Not even The Walking Dead prepared Steven Yeun for a pandemic

Steven Yeun, Conan O’Brien

Steven Yeun, Conan O’Brien
Screenshot: Conan

For Oscar-nominated actor Steven Yeun, seven long, grueling seasons dodging virus-infected zombie hordes meant a whole lot of nothing when it came to weathering an entire, real-world year of an actual global pandemic. Appearing on Monday’s Conan, the Minari actor and beloved, late The Walking Dead survivor (until, you know, not) told Conan O’Brien that, while he—being rich, famous, and possessed of both loving family and a brand new, paid-for house—was “one of the lucky ones” when it came to quarantine comfort, he was still woefully unprepared. Startling Conan, Yeun went dark and deep with his assessment of his pandemic mindset, explaining (with the thousand-yard stare of someone who’s seen a whole lot of zombies in his time), “The battlefield is, like, yourself.”

Yikes, dude. Continuing, Yeun credited his much more outbreak-capable wife with keeping the family together, saying that he himself started to see the family’s empty new home as “a prison,” and talking about being “locked inside” his own mind. “You’ve clearly gone to a very dark place,” joked O’Brien, praising Yeun (and, you know, Yeun’s much ore together wife, Joana) for keeping the home fires burning through it all. (Although not literally, as the Yeun home remains unburned. ) Yeun also noted how he’s totally gotten into something called “primal astrology” as his main lockdown hobby, taking solace in the fact that, according to this super-accurate astrological character evaluator, the relative animal avatars of himself (camel), and his two kids (wombat, ocelot), were under the capable protection of his Tazmanian devil wife for the duration. So marrying a Taz seems to be all the pandemic advice former outbreak survivor Yeun has to offer, although his character’s eventual fate on the show does reinforce the idea that—as COVID anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, science deniers, and assorted irresponsible assholes have shown us—virus aside, the real danger is us.

Anyway, Minari has vaulted Yeun onto the Hollywood A-list, a fact longtime late-night comedy partner and pal O’Brien lamented will inevitably mean the end of their friendship, even though they’ve seen each other naked. Yeun, noting that his pre-Walking Dead training in improv comedy has taught him that insecurity, neuroses, and cynicism are all part of every true comic’s makeup, could only “yes, and” Conan’s sad prediction, saying that he, too, will miss their nude spa days. As will we all. Oh, and Conan’s a llama, astrologically, something Yeun asserted wasn’t so bad, since he thinks “soft and sweet” when he imagines the South American camelid’s finer qualities. Sadly, socially distanced sidekick Andy Richter had to remind them both that everyone knows that hurling gobs of foul-smelling spittle at anyone who gets too close is really the only thing anyone knows about llamas. Setting that aside, O’Brien assured his guest that he wasn’t just buttering up his Oscar-nominated guest when he spat that Yeun’s truly lovely, enigmatic turn as Minari’s Korean-American immigrant dad was “just a fucking great performance.”

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