Holding it all together, in one role after another.
Steven Yeun, 37, broke out a decade ago as an actor on AMC’s The Walking Dead, quickly emerging as a fan-favorite before his character’s grisly end in the show’s seventh season. But since then, Yeun has crafted an eclectic career for himself and reached a new pinnacle this year.
He’s worked with acclaimed filmmakers Chang-dong Lee (Burning) and Bong Joon-ho (Okja), portraying vastly different characters each time. In Lee Isaac Chung’s quietly touching Minari, he delivers a monumental performance—one he made history for as the first Asian-American Academy Award nominee in the Actor category—as a father trying to keep his family together while proving something to himself. His subtle understated work is slowly devastating throughout the course of the film.
As if an Oscar-worthy performance wasn’t enough, Yeun also voices the main character of Amazon’s upcoming animated superhero drama Invincible. For genre fans, it’s one of the best new series to arrive in recent memory and is a must-watch for superhero supporters.
One of the ultimate endorsements of his work probably comes from his co-star on Minari, Youn Yuh-Jung. “He was very nervous and afraid of playing this role. So, my reaction—as an elderly actor—was that it was a good sign,” she joked to Observer. “I’m not a fortune teller, but I could say, ‘He will do good.’ I was right.”