The Walking Dead: World Beyond Q&A — Nicolas Cantu (Elton)
Nicolas Cantu, who plays Elton on The Walking Dead: World Beyond, talks about how the night the sky fell impacted his character, his first encounter with an empty and putting the younger generation's stamp on the apocalypse.
Q: What was it like wearing that corduroy outfit the whole time?
A: I did feel like it was a cool part of the character, but there was a part of me that was also like, "I've got to take at least one of these layers off." It was like a hundred-degree weather we were filming in, so it could feel very sweaty. But once production was nearing, like, November, then it started feeling more cozy and I felt more wrapped up than some of my other castmates. So it was good half the time and bad half the time, but it was still fun. I love the suit. I really like the look it brings Elton's character. He kind of sticks out a lot, but I like it.
Q: Elton wants to finish his mom's manuscript and is a photographer. Are you a writer or photographer yourself?
A: I would write some scripts for my videos from time to time and that's always been fun. I do want to take writing somewhere different other than YouTube videos maybe sometime in the future. But, for photography, I mean I really just take pictures with my phone. But, if I'm at a cool place and I see something cool that I could take a snap of, I like doing it but I'm by no means a professional photographer.
Q: Your character seems like a contradiction in some ways. He's very gentle, but also teaches karate. How did you go about cultivating?
A: I feel that everybody's got some contradictory qualities. Like, for me, sometimes I really like being in a social group and another day I just want to stay inside and keep to myself, so the contradiction between that very rough-style karate and his gentle nature towards other aspects of life I think is very realistic.
Really the only thing I had to cultivate was the karate skills because I'm by no means a black belt, so I had to find a dojo in my area and I trained for two months before we shipped out to shoot. It was a very involved physical process. Now I can, you know, defend myself in case another karate guy attacks me.
Q: What's it like being part of a story that views the apocalypse through the eyes of a younger generation?
A: I think it's very cool as someone who is a part of the younger generation. It feels like our own unique stamp on The Walking Dead Universe. And growing up watching the original show, it's very interesting to see how different it is by just shifting the perspective of the characters a couple of years. Every moment I spent on set was just full of wonder and appreciation for the sets and environments that they would build. It was so, so fun.
I was the youngest on set, but it was still pretty lively. You know, on weekends we would explore Richmond [Virginia] and just kind of see what there was to do in the city. It was a very fun experience. I loved filming the first season.
Q: How challenging was the scene in Episode 5 where Elton has to conquer his claustrophobia and childhood demons to fix the boat?
A: I'd say the challenge of that scene was just being able to stay in it for multiple takes because we kind of had two setups for that scene. We had to set up where I was gearing up to go underneath the boat and realizing, "Hey, nobody else can do this but Elton, so you're going to have to, you know, push past all your trauma and go under there." That was on our set by the shore of that lake. And then we had to set up where I was actually crawling underneath it, and I think it was the same day but it was a completely different location.
And so going from being really into it in one part of the scene and then maybe doing lunch and then having to go right back into it—I'd say that was the challenge. You just kind of stay in the mindset of a kid who does have childhood trauma of being locked in a box when the apocalypse is breaking out. That's heavy stuff.
Q: Can you talk about how the Night the Sky Fell affected Elton and his outlook on life?
A: That event is very traumatic for a number of characters on the show, but Elton's experience was one of isolation. He was in a museum with his father when everything broke out and his dad just locked him in a wooden crate and told him to wait it [out], so his experience wasn't really seeing the world falling apart in front of him. It was one more of being stuck in this box and then leaving this confined area and finding out what had happened—because he leaves the box and he finds his dad with bullet holes in his forehead because he turned and the army had to put him down. So I feel like his experience was one of finding a new world, I guess. Like instead of seeing it change right in front of him, he was just kind of dropped into it.
And I think that changes his outlook because he's always been a man of science. His parents taught him very important science-y things and so he takes that with him into the apocalypse, but I feel, like, specifically being in that box, that's taught him how to deal with isolation because he was a pretty lonely kid. I mean, both of his parents died and, when he got to the complex that our characters are in at the pilot episode, he's spent a lot of time alone, so I think that really affected him socially with how he had to deal with the apocalypse.
Q: What strengths do you think Elton brings to the group?
A: I think he provides a lot of, I guess, planning and those brainiac sort of attributes. He's always coming up with plans to help the crew. I mean, in Episode 3 they use Elton's plan ultimately to escape the "BOG" [Blaze of Gory]. I guess he brings the group together with plans that'll hopefully work. He's just trying his best to get his friends through this horrible, horrible world.
Q: What was your first encounter with an empty like?
A: Well, my first encounter as Nicolas, was on a different scene. I wasn't present as Elton. So I was just kind of walking around on set just checking everything out at nighttime so, you know, it was a little bit spooky and I'd never seen any empty with makeup before and we go into this holding room and there's just a huge group of them and at first I'm like, "Oh, that's freaky!" because I don't do well with horror stuff but then you get to know them and they're like, "Yeah, man, my name's Michael. I have two kids. I have a dog." And you're like, "Oh yeah, it's a normal person. I've got to remember."
But, as Elton, it was in Episode 2 when Iris was dealing with her first one. That one was funny because it was the way that we shot the scene. It was of course Iris going to take care of the enemy, but we were all just standing back and watching her and cheering her on, hoping that she could push through all her dreams and stuff. That was a very character-driven moment for her. And then she tackles the empty into that storm drain and I go run to go help her, and in one of the takes I actually tripped because the ground was muddy. So my first encounter with an empty was way more dangerous than it had to be just because of my clumsiness.
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