Steven Yeun Makes Oscars History as First-ever Asian American Lead Actor Nominee

Steven Yeun Makes Oscars History as First-ever Asian American Lead Actor Nominee

It’s 2021, and it’s about damn time that an Asian American has been nominated for an Oscar for lead actor:

“Steven Yeun made history Monday morning with his Oscar nomination for his performance as Jacob, a Korean father who moves his family to a rural Arkansas farm during the 1980s, in Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari.”

Yeun becomes the first Asian American to be nominated in the lead actor category. Despite “Parasite’s” historic wins last year, the Oscars, like much of Hollywood, has an abysmal record when it comes to recognizing Asian and Asian American talent.

Best known for his tenure as Glenn in the long-running “The Walking Dead” as well as his acclaimed performance in 2018’s “Burning,” Yeun has spoken about his personal connection to “Minari” and the early pressure he felt around the role in a story rarely told in American movies.

“We’re still navigating a business and a career and an art form that doesn’t really have a lot of Asian Americans in it,” Yeun previously told The Times. “That’s changing. But it also leaves us with no real road map. So then every step feels new. Every step feels like frontier. I found pride for that lately.

Youn, a veteran Korean actress, also scored her first Oscar nomination Monday morning, for actress in a supporting role. She portrayed the foul-mouthed, wrestling-loving grandmother in “Minari” and is the first Korean performer to be nominated in any acting category.

Youn, a household name in South Korea, made her American film debut in “Minari.” It was reading and feeling the authenticity in Chung’s script that persuaded her to board the project.”

I mean, when you think about it, its kind of amazing that no other Asian American has ever been nominated for best actor before. I mean, we aren’t even talking about winning an Oscar for best actor, but just being nominated. We’ve come a long way from Long Duk Dong.

I’ve been a fan of Steven Yeun since he was on ‘The Walking Dead,’ and I wrote several blog posts about his character Glenn and his television groundbreaking relationship with Maggie.

I was fortunate enough to screen the film a few months ago when I got an email from the official ‘Minari’ website email list providing an online screening. I enjoyed the film and it reminded me as to how difficult it must have been for my father to immigrate to the United States in the early 1960s. ‘Minari’ takes place in the 1980s, but even back then, I have to imagine it was fairluy difficult to immigrate to the U.S. These days, with the Internet and language translators on the phone, making the journey – while not easy – is a lot more manageable.

I think that Steve Yuen’s chances of winning the Oscar this year will be difficult, mostly because recently deceased Chadwick Boseman (who died at age 43) was also nominated for his role “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

‘Minari’ was also nominated for five other Oscars, including Best Director as well as:

Minari earned nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures … Youn Yuh-jung made history as the first Korean actress to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Needless to say, it was a huge day for the A24 film about the American Dream.”

There’s always a lot of competition, but I’m hoping that ‘Minari’ wins at least one Oscar!




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