Steven Yeun Is the First Asian-American Nominated for Best Actor Oscar

Steven Yeun made Oscar history on Monday when his name was read aloud as a nominee for Best Actor. The Minari star now holds the distinction of being the first Asian-American ever nominated in the category.

Steven Yeun
Steven Yeun appearing on The IMDb Show on Location at The Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2018 in Park City, Utah. Getty

He's competing for the award against Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal); Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom); Anthony Hopkins (The Father); and Gary Oldman (Mank).

Yeun may be the only Asian-American to ever receive a lead acting nomination at the Academy Awards, but there have been two other actors of Asian heritage to get nominations in the Best Actor category before him—still an incredibly small percentage in the Academy's long history.

Yul Brynner, who was part Buryat (Mongol), came first when he won the trophy for 1956's The King and I. Decades passed before Ben Kingsley, who is half Indian, won Best Actor for 1982's Gandhi. Kingsley was again nominated, though failed to win, for 2003's House of Sand and Fog.

His fellow nominee this year Riz Ahmed joins him as the latest actors with Asian descent to receive the recognition. The English-born Ahmed is of Pakistani descent.

Social media was soon flooded with messages supporting the actor's nomination and praising this moment of Asian representation.



Others noted the significance that Yeun's nomination came the same year that Chloé Zhao became the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated for Best Director.

Some history makers: Steven Yeun is the first Asian American to be nominated for lead actor and Chloe Zhao is the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated for director. #OscarNoms pic.twitter.com/z52gDOmUPV

— Rebecca Ford (@Beccamford) March 15, 2021

everybody @ steven yeun right now pic.twitter.com/9gT2ia7hWj

— jordan (@ahiddenIife) March 15, 2021

The 37-year-old Yeun is best-known to many Americans for his six-year run portraying Glenn Rhee on AMC's smash-hit show The Walking Dead. But the actor doesn't just come from a zombie-slasher background; he has also earned critical acclaim before, including for his roles in director Bong Joon-ho's Okja (2017), and for the South Korean film Burning (2018). For his work in the latter, he won Best Supporting Actor at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards, the Florida Film Critics Circle Awards and the National Society of Film Critics Awards.

In Minari, Yeun plays a Korean-American father who moves his family from California to rural Arkansas to start a farm that grows Korean produce. The drama, directed by Lee Isaac Chung, has been widely praised by critics and won this year's Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. Yeun's work in Minari has also earned him a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination this season, for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role. That ceremony will be held on April 4, three weeks ahead of this year's Oscars, which are scheduled to take place on April 25.

Next up, Yeun will be lending his voice to the eight-episode animated series Invincible, set for release later this year on Amazon Prime. He'll also star alongside Richard Jenkins and Amy Schumer in Stephen Karam's drama The Humans, also expected to come out later this year, at a to-be-decided date.