up to me and asking if I was OK. For me, [filming this season,] I had two to three months of just being in a really dark place. I don't know, after this I'm just going to go look at beaches.
You're going to go look at beaches?
Yeah. I'm not even going to go to the beach, I'm just going to look at pictures of beaches and get myself out of here.
Photo via AMCTV.com