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Steven Yeun: Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

By May 28, 2024No Comments

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we continue to recognize the economic, cultural, political, and social contributions of notable immigrants and refugees who’ve helped shape America’s vibrant tapestry. Today, we spotlight Emmy Award-winning actor Steven Yeun. 

Known professionally as Steven Yeun, Yeun Sang-Yeop was born in 1983 in South Korea. At four years old, he immigrated to Saskatchewan, Canada, with his parents and younger brother. The family would soon immigrate to the U.S., settling in Michigan.  After graduating high school, Yeun enrolled at Kalamazoo College, earning a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and pre-med. But at college, Yeun developed a passion for acting, taking classes, and making the cut for the college’s improv team. Despite his initial goal of applying to medical school, Yeun left for Chicago to join the iconic improv sketch company The Second City. Four years later, he left for Los Angeles to pursue his career.

In California, Yeun landed a handful of commercials before earning a minor role in The Big Bang Theory. But his big break came when he landed the major role of Glenn Rhee in AMC’s soon-to-be blockbuster, post-apocalyptic drama series The Walking Dead. Though he was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor, Yeun left the show following its 7th season premiere to engage with film opportunities.

Yeun soon landed several movie roles, including the 2017 action horror film Mayhem. In 2020, he starred in the critically acclaimed film Minari, in which he portrayed a father who moved his Korean family to the U.S. with aspirations of starting a farm. His performance made him the first Asian American to be nominated for best lead actor in Academy Awards history, an honor he says helped him better understand his father’s experience of uprooting his family. Following a run of successful films, including director Jordan Peele’s sci-fi thriller Nope, Yeun starred in and co-executive produced the Netflix miniseries Beef. For his role, Yeun took home a 2023 Emmy Award for Outstanding Actor in a Limited Series or Movie.

Others we are celebrating in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: