How Glenn's shocking exit in The Walking Dead became Steven Yeun's Hollywood blessing

In Hollywood, as in the apocalypse, sometimes it’s the most shocking moments that lead to the most surprising opportunities. Steven Yeun's exit from TWD is one of them.
Steven Yeun as Glenn Rhee - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 13 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Steven Yeun as Glenn Rhee - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 13 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

In the world of television, few exits are as jaw-dropping and, let’s be honest, gut-wrenching as Glenn Rhee’s untimely demise in AMC’s hit series, The Walking Dead. I can't be the only one who stopped watching after that episode.

Fans knew the zombie apocalypse was no walk in the park, but seeing our beloved pizza delivery guy turned zombie-slaying hero meet his end under Negan’s bat was a tough pill to swallow. Yet, while we mourned Glenn, the man behind the battered baseball cap, Steve Yeun, found himself stepping into a new, thrilling chapter of his career.

Here’s how that brutal goodbye was actually a silver lining, propelling Yeun into new heights in Hollywood.

From zombie fodder to Hollywood stardom

Steven Yeun’s portrayal of Glenn was a cornerstone of The Walking Dead from its early days. Glenn wasn’t just another survivor - he was the heart of the group, often bridging emotional gaps between characters and providing light in the bleakness of the apocalypse. When Glenn met his grim fate in the show's seventh season, it wasn’t just a pivotal moment for the series - it was a launchpad for Yeun.

Post-Walking Dead, Yeun didn’t just fade into the background like so many characters we see shuffling off into the TV sunset. He moved on to explore diverse and meaty roles that showed off his range far beyond the capability of wielding a machete against walkers.

One might argue that leaving the constant threat of zombie bites behind allowed Yeun to dive into projects that were more varied and creatively satisfying.

Steven Yeun
The World Premiere Of Universal Pictures' "NOPE" - Arrivals / JC Olivera/GettyImages


Enter Jordan Peele’s Nope, where Yeun transformed from the endearing everyman to a quirky, mysterious showman running a Western-themed amusement park. This role was a far cry from his days dodging zombies, showcasing Yeun’s ability to adapt to different genres and complex characters. His portrayal of Ricky “Jupe” Park was both captivating and eerie, serving up a perfect example of Yeun's range expanding in fascinating directions post-"Walking Dead."

Beef. Steven Yeun as Danny in episode 101 of Beef. Cr. Andrew Cooper/Netflix © 2023 /


Steve Yeun's trajectory continued upward with his role in the riveting Netflix series Beef. Here, he plays Danny, a man who finds himself embroiled in a road rage incident that escalates into an all-consuming, life-altering feud. Beef showcases Yeun's ability to delve deep into the psyche of complex characters, revealing the darker, more obsessive facets of human nature. This role is a stark contrast to Glenn's more wholesome persona, highlighting Yeun's versatility and fearless approach to challenging and unconventional roles. It’s another step away from his Walking Dead roots, demonstrating his commitment to pushing boundaries and exploring the vast landscape of human emotions.

Invincible season 2 /


But it’s not just in the live-action realm where Yeun has left his mark. In the animated world, he voices Mark Grayson, a.k.a. Invincible, in Amazon’s hit series Invincible. This role taps into Yeun's knack for embodying characters grappling with great power and even greater responsibility. Here, Yeun navigates the complexities of a young hero coming to terms with his powers and his place in a world filled with heroes and villains and a nice helping of daddy issues. It’s a dynamic role that melds the innocence of Glenn with a hefty dose of cosmic superhero angst.

Beyond the screen

Steven Yeun’s journey post-Glenn isn’t just a tale of career evolution - it’s a testament to the doors that dramatic exits can open. His departure from The Walking Dead might have been heart-breaking for fans, but it undeniably catapulted him into a variety of roles that broadened his acting horizon. From indie films to major blockbusters, and powerful dramas to voice acting in superhero sagas, Yeun’s career post-zombies is anything but dead. Much unlike Glenn. RIP, King.

In retrospect, Glenn’s death, as devastating as it was for viewers, was a blessing in disguise for Yeun. It freed him from the typecasting shadows and allowed him to explore and excel in roles that might not have been offered to him otherwise, like the eerie showman in Nope, the complex superhero in Invincible, and the intensely driven Danny in Beef. Each of these characters showcases different angles of Yeun's acting skills, from subtle comedy and deep personal drama to high-stakes emotional conflict.

While we still might shed a tear for Glenn when rewatching old Walking Dead episodes, we can also cheer for Yeun, who took that brutal goodbye and turned it into a career that’s as vibrant and exciting as it is diverse. As Steven Yeun continues to evolve and surprise us, it’s clear that the only thing he won’t be doing is slowing down. Who knew that saying “nope” to being zombie chow could lead to such fabulous new beginnings?

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