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Steven Yeun Sheds Light On How Hollywood Treats Asian Actors

We still miss Glenn.

07/10/2017 10:31 EDT | Updated 07/10/2017 10:31 EDT

More and more actors are taking Hollywood to task for its treatment of people of colour.

Fresh off "Hawaii Five-0" star Daniel Dae Kim's comments regarding why he left the popular series (he and co-star Grace Park were reportedly offered 10 to 15 per cent less money than their white co-stars), former "The Walking Dead" star Steven Yeun is also speaking out about how hard it is for Asians to make it in the industry.

In a new interview with Vanity Fair, the actor explained that he felt that his character Glenn, who was killed off in the first episode of Season 7, never got the treatment he deserved.

WireImage
Steven Yeun arrives ahead of the Sydney Film Festival Closing Night Gala and Australian premiere of Okja at State Theatre on June 18, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Don Arnold/WireImage)

"I loved being on that show," Yeun said about "The Walking Dead." "Internally, it was incredible. Externally, it was tough sometimes because I never felt like [Glenn] 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."

His comments certainly reflect the reality of most actors of colour, who, for the most part, are given secondary roles (usually the best friend, the geek, the sidekick or a trope) to their white co-stars and are rarely given lead roles who have their own story line.

Tommaso Boddi via Getty Images
Actors Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Andrew Lincoln of The Walking Dead attend the IMDb Yacht at San Diego Comic-Con 2016: Day Three at The IMDb Yacht on July 23, 2016 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for IMDb)

The character of Glenn also received "secondary" treatment in the media.

In the interview, Yeun explained that his colleagues Norman Reedus, Andrew Lincoln, and Danai Gurira have all been featured on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, and noted that Glenn only got his own cover after he was killed off.

"I didn't think of it as racism, where it's like, 'Oh, this is racist,'" Yeun said. "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!'"

EW

Yeun also noted that this sentiment towards Glenn, and therefore, Asian characters, was also reflected in the marketing of the show, which didn't make an effort to promote the beloved character.

"I'd always hear people go, 'I love Glenn, he's my favourite 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."

According to the Daily Bruin, more than half of the top 100 grossing films in 2016 had no Asian characters, and the average percentage is even higher for prime-time TV shows.