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Steven Yeun Just Became the First Asian-American Best Actor Nominee in Oscars History

Yeun landed the historic Oscar nomination for his performance in Lee Isaac Chung's "Minari."

Steven Yeun in "Minari"

Steven Yeun in “Minari”

A24

Steven Yeun just entered the Oscars history book as the first Asian-American nominee in the Best Actor category. Yeun made the cut thanks to his performance in Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari,” which also earned the actor nominations from the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Critics’ Choice Awards. Yeun is nominated in the 2021 Best Actor Oscar race opposite Chadwick Boseman for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Riz Ahmed for “Sound of Metal,” Anthony Hopkins for “The Father,” and Gary Oldman in “Mank.”

In an interview with Variety published last December, Yeun reconciled himself with the prospect of becoming the first Asian-American Best Actor nominee at the Academy Awards. “It’s probably a bummer that that is the case. This is a hard one for me,” the actor said. “As great as it would be to set a precedent or be part of a moment that breaks through a ceiling, I personally don’t want to be ensnared by that moment, either. The truth that I’m trying to understand for myself is who I am, individually.”

Yeun continued, “I’m happy to serve a larger moment for the community. And I’m happy to push narratives and show who we are because I am that, too. I am an Asian American and the pride I have for that is immense. But also, for me, it’s really about carrying my space and myself through this life and making sure that I tell it true from my perspective. But it would be awesome, and I hope that we can have many more of those and that it won’t be an issue moving forward.”

In the same Variety profile, fellow Oscars history-maker Bong Joon Ho said he was hopeful Yeun would land a nomination in the Best Actor race. Bong, who became the first Korean winner of the Best Director prize, hailed Yeun as “an actor with incredible range…Sometimes he feels like the guy next door while other times he carries this great sense of mystery and secrecy. In Lee Chang Dong’s ‘Burning,’ he really managed to capture the tension behind a mysterious and cynical character, and in ‘Minari,’ he provided a realistic portrait of a father bearing heavy burden on his shoulders. I think he’s a multifaceted actor with so many faces.”

The 2021 Academy Awards will take place Sunday, April 25.

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