A creature to melt hearts
Walking Dead star Stephen Yeun tells
He is someone who is very uniquely in a specific place. He’s someone who is Asian who doesn’t identify with being Asian. He’s an Asian-American who serves as the group’s translator, but the Korean people around him don’t understand him and the American people that he’s around don’t necessarily assume he’s one of them. I spoke with director Bong Joon-Ho about what makes a person such as this join a group like the one that he’s a part of. We went into a lot of detail about that, which was great. It’d be really nice to assume that I’ve made any use of that, but I don’t know that I have. I think though that psychology lends itself to an understanding of people. What’s really great is the empathy that comes from playing someone different, or very similar to yourself. emotions for something that wasn’t lifelike. Bong Joon-Ho also shared images of what Okja was going to look like and the ‘‘stuffie’’ was dimensional similar, so we kind of knew what we were dealing with.
What I wasn’t prepared for when I saw the finished product though was how intricate the emotion was coming out of this animal. When you look at the eyes of that creature, they kind of bring you in and all of a sudden they take you back to every single animal that you’ve maybe bonded with in your lifetime. Yeah, we did and it was definitely very helpful to the final product to be quite honest. Daniel
(Henshall), Paul (Dano), Lilly (Collins), Devon (Bostick) and I, we all hung out quite a bit and I think that bled into the work. We wouldn’t rehearse anything, we’d really just go into it.
It was if we were the characters living things for the first time. I guess I was really lucky to be working with really giving, classy, professional actors. I think this showed what’s great about them. They didn’t put their hands on anything, they just let director Bong enact his vision. He’s adventurous. I think he’s very thoughtful, detail-oriented. He’s already fully rendered the idea that he wants in his brain and then he executes that to a T. A lot of directors go into situations and they feel it out, they see what passes the screen and flow with it. I’m not saying that he’s rigid or doesn’t go with the flow, but he has such a pure idea that you get a very unique thing at the end. I think that’s something everyone is trying to reach for. They weren’t like any crazy stunts – although hanging out the truck while it was moving was interesting. I think the stunt where I’m coming out of the Han River was especially disgusting, although kind of fun at the same time. No. I had a close understanding of how the story was going to go for some time. There wasn’t any surprises. It was really organic. Scott (M Gimple, one of the show’s executive producers) was really wonderful about leading me through the process and having me be a part of it as well. It’s always sad to leave family, but it was really beautiful, wonderful and I think everyone felt a feeling of completeness. That was nice. Never say never. I had a really wonderful time with everybody. If it all makes sense, then who knows? I think there’s a lot of layers to this film. Really you could take anything you want from it. You could take the corporate angle, our relationship with nature, talk about food, what it’s really like to love someone or something, our bond with each other, or the nuance of what it is to be good or evil – even if there is such a distinction.
I mean people are just them and they just do what they want to do. Even my character and his friends, they do questionable things for their cause.
I feel that’s the beauty of this film – that it’s more a window or a mirror to the audience and whatever you take from it is whatever you take from it.
Okja is screening on Netflix now.
Steven Yeun, right, plays K, part of the Animal Liberation Front lead by Paul Dano’s Jay.
Netflix’s giant pig-like animal Okja evokes memories of 1980s
‘‘creatures’’ including Gremlins’ Gizmo and The NeverEnding Story’s Falkor the Luck Dragon.