Steven Yeun was a staple on The Walking Dead from its very first episode where his voice as Glenn Rhee helped guide Rick Grimes out of a walker-surrounded tank in Atlanta. Seven years later, the character would be killed off in brutal fashion as Rick looked on, along with his pregnant wife Maggie and the rest of his friends and family.
It was the Season 7 finale which saw Negan carrying out one of the most brutal sendoffs in the history of the AMC series. Sure, Noah got ripped to shreds by zombies while Glenn looked on helplessly and Hershel had his head sliced off by the villainous Governor but none had the impact on audiences and critics like Glenn's beatdown. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Yeun opened up about the violent farewell and more.
"I don't feel like it was too much," Yeun said. "I'll be honest with you and put a full disclaimer here: I might not be objective, but I truly feel like people didn't know what to do with Glenn. They liked him, they had no problems with him, and people enjoyed him. But they didn't acknowledge the connection people had with the character until he was gone. I look at what happened and I think, That wasn't any more gory than what we've done before, per se. No one got their face ripped in half! People got their guts smashed out and their heads caved in. But this one felt gratuitous because one, it kept going, and two, I think they took away someone that I didn't realize I had made such a connection with until they took him away."
While Yeun, like all other cast members on The Walking Dead, will explain their thorough love for being involved with the show and a part of the family, he does have one issue with Glenn's role on it. "Internally, it was incredible," Yeun said. "Externally, it was tough sometimes because I never felt like he got his fair due. I never felt like he got it from an outward perception. I don't say this as a knock on anything. He always had to be part of something else to legitimize himself. He was rarely alone. And when he was alone, it took several years to convince people to be on his own."
Though Yeun would have liked to see Glenn earn a bit more development, he is happy the character didn't stick around long enough to go in the opposite direction. "I think the cruelest thing is that if Glenn had continued on, knowing how things usually shake out, I could totally foresee a situation where he just slowly, quietly disappears into the background and is kind of remembered but not really," the actor said. "But in this way, it was like holding up a battered skull to the world to be like, 'Don't forget, this Asian person existed in this medium and now he's fucking dead.' Like, he is fucking dead. That's super cool! I'm cool with that."
Having a shadow cast over Glenn by other characters also applied to Yeun as a cast member, the actor pointed out. While other cast members such as Rick actor Andrew Lincoln, Daryl Dixon actor Norman Reedus, and Michonne actress Danai Gurira have earned covers of Entertainment Weekly, Yeun never earned a spot on the cover of the popular entertainment news brand's cover until it was regarding his character's highly buzzed about death.
"I didn't think of it as racism, where it's like, 'Oh, this is racist,'" Yeun added. "I caught it in a way of 'Oh, this is how we're viewed all the time,' as part of some glob, some amorphous, non-individualistic collective. We're like a Borg, and so because of that, they're like, 'Well, we don't need to give the shine to that character. There's all these other characters who are so cool!' I'd always hear people go, 'I love Glenn, he's my favorite character.' But the merchandise would go one way. That really might be the market, so I'm not going to sit here and be like, 'Why didn't they make Glenn merchandise?' But there was a disparity. They didn't know what Glenn was, and only in his death did they realize, 'Oh, that's what he was. That's the connection I had, and that's why it hurts me so much to see him die.' A lot of the other characters are awesome characters, but they're exactly that—they're awesome and they're to be in awe of: I wish I was that guy or that girl. With Glenn it was, I think I'm like that guy. You take that guy out of the equation and you do it in such a brutal fashion, there's got to be some gut reaction to that."
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Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 pm ET on AMC. The Walking Dead will return for its eighth season in October of 2017. The first trailer is expected to arrive at San Diego Comic Con in July. For complete coverage and insider info all off-season long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.