Steven Yeun on new film ‘Mayhem’ out Nov. 10: ‘sense of catharsis’

In the film “Mayhem,” Steven Yuen stars as an angry power-climbing legal analyst who loses all his inhibitions thanks to a virus. CREDIT: publicity photo

Posted Tuesday, November 7, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Steven Yeun played sweet, soulful warrior Glenn Rhee for six-plus years on “The Walking Dead.” That prominent role ended with his character’s head gruesomely bashed in by Negan and his barbed-wire bat Lucille. It wasconsidered one of the most painful losses on the show to date.

But it freed Yeun up to tackle new roles. In his latest, he takes on his first headline starring role in an indie horror flick “Mayhem,” which comes out Friday. (You can see it locally at AMC Conyers Crossing 16.)

Yeun’s Derek Cho is a corporate climber who has been beaten down by the effort. When he is framed and fired for a mistake he didn’t make, his timing is fortuitous. A virus had gotten into the building and the CDC quarantines the space for eight hours while an antidote is funneled into the air system.  In the meantime, this frees his character’s id and causes his emotions to get amped up and often out of control. And yes, he has revenge firmly on his mind.

“It was just good timing to do a movie I could just be angry the whole time,” Yeun said by phone halfway around the world in South Korea, where he is shooting another film called “Burning.” “I needed as an actor to have some sense of catharsis. It was a steam release.”

RELATED: “Mayhem” film critic reviews have been largely positive. 

The fact it’s a movie that revolves around a virus might remind folks of “The Walking Dead,” but it’s a stylistic and visual polar opposite. It’s set indoors, presumably at 72 degrees, in a Serbian office building. Much of “The Walking Dead” is shot outdoors, often in the sopping humid 90 degree weather in Senoia surrounded by bugs, snakes and sundry discomforts.

Yeun was on screen for almost all 84 minutes: “I learned what it was like if you’re the leader of a film. I learned a lot and had a great time.” He said it allowed him to break off from his own doubts, his own lack of confidence at times, to “break out of limitations only really imposed on me. If I don’t think I can do something, that’s my own fault.”

“The Walking Dead” did prepare Yeun for the hand-to-hand combat. “We were toeing the line trying to make it as real as possible but also fun and as big as possible. I sometimes wish we had more room to play and what we could have done if director Joe Lynch had a bigger budget. I just hope someone gives Lynch a ton of money to make something big.”

And fans of “The Walking Dead” get a bonus: an appearance by Dallas Roberts, who played good guy Woodbury resident Milton season three of the show. This time, he plays a ghoulish, heartless HR minion who informs Yeun’s character of his unemployment.

“It was a happy coincidence,” Yeun said. “We had fun playing different roles in a different setting.”

As for the current season of ‘The Walking Dead,” Yeun knows zip, had no idea his character’s name was name-dropped by Rick this past Sunday. “I still talk to everybody but I haven’t seen the latest season yet,” he said. “I’m in my own world shooting in Korea.”

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