How were you thinking about where you wanted to go after The Walking Dead, and how has that panned out?
Yeun: I always had a desire to just deeper, bigger, wider. Just grow. I felt like my time on that show was done, and that was what was so nice about the timing of it all. It wasn't that I wanted to leave and it wasn't that they wanted me to leave. We all were just like, it's done! This is great! It was such a nice easy collective decision. And then after leaving I got some offers and they weren't bad or insulting offers, they were just kind of these things that if I take them, it will keep me working. But that's not what life is about right now. That's what I accepted for myself with the beautiful help from my wife. I remember sitting in my house with my wife. She was pregnant and we were in our new home. I was like, "I don't know what is going on, but I feel so incredibly lonely." Instead of being offended by that -- which she very well could have -- she understood what I was saying and she was like, "Have you considered that this is the first time that you're not part of a collective?" And I was like, "Holy shit. This is the first time that I've not been told what's next." A lot of people I've talked to about this react to that in fear, and for me, I was excited. I was like, "Hell, yeah. You mean, what I do next is what I want to do next?" That's kind of the mental place that I was at. So, it was easy to say no to these things because for some reason I knew that something like this might come. And it did.
Do you ever miss the camaraderie of a TV show?
Yeun: And that's kind of that vague notion of the circle. I felt the love and beauty of a collective. And then I got to feel what it's like to be alone, and then you desire the collective again. It's just kind of this cycle, and that circle doesn't only speak on that. It's about everything. We just kind of fluctuate through life.
So you mean how we return to the same things?
Yeun: The ebb and flow of life. That nothing is really permanent. We have epiphanies now, but those things change. Life changes and life is change. I mean, things that we thought were okay 10 years ago are drastically not now. It all comes back to, be present. Just go with the flow.
Did you and Director Lee talk about what happens to Hae-mi? I came away with it thinking that Ben is pretty damn suspicious, but you don't really know.
Yeun: I'm the only one that knows. And that was a discussion that Director Lee and I had. He was like, "You will be the only person that knows. So you can decide." That's it.
And that informed your performance?
Yeun: I'll be honest, I fluctuated throughout the filming. We didn't film that last scene until the last day, so I wavered. Sometimes I'd be like, maybe I'm like this? Or maybe he's this way. I landed on a thing, and that's where I'm at. What I love about it is the theme that the world and life is a mystery to me is echoed in a very straightforward way in that sense. Narratively, you're meant to believe and you're led to believe that Ben might be not so great, but you don't know. In that last moment, the thing that we really wanted to cultivate was [that] you get to see some semblance of humanity in Ben. So that you know that you're watching a person die and not some evil being.
You said you wanted to work with Director Lee. Is there any other experience you would like to have?
Yeun: I could sit here and name so many great directors, and if you want me to, I will.
You don't have to unless you want to put it out there.
Yeun: I guess it's more along the lines of I want to challenge myself. I want to stretch myself, and also I want to hopefully have the privilege to be able to keep the freedom of feeling chaotic in that way. I go wherever I'm supposed to go, whatever happens. Because that's how these films came: Okja, Sorry to Bother You, Burning all just happened. There wasn't any this is what we're doing next strategy. That just speaks to how fortunate I've been. So if I can keep that going that would be great, but who knows?