Q: This is your first season on The Walking Dead production. How did you get into the swing of things?
A: I jumped in feet-first on the Premiere. It’s probably one of the biggest stunt-heavy episodes ever filmed. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to sit around and think about how to properly get into gear. We had to hit this gear immediately.
Q: How different is The Walking Dead from other series you’ve worked on?
A: This show is different in a lot of ways. When I first got involved with the show, I went back and watched the series from the beginning. It’s so unique in that each day you sit down to watch, you’re mentally involved. Your favorite character could die at any moment. It’s not The Cosby Show, it’s not Full House… this is the show that killed Hershel! Scott Gimple and the producers on this show are some of the bravest in Hollywood. [Laughs] It’s not a zombie show — the zombies move the story forward — but it is about people living in extraordinary circumstances and learning to cope with this new society and the lack of protection. They’re basically starting their lives over.
Q: What stunts from previous seasons do you find the most impressive?
A: Some of the stunts they’ve had to do with walkers have been impressive because the walker can’t react like normal people or how we’ve been trained to react. In this business, you learn that if you get shot, you fling yourself around and make the death spectacular, but it’s the exact opposite with a walker. There was one instance when a walker walked off of a porch, over the railing and never reacted like a stunt person would — he never put his arms over his head to save himself or balance himself to fall properly. He literally went crashing to the ground as a walker would. They’re not concerned with their safety or well-being.
Q: Is there a particular stunt that looks like it should be easy to laypeople, but in actuality is very difficult?
A: Almost daily as we’re killing walkers, it’s become commonplace to see a walker get stabbed in the head or shot, but each one is its own little work of art. The logistics of a knife being in somebody’s brain and how a hand would hold the knife buried in somebody is all one big choreographed move. Each one of these kills becomes its own little scenario that we have to watch very closely.
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Q: Of all the actors on set, which one do you have the hardest time convincing to use a stunt double?
A: Definitely Andy [Lincoln]! To an extent, we want them to do their own stunts and the audience wants to see their favorite character’s face in the middle of a big, dangerous action scene, but it’s my responsibility to not let them get hurt and have our whole show shut down. So, there comes a point where I look each actor in the eye and say, “Nope. You’re done in this scene,” and then I bring in the ugly stunt double to take the beating.
Q: Which The Walking Dead character do you think would make the best stunt actor?
A: Uh-oh, I’ll make enemies! [Laughs] It’s not that she would be a better stunt person than the others, but I’ve always been intrigued by Michonne. Danai is not just an actor, she’s an athlete and that really comes through in her character when it comes to the sword work. All of the actors have glimpses of being a great stunt double, had they chosen to pursue that. Andrew is great with fights, the same goes for Norman — I could go right down the list.
Q: Have you ever said no to a stunt because it was just too dangerous?
A: I’ll never tell a producer or director “no,” but what I will do is go out and figure out how to do it safely and what it will take to do it safely. Then, I let them decide whether it’s worth it or not.
A: Yep, that’s where I first worked with him. We had a similar stunt on The Walking Dead as something that happens in that movie, and we kept looking at each other thinking, “It’s been 13 years and here we are again.” I love good horror and psychological movies. The first Paranormal Activity was incredible. It scared the bejesus out of me!
A: Hellboy. He would just smash his way through zombies. I think he would do just fine.
Click here to read an interview with The Walking Dead‘s Executive Producer Tom Luse.