Steven Yeun talks his new Netflix movie Okja
STEVEN Yeun has swapped zombies for a cuddly super pig in his latest film role. The Walking Dead star plays an animal rights activist in Korean director Joon-ho Bong's eclectic Netflix action adventure drama Okja.
Bong wrote the character K, a Korean-American animal lover with technical expertise, specifically with Steven in mind.
"When you're signing on to a Bong film you know what you're getting into, which is something deep and beautiful but at the same time poignant and fun," he tells Weekend.
"For me it was just about getting to work with him period."
The film follows a headstrong girl, Mija, who has spent 10 years raising her pet super pig, on loan from a multinational company, in the idyllic mountains of Korea.
But when the company takes back its property for the much-touted super pig competition, Mija risks everything to rescue Okja.
"Luckily we didn't have just a tennis ball to work off of," Steven says of the CGI-animated animal.
"We had a great, near-sized depiction of Okja puppeteered by a couple of people, which helped us really realise and see what we were working with."
Viewers first meet K when he and a ragtag team of animal "liberators'' arrive in Seoul to kidnap Okja. As the only Korean speaker in the group, it's up to K to translate for Mija.
As a South Korean native who emigrated with his family to Canada and then the US, Steven says he could relate to K's unique position.
"We wanted to make sure he was very Korean American; someone who bisects both cultures but doesn't fully belong to either one," he says. "If you're a Korean American you have a very specific experience other people might not have and this is a really wonderful exploration into that.
"His duality is part of all of his decisions. He's doing the right thing but he'll use not great tactics to get that done. I always like to imagine he's probably a guy who sneaks a burger here or there on occasion."
While he's not advocating that anyone stops eating bacon, Steven hopes the film reinforces the importance of knowing where your food comes from.
"The film spoke to me about our relationship with nature as a whole and how we interact with the natural world," he says.
"Some people can't tell the difference about where their steak comes from; they might as well believe steak grows on trees. That's not a great place to be."
Okja is available to stream on Netflix now.