By Contributing Writer The Lady Cocotte
The mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead is only days away so it’s the perfect time for James Lipton to invite the cast and creative team members to Inside the Actor’s Studio. On the acting side we get Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon), Lauren Cohan (Maggie Greene), Steven Yeun (Glenn Rhee) and Danai Gurira (Michonne). They are joined by the creator of both the comic and the show Robert Kirkman and showrunner Scott Gimple. I was hoping we’d get Greg Nicotero (oftimes director and head of makeup) because he is a great storyteller (and I have a little crush on him) and Melissa McBride (because, Carol) but it’s still a great group. I can’t wait to see how James Lipton handles them. He starts off by telling us that they’re not filming in New York as usual. Instead, James has traveled to Georgia and they’re doing the show on one of the stages where they shoot The Walking Dead. How cool! I’m loving this already.
Click through for all the highlights of the cast interviews…
James Lipton starts with Robert Kirkman since it all began with him. Kirkman always liked zombie movies but he hated how they ended (everyone dead or conveniently whisked away from danger). He wanted to explore how to survive in the zombie apocalypse “for years and years and years.” Frank Darabont, the director of the pilot, was the one who read the comic and saw it’s potential as a TV drama. It’s interesting that Kirkman credits Darabont as the creator of the TV series. Darabont was famously fired from the show a few days after presenting season 2 at Comic Con. The firing wasn’t just a surprise to Darabont. Everyone working on the series (not to mention the fans) were shocked as well. I’m glad to see that he’s not being erased from the history of the show. Changing course, James Lipton asks how close the storyline of the show follows the comic and Kirkman responds, “As closely as I want it to which is fairly close but not 100%.” The fans of Daryl Dixon appreciate that. Kirkman acknowledges that there is an end to the show (he knows what the end is) but it’s very far away. James Lipton asks if anyone else has a hint of it and looks at Scott Gimple. Kirkman jumps in, “I won’t tell him.”
James Lipton asks Scott Gimple a question I’ve always wondered about: what is a showrunner? He basically ties everything together. He deals with the writers, production, casting, hiring directors, lots of meetings, blah blah blah. I’m already bored. Let’s just say he keeps everything and everyone working together. He does drop some interesting intel. They edit the show as they film instead of waiting for all of the filming to complete. And all walkers flow thru Greg Nicotero (he casts them, trains them, paints them). Plus, Greg loves to play walkers whenever he can. James Lipton makes a joke about being in zombie makeup himself. Oh, please. Jamesie-pooh knows he looks good. I mean, you have to be pretty to be a call boy in Paris (and I don’t mean stage hand). Allegedly.
And now it’s time to assemble the cast. Norman Reedus (Daryl) was discovered by a talent scout drunk off his ass at a Hollywood party. After appearing in a couple of movies, Norman was cast in The Boondock Saints with Willem Dafoe. He got the extremely coveted role by drinking with the director. I’m starting to see a pattern here. Then he moved on to modeling (and knocking up supermodel Helena Christensen). And then there was The Walking Dead. Daryl Dixon is the only character on the show that doesn’t appear in the comics. How did I not know that? Daryl is my boo. I hang my head in shame. Norman originally read for the Merla character but they cast someone else. Then they called him with a newly added character (thank you, Frank Darabont). James Lipton mentions that Daryl was supposed to be killed off early on and Norman sputters in confusion. Kirkman confirms that there were a couple of days where Daryl was dying in episode 4 but they came to their senses. “In season 1?” Norman asks. Wow. He really didn’t know. Norman’s performance often inspires the Daryl character. He describes Daryl as “Some sort of wild dog, you know. If you found him and approached him he would snarl but if you could feed him and bring him home, he’ll follow you forever. And there’s a bit of that in me.” Sigh. Norman chooses the scene between him and Rick after they kill the “I claim it” crew as his perfect Daryl scene. “It meant a lot to him to hear those words, ‘you’re my brother.’” Then he calls Andrew Lincoln (Rick) a “pain in the ass.” He follows that up with, “The first one to set, the last one to leave. He’s our actor’s quarterback…I can’t say enough good things about him. He deserves all of this.”
Lauren Cohan (Maggie) was born in Philadelphia but moved to her mother’s homeland of England when she was 13 (and that’s where she picked up her English accent). She also converted to Judaism. Lauren planned to go to drama school but booked a movie role and never went back. She moved back to England a few weeks before auditioning for The Walking Dead (oops, bad timing). She watched the first season on her flight to set and told herself, “Oh, don’t screw this up. This is really good.” The scene Lauren chose to represent Maggie was arguing with her father Hershel about taking in the Atlanta group when they showed up at their farm. James Lipton calls her on looking away and putting her fingers in her ears when they show the clip. She starts to cry. It was one of her favorite moments on the show and part of that is because of Scott Wilson (Hershel Greene). It hurts thinking about the people they’ve lost. This cast is so close that an actor leaving the show can feel like a death.
Steven Yeun (Glenn) was born in South Korea. When he was 5 his family briefly moved to Canada and then on to Detroit, Michigan. James Lipton is also from Detroit! Steven got a degree in psychology from Kalamazoo College (which I only add because it’s fun to say Kalamazoo). While in college he got involved in improv and joined Second City as soon as he graduated. He moved to Hollywood with his improv group Wet Hands and six months later he was cast in The Walking Dead. Crazy. Steven’s ultimate Glenn scene is the revolving door with Noah and Nicholas. Yeah, that’s a good one. A horrible one but a good one. God, he’s a great actor. Steven compares Glenn to himself at 19, an angry boy fighting to become a man. “It was a reset for him, this apocalypse. It wasn’t the end of the world for him. It was actually a second life.” He says a lot of good things about Lauren. She says, “This has been, for both of us, our big break. You know, we’ve both done things before but this was our heartsong.”
Danai Gurira (Michonne) was born in Iowa but moved to Zimbabwe when she was 5. She joined the Children’s Performing Arts Workshop at 13 but, like Steven, studied psychology in college. “I wanted to break down sociological ills around race and gender.” Not long after apartheid ended, Danai visited South African artists and she was inspired to get a graduate degree in theatre. She’s a smart cookie, y’all. She had never seen The Walking Dead (because she hates horror) so once she got the audition she had to watch. “At first I was a scaredy cat. I really had trouble. I was like, ‘Oh god, I’ve got to watch this.’ But it was so full of heart and character and rich story that that started to really trump the fear factor for me.” Talking about how it felt to get the role, she gets choked up and she admonishes herself, “I’m not going to cry. That’s not going to happen right now.” Bravo cuts to a shot of Lauren, who just had her cry moment. Shady. Danai’s favorite Michonne scene is after she left the Atlanta group. She sees a walker that looks like her and she loses it and kills like 30 walkers. “There’s a budget attached to how many walkers one can kill. And so initially I was trying to advocate to get more than eight kills. I think I was allotted 8-10 kills. And I was like, ‘Come on. There are like 20 something walkers here.’ And they were like, ‘No Danai. You’re doing 8-10.’ The beauty was that Mr Nicotero just didn’t call cut. So I just kept going.”
And now it’s time for the questionnaire. What is your favorite word? Gimple: pasta. Kirkman: awesome. Norman: fuck. Lauren: spruce. Steven: help. Danai: “I like saying asinine.” What is your least favorite word? Lauren: indubitably. What turns you on? Gimple: passion. Norman: honesty. What turns you off? Lauren: trickery. Danai: manipulation. What sound or noise do you love? Steven: “My mom when she laughs at one of my dad’s jokes.” What sound or noise do you hate? Gimple: car alarms. What is your favorite curse word? Gimple: “The one with most utility will always be the F word.” Kirkman points out Gimple couldn’t even say it. And adds, “I like shit.” Norman: “I still like fuck.” Lauren: “Shit! Fuck!” Steven: “Shit. I like shit too.” Danai: “I don’t say it much but I like bollox.” What profession, other than your own, would you like to attend? Steven: painter. Danai: “I’d like to teach the arts, like fulltime.” What profession would you absolutely not like to undertake? Kirkman: “Welder. Watching my dad do it didn’t seem like fun.” Lauren: unemployed. Finally, if heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? Gimple: “Everything was alright for everyone. Everything is going to be alright for everyone.” Kirkman: “Would you like to go back?” Norman: “Wow, I wasn’t expecting you. Come on back. There’s seven Rihanna’s waiting for you in the hot tub.” Lauren: “I’ve been with you the whole time.” Steven: “Good job.” Danai: “You did good. Now come rest.”