Steven Yeun, who plays Glenn Rhee on AMC’s hit show “The Walking Dead,” (Sundays, 9 p.m.) spends his days running from and killing zombies under the hot Georgia sun.
A native of Michigan, Yeun explains how sports helped him become the zombie hunter he is today.
Were you much of an athlete growing up?
I grew up in Michigan, so I played hockey, football and basketball. I played a little bit of lacrosse, too. My brother played more lacrosse and ran track.
Give us a scouting report of Steven Yeun, the basketball player.
He’s a decent shooter from the 3-point line, but has terrible handle -- he can’t dribble. Certainly not a point guard, for sure. But he plays out of position and bigger for his size. He’s similar to Kyle Korver but without the skill.
What teams do you closely follow?
I am a HUGE Pistons fan. Those were some of my best times in college, watching the Detroit Pistons. I was at Kalamazoo College when they won the 2004 championship, my junior year. It was such an easy win because they totally smoked the Lakers, four games to one. It was such a blowout, we were like: "What do we do now?" If it was a last-minute buzzer beater, we would have gone insane. So we just picked up our couch and set it on fire.
As an Asian-American, how refreshing was it to see Jeremy Lin emerge last season?
I was so happy for him. It was great because from an Asian-American perspective -- and I mean nothing against Yao Ming -- but Lin is an Asian-American. He’s an Asian professional athlete from America, which is rare.
And it was good to see him succeed, good to see him work hard but not seem beset by all the stereotypes and jokes. There were some, and I think it really helped opened people’s eyes to how racism is viewed in America. I can’t tell you if that changed people, per se, but I’m just glad [Asian-Americans] have a face in the league, which is a huge thing for the NBA and the country.
There’s a lot of running on “The Walking Dead” -- running from zombies, running to help other characters. What sports do you play now to stay in shape?
When you’re in a scene like that, you just have some extra jets. And in [Georgia] it’s so hot, it’s just conditioning. There’s that one scene last season, we’re at the farmhouse, Hershel [Scott Wilson] and Rick [Andrew Lincoln] come back with the zombies in a snare and Shane [Jon Bernthal] just books it.
They didn’t show it, but Jon and I were basically having a foot race on every take. I couldn’t try to beat Jon because he has to get there first in the scene, but I was hauling. I’m just a competitive guy.
What type of training regiment do you have when it comes to swinging machetes?
Jon Bernthal actually got me into boxing, which helps. I started last year and I love it. It might be the best workout I’ve ever had. Jon and I sparred a bunch of times. Apparently, I lunge too much with my jab, so he got me a couple times in the face.
Sounds like the cast and crew stay in good shape.
There was this scene where I hopped up onto a counter in a pharmacy to hit a zombie. The camera guy actually jumped up onto the counter with me with all of his camera gear on his back. His name’s Glen, too!
I remember after the director called "Cut," I looked to my left and was like, “How the hell did you get up here? You’re holding a 50-pound camera!” People get and stay fit on our show.