When “Minari’s” Steven Yeun first saw Lee Issac Chung’s script for the film, the words deeply resonated with him. “It spoke very confidently and it didn’t need anything outside of it to justify the story,” he tells Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast. “It was really about this family and their point of view.”
With the theme of family resilience at its core, the message of “Minari” has struck a chord with Academy voters, audiences and critics alike. The film received six Oscar nominations including acting nods for Yeun and Yuh-Jung Youn, with the latter hotly tipped to take home the prize for best supporting actress on Sunday night.
Variety’s Jazz Tangcay recently spoke to the two actors for the SAG-AFTRA Foundation. Listen below!
For Youn, after getting through the first 30 pages of the script, she realized there was something “truthful and authentic” there. As a quick decision-maker, she swiftly accepted the part.
Chung’s story is a semi-autobiographical tale that draws its inspiration from his childhood. Despite that, he allowed room for his cast to collaborate and bring their own experiences to the table. “He had an open mind,” Youn says. “I could add my dialogue, my thoughts, or my experiences, and that was very gratifying.”
The realistic and authentic portrayal of a Korean American immigrant family was something Yeun admits “was scary at times. I worried that I put unnecessary pressures on it.” He adds, “The journey for me, was realizing that we were servicing the story of this one family and that we weren’t necessarily upholding a portrait of all Korean Americans.”
A heartwarming aspect of the film is watching the family dynamics, whether it’s between Yeun and Youn, or Youn and Alan S. Kim, the young actor who plays David.
There wasn’t much pre-bonding time, but when it did happen, it was over dinner. Youn says, “The person who gave me the script was worried about me being alone in Tulsa, Okla., and she happened to be a very nice chef.”
The cast would stop by and over dinner, they would exchange life stories. “That’s why we became a real family,” she says.
Later in the conversation, both reveal whether they like Mountain Dew. And the discussion wraps with Yeun revisiting Glenn from “The Walking Death” and his character’s controversial death.
“I don’t know it resonated so much. I have my guesses, but I think it’s probably individual to everybody,” he says of how Glenn was brutally killed on camera.
He recalls having the same feeling about playing Glenn as he did playing Jacon on “Minari,” “Especially in the beginning, as I had with ‘Minari’ of people coming together to service something much larger than that.
“I think he represented connection in a way I think he was of the heart in the way of bringing everybody together,” he adds. “But shooting it was sad. It was disgusting, but it was also beautiful because I was a part of something deeply connected.”
Meanwhile, on this week’s Awards Circuit roundtable, the team shares their final predictions for this year’s Oscar winners.
Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, hosted by Clayton Davis, Jenelle Riley, Jazz Tangcay and Michael Schneider (who produces), is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday.