Interview Date: 10/14/2010
Run Date: 10/29/2010
AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is one of the most anticipated new series of Fall 2010, so when Bullz-Eye was offered the opportunity to sit in on a series of roundtable interviews with members of the cast and creative team, you can imagine that we jumped at the chance. Zombies may be at the core of “The Walking Dead,” but there’s plenty of humanity to be found as well. Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun, and Norman Reedus play members of a pack of survivors in the heart of Atlanta, and in our conversation, Yeun talks about getting too hot too quickly, Reedus praises the awesomeness of the crossbow, and Holden discusses delving into her dark side.
Journalist: So what’s it like for you guys? Actually, I brought it up with (the other cast members), but I just get the impression that part of the underlying theme is, really, a bunch of people who are thrown into this incredible situation, and they’re not only fighting zombies, they’re trying to hang onto their humanity.
Norman Reedus: Yeah, the zombies aren’t the bad guys so much. That’s just an element of what’s around. Everyone’s kind of looking at each other out of the side of their eyes and figuring each other out, and everyone’s walking a fine line of, you know, being good and being bad and being loyal and being…the opposite of that. (Laughs) So it’s super-interesting in every way you look at it.
Laurie Holden: Yeah, it’s a real morality tale. It’s an exploration of the human condition.
Journalist: How do you guys lighten the mood? I saw the first two episodes, and it’s so…
LH: (Interrupts) See, you’ve seen more than us! We’ve seen nothing.
Steven Yeun: Yeah, we haven’t even seen it!
LH: Did you dig it?
Journalist: They’re brilliant. Yeah, they’re really good.
Bullz-Eye: You drive a mean sports car, man.
SY: (Laughs) Thanks! Cool, thank you!
Journalist: But how do you guys lighten the mood? I mean, there are kids on the set and everything, so…
NR: Oh, yeah, we goof around the entire time. But you’re so exhausted by the end of the day that you kind of just pass out. (Laughs) Because it’s 120 degrees there!
LH: I didn’t feel like I was able to goof around a lot on this show.
NR: We goofed!
SY: Well, you know, what I think what was awesome was that this cast is so good and, like, with me coming into this as kind of a newbie in terms of this whole world…I told all of them, “I’m going to sponge it up!” And I literally just sat there and absorbed everything that they did.
LH: You beyond held your own.
NR: You did.
SY: Oh, thank you. But it was awesome to go from the “oh, let’s have a nice San Pelegrino” time… (Laughs) …to cutting right into it and just getting into it. There are some scenes where I literally got chills because I was, like, “This is why I do this. This is why I love this.” That we as a group…not, like, one or two people made a really amazing scene, but we as ten or fifteen people deep or however many were in it, just made a ridiculously amazing scene. That was enough to kind of keep you going. It was dark, but you see that, and you’re…you’re so happy to be a part of something like that. So you keep going.
NR: There was a lot of respect for everybody. We all have respect for each other, but not just that. You’d see the crew members excited about what we were doing at the same time, and everybody really brought their “A” game to this.
LH: It’s very rarely that you work on things…I mean, we’ve all done press junkets before, and everyone’s, like, “Oh, we love each other.” No, we really did on this one. (Laughs) We’re genuinely friends. There were no egos. There wasn’t that thorn in your side.
NR: I have a little bit of an ego.
LH: It’s okay.
NR: “Leggo my ego!”
LH: But it felt like a play. Everybody…it was all about the ensemble, you know? It was just…there were no ego moments. It was all about the work and telling Frank’s story and honoring Robert’s source material, so everybody’s heart was in the right place.
Journalist: And how do you mentally prepare for a zombie to attack you?
LH: No sleep.
SY: That’s what was really cool about this, too. One thing that I really was so happy about was that, like, there were emotions that we saw on this show during filming that I’ve never seen on another show before.
SY: There’s this one particular moment, and I won’t give it away, but I saw it and I went, “Oh, that’s the type of show that we’re on.” And, luckily, it came early… (Laughs) …because if it came late, I would’ve been in trouble. But it came early, and I was, like, “I see…” And it just kind of upped the ante for all of us. And from that point on, you just saw people get to points where I think you had to kind of imagine it up. Like, how could you gutturally react to this? Greg Nicotero, his work is good that…there’s nothing corny about his zombies. It’s for real. So that helps. A lot.
LH: But we also had a real pool of actors, and, y’know, sometimes, just in terms of craft, I just know that I’ve been in a lot of scenes where you don’t even know where the scene begins because everyone’s just kind of improvising and living it. I know personally that I went through a few weeks where I really lived it. Like, I left Laurie at the door and lived Andrea, and it was a very dark place, but…that’s what we do, where creativity springs from sometimes.
Journalist: What about the action sequences? I know Norman, from “Boondock Saints,” you know how to handle a gun.
NR: I’ve got a crossbow on this one. (Laughs)
Journalist: Do you? Cool!
NR: Yeah! The action sequences are…they’re awesome. I mean, there’s so much going on, it’s not like one guy’s sitting across from another guy, shooting him, or anything. All Hell breaks loose…on all of them. (Laughs) It’s, like, boom, boom, boom, going all over, with people coming at you, and you freak out. For real. It’s a lot of fun.
SY: But you’ve got to be really careful, too.
NR: Yes, Steve, you do. (Laughs)
SY: With firearms. With people in front of them. You’ve got to be careful.
NR: That’s all we’re saying.
Journalist: Did you have to have special training on how to use a crossbow?
NR: No, not really.
Journalist: So they just gave it to you?
NR: Well, you know, they show you how to do it, but you can’t shoot real arrows, of course, so you’re dry firing most of the time.
LH: And it was heavy, right?
NR: It was heavy as hell, yeah. And you’re running with it! But I had one good moment that I especially liked, where I shot a zombie in the brain with the crossbow and then brought the crossbrow and used it as leverage for a shotgun and shot another one. You feel like you’re nine years old again every day on the set. It’s a blast.
SY: You should have seen his back.
NR: I got beat up a lot.
SY: His back was just black and blue. It was gross.
LH: But it’s kind of, like, a badge of honor. When we go home, we have bruises and stuff. And it’s, like, “I did well today.”
NR: There were a couple of days, though, where my back…I couldn’t stand up. I’d just get out of bed and be, like, “Oh, my God, they’re killing me!”
SY: That’s what was great, though. There were moments were there was no acting required. It was just crazy.
BE: Speaking of crazy, what was it like working with Michael Rooker?
NR: Oh, he’s bad, man. He’s like…did you ever see him in “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”? Yeah, he’s like that. I mean, he’s so good. He’s great.
LH: He’s such a loose cannon. (Laughs) He’s so creative.
SY: You step back and you just watch it. He just lets loose. You might not even be called on the set that day, but you’ll drive onto the set to watch him. It’s, just, like, “Oh, my God…” There were moments where I’ll be… (Sighs) “I don’t know why I do this. I’ve got to keep up with this…?” He was awesome. Seriously.
Journalist: Are you surprised by the arc of your characters? I don’t know how much you know ahead of time or when you get each script, but…
NR: Well, I’m not in the comic book, so I don’t really know where I’m headed. I’m kind of spiraling out into the universe right now. Which is cool, too, but I don’t think anybody feels stifled by being in the comic book. There’s a lot of creative energy flying around this.
LH: It also doesn’t feel like typical television, in the sense that they’re really letting the story unfold, and it’s gradual, and it’s organic. It’s not, like, you pick up an episode and you’re, like, “Whoa, all of sudden I’m in love with someone!” Things don’t come out of left field. There are challenges, but every single time a script comes in, doesn’t it just seem so organic? It’s, like, “Oh, yes…” And it’s gradual changes that we have, where our character arcs are.
NR: And the writing’s so good.
LH: Oh, it’s gorgeous.
NR: Every time we read a script, the next day, we’re, like, “That part is so awesome, and that part is so awesome…” So it’s exciting.
SY: It’s pretty good. I mean, I think all of us have been really, really happy with it being so true to the characters. Like, you get it and you go, “Yeah, this makes total sense for me.” It’s awesome.
BE: You had some great sequences with Andrew in the second episode.
SY: (Laughs) Hopefully, I came off well.
BE: Oh, you did. I was just wondering, though, if the action sequences were difficult for you.
SY: You know, I jump in full force, and that was the first episode for me, and it was a heavy episode. And what was great was…well, working with Andy was awesome. He just kind of took me under his wing and said, “This is what we’ve got to do, and if you ever feel this way, then do this.” It was grueling. I remember... (Hesitates) This will probably get around, but I’ll say it. One of the first shots I had to do, I had to sprint up the street, jump over a bunch of pylons, grab heavy bags, jump back over them, and just run back. And I remember…that was the first day that I got there.
LH: Oh, my God.
SY: And I was not used to the heat yet. And I had been training, but I’d been training in L.A., so it’s, like, 70s and brisk. And I literally had to stop, and they go, “You look green.” And I lay on my back, ate a banana and drank some water, took some pills…it was crazy. And that was kind of how everyone was welcomed to Atlanta.
NR: I was basically crippled my first day.
SY: Yeah, it was insane. And those action sequences…we didn’t go, like, “Oh, let’s put a harness on you,” or something like that. It was, “Go up the ladder, come down the ladder.”
LH: Again. And again and again and again.
SY: “Carry this gun with you. Come down with a crossbow.”
LH: “Here’s your Gatorade. Go!”
SY: (Laughs) And you’re sweating like a pig.
BE: How much driving did you actually end up getting to do?SY: I’ll be honest: my driving skills are fine, but not that great. I wanted to drive that car much more than I was actually allowed, but I got to drive it enough that I felt that it was pretty fun that day. (Laughs)