The Walking Dead may be an ensemble show, but as viewers of the new AMC series have discovered, it may take some time for the entire ensemble to show up.
Three of those cast members- Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun and Norman Reedus (who plays a character not in the original graphic novel) recently sat down together to talk about the challenges of surviving a zombie apocalypse, not the mention the perils of an Atlanta summer…
For those who are unfamiliar with the original comic book series, could you talk a little bit about your characters?
Steven Yeun: I play a character called Glenn, who is Korean-American. He has no more ties to the real world due to this zombie apocalypse. He doesn’t have any family left, but he was estranged from his family prior to that.
He’s a nice guy, a good person and I think he always wants to do what’s right, but it’s hard for him, because he wavers between whether he needs to be living or not, because what does he need to live for?
He doesn’t have much to live for at this point, so in this group of survivors, he serves as the utility player in a way. Anything that needs to happen like gathering supplies or hot-wiring a car or figuring something out, Glenn is your man.
Like I said, he’s the good-hearted one, so he’s always trying to do the right thing and save someone if he has to. Anything that really needs to happen, he’s there to serve the rest of the group. He knows the city backwards and forwards and knows how to avoid the zombies, so he’s the one that always sent to do these tasks.
Laurie Holden: Prior to the apocalypse, Andrea was a lawyer. She has a really strong moral compass and she’s really impassioned to help others.
When the apocalypse hits, she finds herself on a road trip with her little sister and she doesn’t know if her family is alive and she’s basically just trying to keep it together for herself and take care of her little sister, who’s like the little cupcake of her life.
Norman Reedus: I play Darryl Dixon, who’s new to the comic book; he’s been created by Frank Darabont for the show. He’s one half of a brother team of ex-cons who are really bad people.
He’s sort of finding himself in this new group of people in a different way than he started out, so you don’t know if he’s going to stab you in your sleep or give you a hug- or both.
The subject matter of the series is quite strong. How does this fit in with other AMC shows like Breaking Bad or Mad Men?
Laurie: What I love about AMC is the sky’s the limit in terms of what they’re able to do. You see heads on the back of turtles and dismembered dead bodies.
The great thing is we’re working for a network that has given us tremendous creative license, so there are really no limits in terms of what we’re able to do, so it’s really horrific and gory and dark.
Steven: They know what they got themselves into and they’re not going to stray away from it.
Laurie: It’s not pretty but we’re not dancing around it. It’s very real and very authentic. If anything when I go into ADR [additional dialogue replacement], I’m like, ‘Oh God, did we really do that?’ I can’t actually believe it’s on television.
Shooting in the series on location during a hot Atlanta summer must have been difficult. But do you find that kind of adversity actually brings people together?
Steven: For me, this being one of my first big things, it’s such a blessing, because I don’t know if it can get any better. The cast is so very tight with each other and the crew is absolutely amazing. We would get through stuff that should take ages and get through it in a day and sometimes we wonder how we do it. It’s because everyone really works together really well.
Everybody came together because they felt the buzz of how great this project is. You would hear it every day how this thing was going to be really big and everyone was really excited about that.
Maybe you could look at how it all began with the producers and the names behind it and say, ‘Oh, it’s going to be a hit!’ but there’s always that doubt, because you never know how it’s going to pan out.
Honestly every single day we were there, people would watch the dailies or not even watch it on screen but see it in real life and it all looked amazing. Being a part of it, I think it’s going to be fantastic.
Norman, it sounds as though you’re playing one of the darker characters in the series. How does the fact that people are struggling to survive in this world affect Darryl’s outlook?
Norman: It’s interesting, because inasmuch as the zombies are the bad guys and it’s the end of the world, some really good people are going to do bad things.
Some really bad people suddenly do some good things so it’s weird; who’s going to stab each other in the back and who’s going to group up? What is that old term, ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.’ It’s kind of like that.
Laurie: I can’t really comment on his character because I’m not playing it, but I don’t think there’s anything evil about his character. Just from my observation, he’s kind of lost and scrappy and temperamental, but I would never say he’s evil.
Steven: It’s more like your true self comes out when disaster strikes.
Is The Walking Dead a drama series with zombies or a zombie series with drama?
Steven: I know we have it as a zombie show, but I think what’s really cool is that the zombies serve more as the affliction to what’s going on, as opposed to something that we might be fighting.
It’s obvious that it’s something that’s always there but it’s a drama about people and how they meet and what happens to them.
Laurie: It’s really a morality tale. It’s an exploration of the human condition and what happens when one is faced with adverse circumstances. Does one become a natural born leader or do they just sink to the bottom of their own humanity and resort to mere savagery?
It’s very Lord of the Flies in many ways.