character, Glenn Rhee, first appeared on
"The Walking Dead,"
he was a smart-aleck pizza deliveryman who used his encyclopedic knowledge of Atlanta to save his comrades from hungry zombies. Not that it earned him much respect.
As the AMC hit drama's third season resumes Sunday, Feb. 10, Glenn has evolved from a flaky kid into a mental and physical warrior, thanks to the love of a good woman and the knowledge that he's capable of more than scrambling through sewers.
"The second season was Glenn realizing what his true purpose was and what it means to survive in that type of situation," Yeun tells
of the "Dead" zombie apocalypse scenario. "It's mainly to live for another person, or other people. And as Steven, the actor, I found more understanding of what my purpose was and how to play this character. The third season is both of us actualizing it."
For the show's record-breaking fan base, that metamorphosis seemed complete in a recent episode in which Glenn -- held hostage by a rival survivor camp's brutal leader (
David Morrissey) -- broke his bonds, vanquished the "walker" dispatched to turn him into dinner and let forth a victorious bellow. Asked if it's a thesis statement for the man Glenn has become, Yeun says the unscripted wail means only so much.
"I was kicking stuff over and falling and picking myself back up, and it was so crazy and intense," he says. "Finally, once the actual hit happened, my only reaction was to just let it out. So yeah, you could call it a thesis statement. But I don't think Glenn is done growing. Glenn is still very much a young man, and when traumatic things happen, sometimes you overstep your boundaries. People will be interested to see how far he takes this."
On his uncommon bond with Lauren Cohan, who plays his love interest, Maggie:
"It even comes down to serendipity. This season we all moved to the same apartment complex, and I called her and said, 'Which unit are you in?' She said, 'Four-something-something,' and I was like, 'Mine's 433.' She said, 'Open your door.' I opened my door, and she's directly across the hall."
On Robert Kirkman crafting two separate "Walking Dead" worlds: "First of all, I think Robert Kirkman is two things. One, he is an amazing mind. And also, he should be dead. I don't know how he is doing everything that he is doing! He has, like, 18 comic books and 20 kids, and he's probably playing Wall Street, and he might be managing some secret hedge fund. He's crazy. But it's really great to be part of it."
On the clash of rival "Dead" camps: "What's interesting to me about the difference between Rick and The Governor is you can argue that it's just two different ways of surviving in this situation. I know that being morally upstanding and trying to preserve society is the altruistic ideal ... but when it comes down to primal instincts, you are who you are. Who's to say what's right? It's going to make for some interesting TV!"