Returns February 9
Q: You’ve starred in classics like In the Heat of the Night and In Cold Blood. Has your fame from The Walking Dead surpassed the recognition you get for all those other movies?
A: Certainly I get recognized a lot, that’s a new condition of life. It’s not totally new, but to the degree it is now, it is new. I’m probably more recognizable with the beard and the ponytail. A lot of people in airports recognize me too — a lot of the agents when I’m passing through. And you have more of people stopping and wanting to take pictures of you and you saying, “I have a plane to catch.” The fans are really nice and they’re upfront and the people that talk to me are certainly pro-Hershel. I’ll hear things like, “Ah, you grew your leg back!”
Q: Have you been getting interesting fan mail or seen any tributes to Hershel that you’ve particularly enjoyed?
A: People respond to Hershel everywhere. What’s really neat is that people have said they watch it with their families. Fathers and sons watch it together and it gives them some common ground to have conversation together.
Q: Hershel has changed a lot from the farm owner we met in Season 2. Do you prefer the new Hershel, or the old one?
A: It’s been a fun journey. From the beginning on the farm, he was much more of a tight character. Everyone in the show has lost enormously; they’ve lost family members and daughters and sisters and loved ones. But because of being on the farm, his losses were as physical as anyone else’s. That was his farm, where he lived and raised his family. So you saw him lose something that had been in the family for a long time.
Q: What were you told about Hershel going into Season 4?
Q: When did you find out that you were going to have to grow out your hair and your beard for this season?
A: Yeah they gave me a little heads up with that. I had about a month, really. But also that hair is a wig. I couldn’t have grown my hair out — that would have taken me like four years.
Q: Was that an aesthetic change you embraced?
A: I kept thinking I should go and get myself a Harley or something! In that Georgia heat it can get pretty uncomfortable with the old beard, but I liked it.
Q: The Governor takes shelter with Tara, Lilly and David. Have you ever been taken in by strangers?
A: I’ve done a lot of traveling on my own around the world and there’s been many times where I’ve met people where they’ve helped me out, and taken me in and given me a meal. Particularly when I was a younger man, that happened a lot. I was in Africa when I was about 18, and I met these Kenyan guys — I was climbing Mt. Kenya and they helped me out and I shared a meal and a campsite with them. I was in Venice once and I was sleeping in the train station and a guy there sort of let me travel with them. Those kind of traveling kindnesses have happened a lot to me.
Q: The Governor begins charming his way back into the fold this season. What kind of people have you studied in order to play him?
Q: What did you know about Tyreese going into this season?
A: That Tyreese was going to go through a lot. That’s what Scott [Gimple] was saying. He was gonna get tested, and he was going to kind of get turned inside out. No actor worth his weight doesn’t want to take on stuff like that. So that’s been real gratifying and rewarding to be able to do that.
Q: We come back this year and Tyreese has a girlfriend. How’d you swing that?
A: Man, Melissa Ponzio is so beautiful and talented, I wish she and I had the opportunity to work together more. But it was awesome working with her. That was my mantra: Tyreese should have a love interest. I just didn’t expect Karen to die in the second episode. I want a love interest and I want her to be around the entire season — but Karen’s death is very pivotal in the storyline.
Q: Tell me about the scene between Daryl, Rick and Tyreese after he finds out about Karen. What was that like to shoot?
A: That was really intense man, because we’re all game, and we all love doing our own stunts. There was a lot of adrenaline, and the director was fantastic. It was kind of claustrophobic because that space was pretty small, with dudes throwing each other around.
Q: Did you strike some fear into their hearts?
Q: What do you do to get yourself in shape for the show every season?
A: Norman and Andy and I have a lot of discussions about this. We do have to be strong enough to pull off what we’re asked as actors to do. But then also, we want to make it realistic, in that we don’t want these guys to be jacked or anything like that. I just try to stay relatively healthy. But when it comes to gearing up for the new season, we even had discussions about taking a one week camping trip to get disheveled and disgusting. It’s interesting, because once we start shooting we actually start getting skinnier and more malnutritioned and gaunt as we go. The first and second season, Jon Bernthal got me into boxing, and that’s been good to just get strong without making you look like you’re ‘roiding out.
Q: Do you box with any other cast members?
A: Just Jon actually. He could kill me with one hit.
Q: Do any other aspects of The Walking Dead become a part of your life?
A: This show is really intense in that we’re living out these characters’ lives. So you just kind of live out really terrible situations that hit really close to home, so last year with what Glenn was going through, it was hard to not fall into his pit of despair and depression and keep my composure. I think that’s your job to kind of separate the two, so you don’t go insane.
Q: Glenn and Maggie have the best room at the prison. What’s the coolest place you’ve ever slept?
A: There are nice hotels, but nothing beats 1993, on the middle of a small mat on my grandma’s farm in one of the hottest summers in Korea. You can like smell the grain that they’re growing — they actually own a Tobacco farm. And you’re just laying there on the ground while my grandmother’s cooking.
Q: Are zombies a part of Korean culture at all?
Q: What did you know about Carol’s arc going into this season?
A: Not a whole lot was given to me except the wardrobe, but looking at that I could tell there was some stuff coming up for her, and that she was going to really be fighting hard to keep herself and everyone else safe. It’s much more utilitarian this year. Also these boots she has: those boots mean business! They did let me know that I would sort of be teaching the children some survival skills and I was really looking forward to that.
Q: Does teaching children come naturally to you?
A: I think I would probably have some high expectations of the kids, like how a parent has to use tough love. It’s funny because I was a horrible student; I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. I’m pretty drifty.
Q: Carol is so cutthroat now! Do you agree with her kill-or-be-killed mentality?
A: Yeah, it’s exactly what she says. You can’t live in that world unless you are strong. And she knows that. A lot of changes in Carol this season she’s been forced into in order to survive. For so long, she’s had somebody tell her that she can’t do things. And at some point, she would believe those voices. It does affect your self-esteem. So I think it’s great that these real-world challenges in the show are really pushing her to do what she’s capable of, and forcing her to make choices. To see her so involved and taking this initiative and making choices and accepting consequences for them, I think it’s really great.
Q: This season is understandably an emotional one for Carol. How hard is it for you to cry on cue?
Q: Sasha seems very close with her brother Tyreese. Did you model that off of a relationship you have with a sibling?
A: Well I do have siblings, but I don’t have any brothers. I was inspired by some friendships I have. I didn’t have to pull too much from my past experiences, because Chad and I have a very cool connection anyways — it was very brother and sister when we first met. We have the same sense of humor, so we clicked with each other from the beginning. We really were just able to build off of that, and not have to inject something else onto it.
Q: Last season was your first on The Walking Dead. Is there an initiation ritual for new cast members?
A: Wouldn’t it be funny if there was, and we had to run through some walkers or something? But that’s the beauty of this cast and crew: it’s the most welcoming environment that I’ve ever been in. It’s very familial, and they welcome you with open arms.
Q: What was the most surprising thing about being on the set of The Walking Dead at first?
A: I was a fan, and when I got there, you think in your actor mind, “I’m sure that these walkers are nice.” You think they’re just doing a really good job making this look scary for the viewer. But that is not true! My first day on-set I had a fight sequence. The set is very dark — if you’re walking alone around the set, you look twice. This walker comes up to me, and I’m supposed to hit him in the head with a shovel and when we were just rehearsing he came at me pretty fast, and I was sort of startled. Six inches in front of your face, they look scary!
Q: Sasha has gotten some good walker kills this season. Do you enjoy that aspect of the show?
Q: After last season’s finale, what were you hoping for your character this season?
A: I was mostly just hoping to see how all the characters fared from that and came out on the other side. How we were coping with whether or not the Governor was still a threat. What I was most looking forward to, which has really materialized, is a lot more character study, and we’ve definitely come into that this season.
Q: What did you know about Maggie’s story arc going into this season?
A: I knew that we would have the possibility of a pregnancy and I knew that Maggie’s M.O. this year would be, “Live, don’t just survive.” There’s apprehension about whether or not she could have a baby, but I think she definitely would. Even in today’s society, I don’t think anybody is ever ready for a baby — but that doesn’t make it the wrong choice when you have it.
Q: We you pleased that Maggie and Glenn’s relationship is back to a better place this season?
A: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s important to see people crack and then see which way they go. If something goes bad and you come back from it, then it’s like OK, you really mean it. And it’s been good to portray that kind of relationship and explore that kind of hope in this world.
Q: I’m told you have a habit of bringing your dog on-set a lot. How does he react to the sight of walkers?
Q: Season 4 opens with Rick assuming the role of a farmer. Did you do anything to prepare for this new vocation?
A: Well I just moved to a farm in England, so yeah, it worked out kind of nicely that Rick became a pig farmer. I planted a lot of trees in my orchard and basically did some farming in between seasons. It was unknown to me but it was a kind of method break. I like planting trees — it makes me feel good about myself.
Q: Do you have experience with livestock on your farm?
A: We’ve got chickens. I do love pigs and I’m trying to ship them home. I’d love to get some Iberian pigs and get them in our field, but my wife doesn’t want them. She wants horses and I’m losing the battle for pig over horse.
Q: What did you know in the off-season about where Rick was headed?
A: We wanted to certainly address the Carl issue and his responsibilities as a father to both of his children. On the back of Andrea dying and bringing in the people from Woodbury, we talked a lot about maybe dialing him back. It’s funny, because I think this season can be summed up in a question, which is, Can we ever come back from the things we’ve done and return to the people we once were? For a lot of the characters this season, that’s interwoven in their story lines.
Q: Rick’s sporting a burlier beard this season — was that your choice?
Low Winter Sun Executive Producer, Showrunner and Writer Chris Mundy talks about other places he considered setting the series, making the decision to kill off a major character, and how his background in journalism influenced the show.
Q: I’m a former D.P.D. cop. Do you or anyone of your staff have current police input on content? – Mark H.
A: I spent a whole lot of time in Detroit in the time leading up to it, and there were a couple cops who were really helpful in terms of talking me through stuff and taking me around to see parts of the city that you wouldn’t normally get to see. One guy, Ira Todd — who ended up being our technical advisor later — the first thing he said to me was, “Do you want to see Detroit, or do you want to see the real Detroit?” I was lucky to get pretty hands-on. There was a guy named Manny Martinez that used to run homicide, he took me around a fair amount and introduced me to a lot of people. There was actually a benefit for an officer who was involved in a very controversial shooting there that they had at the Gaelic Hall, the same place where we filmed Brendan’s wake in Episode 3. Manny took me there, and there were hundreds of cops there. Ira took me on a raid of a blind pig. He was the lead undercover, and there was a SWAT takedown at about four or five in the morning of a blind pig just off Woodward Avenue. Even while we were filming the Pilot, all the actors and [director] Ernest [Dickerson] and I went up to Ira’s house for a cookout with ten or so cops. We sat around eating and drinking all day and trading stories. I feel like the access we had to people to get the truth and the real stories was pretty great.
Q: Can you expound upon the depth of Frank’s desire or obsession for Katia? – Will
A: For us, one of the central things is that there’s not a lot from the original, which was only two parts. For us it was always sort of a two-pronged thing. The scene with his wife in Ann Arbor in Episode 9, we talked about that in the first week when all the writers were together. We wanted to understand that in some ways, emotionally, his obsession with Katia was about this failed marriage with his ex-wife, and wondering if he could only love something that was broken, and whether or not other people were going to be able to love him.
Q: What were some other cities you considered setting the show in? – ITal
Ashley Bell who plays Karina in The Walking Dead – The Oath webisodes, talks about her own personal oath and what it feels like to stick your hand inside a zombie.
Q: You worked with Greg Nicotero in The Last Exorcism Part I. Was it fun to get the team back together for the webisodes?
A: Working with Greg Nicotero is incredible. He was responsible for breaking my fingers in that film. It’s a special effect where the character breaks her own fingers — I wasn’t method enough to break them myself, he had to save me and make breakable fingers for me. And when this project came along and it was the opportunity to work with him as a director, I jumped at the chance. He absolutely knows what he wants to do and it’s that complete control, the vision of the world that he has, that makes it so exciting.
Q: You were also in The Exorcism Part II – does the horror genre seek you out or do you seek it out?
A: Well I think it was an incredible opportunity to be asked back for Part II, but what I’m excited about is having switched to different genres since then. I’m coming out in a romantic comedy called The Bounceback and also did like a post-apocalyptic action film called The Day, another romantic period piece called Chasing Shakespeare, a comic book movie called Sparks… so it’s opened me up to playing other characters.
Q: Do you think the skills you learned playing a zombie will come in handy in any future experiences?
A: Yes, I can play dead when I don’t want to do something. Spoiler alert! That’s what was fun to was getting a chance to do that transformation. I’ve always been fascinated by special effects; both of my parents are actors and when I was 8 I went to visit my dad at Paramount when he was doing Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and they completely transformed him into this huge alien and I was like, “What is that? It looks like so much fun!” It was cool to be fitted for all the things that would be necessary to transform into this zombie. I guess I only made it to baby zombie phase in this, so I’m like a zombie-ette.
Q: What’s it like to stick your hands inside one?