"Walking Dead" fans, let's be honest: Last week's intense interactions between Glenn and the Governor, Glenn and Merle, and Glenn and that doomed zombie made for such a fantastic hour of drama that "When the Dead Come Knocking" could have served as the third season's midseason finale and we all would have been satisfied.
Luckily for us, the "Dead" crew has one more installment -- Sunday's "Made to Suffer" -- before the walkers shuffle off for a midseason break. Yahoo! TV had the chance to talk to Steven Yeun, the actor who plays zombie thrasher Glenn Rhee, about his heroic battle last week, what to expect for Glenn going forward (could he, to steal a phrase from one of his network brethren, be on the verge of breaking bad?), and how he deals with the ever-looming possibility that his character will become a zombie snack.
Congratulations on this excellent third season of "The Walking Dead," Steven, and on your performance in last week's episode, "When the Dead Come Knocking." We really need to have a Glenn action figure now, with a removable wooden chair you can smash into pieces and use to attack zombie action figures.
(Laughing) Thank you, I appreciate that. That means a lot.
What was your reaction when you got that script and read this amazing sequence for Glenn with the zombie battle?
You know, it was cool. It made a lot of sense to me. And it was great because it was also freeing in the sense that [director] Dan [Sackheim] and Glen [Mazzara, showrunner], they're willing to let me roam around in that space at my own leisure. Obviously not willy nilly, but even in the way that we choreographed the chair scene, they just left the camera on me. We had specific beats to fill out, but I just did whatever I wanted.
Even down to the scream. That wasn't scripted. It just came out and we picked it up and we just kept on doing it that way. I felt really good just reading it and shooting it. It was liberating for me as an actor, as well.
I was just going to say to you that the scream was my favorite part of the scene, because it just felt like this was not a scream that was born just from this incident. This was a scream three seasons in the making for Glenn. Did that just come out or was it something you had thought about adding at the end?
You know, there was a little bit of thought in terms of really letting it all go, but I wasn't going to do it unless I felt it. Shooting that scene, especially [Dan] letting the camera just follow me and me just jumping around everywhere and trying to smash this chair…I just went for it, and it just felt right in that moment.
I really appreciate that you qualified it as a scream that echoes the last three seasons, because that is something that I've been trying to do, is have Glenn have this slow growth and find moments where he can really shine and use those moments to step him up closer and closer and closer until it was time to get there. That's with the help of a lot of great writing and awesome directors and camera crews. I'm just really lucky to have that.
You mentioned in a recent interview that you and the rest of the cast often use music to psych you up for certain scenes. Did you do anything like that or use any preparation like that for the battle scenes in "When the Dead Come Knocking"?
I didn't have to use any music this time, because it was such a great situation. Donna Premick, our makeup woman, she's amazing, and she put that eye stuff on me…she put the prosthetic on me every day. It took me to a pretty dark place every time they put it on, so I was already there. And Michael Rooker [Merle] is fantastic, so you just feed off of him. Russell, who played the zombie, was great, too. It just made sense. I didn't use music in that moment, but everybody on our set is so respectful, every person on the crew, that it's just…everybody knows when something's important and when something really needs to be shown. They all give you that energy to just be there. It's pretty amazing.
Would you call this one of your favorite scenes for Glenn, or one of your favorite episodes for Glenn?
Yeah. This was a definite milestone for Glenn. It's a turning point for him. It's a growth. It's probably the biggest growth for him. There's more to come, definitely, but this for me was really fun to do. It was fun for me as an actor.
Another really powerful Glenn moment this season happened in the episode where Lori and T-Dog die, when Glenn asks, "Can't we just have one good day?" He is, or was initially, a pretty laid-back guy, but that one line, and your delivery of it, really said so much about what has been building up in him.
Thank you. And it's hard as an actor and someone who's part of a show where we're trying to tell honest stories in a ridiculous context. What's really great is people have really responded well to this growth of Glenn. But I'm wondering how much they'll accept (going forward).
What's beautiful about this character is he's still growing. As is everyone, but he's still growing. This isn't his peak. He hasn't made it now to some sort of badass status…he's not now some outright leader. You see that eventual growth, and over the three seasons you see what he's capable of. [But] then you keep pushing him and you push him and you push him, and then you get to this point where you're pushing too far. He lets out a rage filled scream about what he thought was pure and amazing in his life.
The only thing that really keeps him alive in his life changes before his eyes, and he has such murderous intent. From that point on, it's not just a simple game of, "OK, now Glenn's just going to exact revenge. He's going to kill everybody. He's going to do everything the right way." Now is exactly the time where someone like Glenn can go off into the irrational and lose it, to the point where he might actually be wrong. The rest of the season will show that. I'm really excited for people to see, and wondering how people are going to take that, too.
Have you already filmed the whole third season?
We're almost done.
So you're in Atlanta now, still filming?
Yes, I am.
So you're still finding out how the rest of the season unfolds, while we're wondering how the midseason finale unfolds. What can you tell us? The showdown with the prison group and the Woodbury people is coming to a head this week, right?
Yeah, it's two worlds colliding, and it's two really different thought patterns colliding. It's two different ways of survival colliding. It's really black and white right now. What does a ragtag group of people who are on the verge of starvation and always under the gun do? How do they [react] against a group of people that are living in maybe the best situation that you could possibly find in a zombie apocalypse? It's just going to be an explosion.
One of the other great things the writers have done more of this season is to drop little details about things that probably a lot of fans have been wondering about. My favorite happened when Glenn and Maggie say they're going to look for baby formula. They just very casually mentioned that they found a phone book, and that's how they've been scouting supplies. Again, as viewers, we wonder about those things. Do you, the cast, ask the writers about those kinds of things, too?
Yes, and the writers are fantastic. They do think in great detail, and it's paired with how seriously everybody takes it on this side of the script, too. Everyone's trying to always justify. We're always trying to make sense of it. Even in the beginning of this season, we all got together as a cast and talked about what we thought [the characters] did in the six month jump, in the huge break in between seasons. How? Did we set out a contingency plan? Maybe that's why Rick was so quick to amputate Hershel's leg. It would have been something we would have talked about, decided how maybe we could save someone who's been bitten that way…maybe it's like a snakebite. A lot of things like that we talked about.
The whole [production] takes pride in putting a lot of detail into it. I'm glad you guys notice.