Sarah Wayne Callies interview

Time Out chats to The Walking Dead star about zombies and violence

Interview, Hot seat

First things first, what’s your favourite zombie movie?
I haven’t ever gotten through one because they scare me too much. I tried to watch Zombieland, the Woody Harrelson comedy, thinking that because it was Woody Harrelson and it was a comedy it wouldn’t be scary. I made it through 20 minutes. The only zombie thing I’ve ever seen all the way through is Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.

So how did you end up working on zombie-fest The Walking Dead?
It was a combination of things. [US TV network] AMC is doing some extraordinary work and I’ve wanted to work for them since Mad Men. They are taking some of the biggest risks in TV. Director Frank Darabont, of course, was a draw, as was producer Gale Anne Hurd – talk about a woman who has created some incredible female characters. A lot of it came down to the script – my character is very, very light in the pilot, but Frank wrote two scenes just for the auditions. They were written with a rawness and honesty that took my breath away.

If you were in Dubai in and there was a zombie apocalypse, where would you hide and what would you do?
You know, I haven’t been here very long but heading to The Dubai Mall seems like a reasonable idea. If you could keep the zombies out, you could probably live there indefinitely – it’s so huge, it’s practically an ecosystem.

The Walking Dead is pretty violent. What’s your view on ultra-violence on TV?
That’s a really interesting question, because you’re talking about a show where we shoot a little girl in the face in the first 90 seconds. My feeling is that violence is twofold. One: in order to tell the story properly, you have to really believe that these people are living in a world where these things actually happen, I don’t think it’s enough to just say ‘there’s a threat out there’. I think we have to palpably put the audience in mind of it and that sends an immediate message. And two: We’ve been very careful never to glamorise it or glorify it.

How so?
Rick [the lead male character] doesn’t ever pull the trigger without it costing him something personally. This isn’t a movie where you’ve got some superstar who kills 10 people then walks away whistling and swaggering into the sunset. This is a world where people find themselves changing because of the horrendous things they have to do. If there’s a definition of the responsible use of violence, then that’s the world that we’re in. That’s the world we’re aiming for.
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