On 11 January 2014, the undead came back to life at LaSALLE College. We were graced by the presence of the two stars of the hit AMC television show The Walking Dead, Andrew Lincoln, who portrays natural leader and family man Rick Grimes, and Norman Reedus, who plays redneck and crossbow expert (I personally prefer “sexy survivalist”) Daryl Dixon.
When they arrived at around 11.40am, coolly clad in black, the sound of deafening screams and chants from over 250 fans gathered rivalled the blood-curdling shrieks we are so used to hearing on the show. They may have had this on their minds.
Our very own Adrian Pang served as host for the event, and kicked things off by putting the actors through their paces as they navigate through an obstacle course filled with walkers.
Showing off some of the badassery that fans see onscreen, Andrew and Norman were pitted against each other as they completed a myriad of tasks, including shooting Nerf Blasters and toy crossbows at walker targets, and saving captured hostages, a.k.a the luckiest fans with the best seats in the house.
Although Andrew described the obstacle course as “terrifying”, he emerged the winner as he cleared it in a shorter time than Norman. Long live Rick Grimes! Now, we definitely know whose camp we want to be in when the apocalypse inevitably arrives and the walkers take over the land of the living.
It was clear to all the love and appreciation the affable actors had for their fans. Throughout the obstacle course race, they darted around the arena and into the crowds, offering to take lots of selfies and autographing all manner of things related to The Walking Dead, while Adrian expressed mock exasperation and tried his best to steer the conversation back on track whenever the guys had wandered off to the adoring fans.
Next up, about 500 invited guests attended an interactive session where the actors shared their experiences on the set of The Walking Dead, how they got the television gig, owning their characters, and gave invaluable acting advice. The hour-long session was light-hearted with banter and jokes all around, and the actors took even more photos with the fans towards the end, much to their delight. Let’s hope it won’t be another 4 seasons before our favourite television anti-heroes return to the little red dot!
Be sure to catch The Walking Dead when season 4 returns on FOX Movies Premium (Starhub TV Ch. 622), 10 February at 11.30am (right after its US broadcast) and 8.10pm (same-day encore)! To find out what you missed in the interactive session, check out the full transcript here below!
Adrian Pang: Welcome to Singapore guys! Thank you so much for embracing our little island. I understand you guys were actually a little shocked at the climate, it is a little bit hot today.
Norman Reedus: It’s nice, though.
Andrew Lincoln: Yeah, it reminds us of Atlanta.
AP: You guys were in Atlanta for most of it, all of it?
Both: All of it.
AP: Is it anything like this?
AL: Pretty much, yeah. It’s a hundred degrees, and as soon as it gets 100 degrees and humid, they kick us out and off we go.
NR: It’s a great weight loss program.
AP: I would imagine so. So all the sweat we see onscreen is real?
NR: Yeah, some of the blood as well.
AP: So it’s not like it’s freezing and they have to spray on sweat on you?
AL: Well, no. It’s really hot… (meanwhile, NR is doing some intense eye-flirting with the audience)
AP: (To Norman) You are just incorrigible, aren’t you! How are we going to make it through today?
AL: He was just showing me some pictures of him at an award ceremony…
AP: Was he wearing any clothes?
AL: Yes, yes he was. But he was holding the award in a very provocative manner.
NR: It was like this (stands up, holds the water bottle, in front, there)
AL: (laughs) Next to Robert Downey Jr.
AP: Showing off their respective “iron men” (both AL and NR still laughing). Is this what it’s like on set as well between the two of you? Non-stop joking and nonsense.
AL: It’s love (NR nods).
AP: So you guys have been at it for 4 seasons. How has the shooting process evolved over the years?
AL: It has always been hard, and fast. You don’t get many takes but the attitude has always been, “Let’s give it everything we’ve got.” It’s been an amazing show for all of us. It has been the greatest job in my career and I love it… Sorry I am jetlagged (laughs).
AP: What’s an average day on set like for you guys?
NR: We live in different areas. I sort of live out in the woods. The sun is still not up and I leave the house. I ride my motorcycle to the set, through the country. We get to work. Either I bring him a coffee or he brings me a coffee (audience goes awww). We blast some music, they cover us up in blood and sweat and we argue who has the most dirt.
AP: So you guys one-up each other on the dirt and blood?
AL and NR: Yeah (laughs).
NR: We then go into the trailer and talk about the day and we just get hard and go in (audience laughs)
AP: (mock anger) OI! OIII! Don’t encourage him! (AL laughs and shakes head, NR buries face in hands)
NR: I love you man (hugs AL).
AL: Who are students here? (LaSALLE students cheer) I look forward to seeing some acting out of you guys.
AP: Later, you will get to see some of the students in action but first, you guys have been involved for a few years in the filming of The Walking Dead. Were you guys aware of the graphic novel? Were you fans of the graphic novel before you started on this?
NR: No (audience laughs).
AP: And you, Andrew?
AL: No, we’re exactly the same.
AP: Was it just a gig? Just a job?
AL: I got sent the script and it was a breakdown of what it was about and only afterwards when I read the first episode, that I realised it was based on this graphic novel. I went to my local comic book store in London and said, “Have you heard about this comic?” And they showed me a wall, and I said, “Which is it?” They said, “All of it.” That was when I realised it was quite a big deal and then I started reading it and realised that it was an amazing source material.
AP: What about you? Did you do that kind of homework?
NR: I’m not in the comic (audience laughs). I live in New York and I went to Los Angeles for pilot season, and pilot season in the States is when everyone comes and it’s all about the casting for TV shows. It was my first pilot season and I wasn’t sure what to expect. They gave me scripts like this (hands gesturing huge stacks) and it was cop drama, lawyer drama, doctor drama, buddy-buddy-funny-roommate drama and then The Walking Dead. It was so different. And I was just like, “Give me it. I’ll play one day.” It was just so good. It was Frank Darabont, AMC, and I was watching all these AMC shows and I heard the hype and how big the comic book was, so I just wanted to get in on it somehow, so luckily Frank made these redneck roles…
AL: (laughs) We came on set and he threw squirrels at us. It was love at first sight. He beat the shit out of you.
NR: He beat the crap out of me. I had whiplash. They put me up in this hotel, and I couldn’t lift my head.
AL: It’s The Walking Dead welcome. You just get punished on the show. Everybody gets strangled…
AP: It’s like initiation. If you don’t survive that, you are out of the show.
AL: (nods) Yeah.
NR: I found the character that day, doing the second scene. It was… they were friends, they had done some press together, and I was the new kid. My lines were like, “Let’s do up squirrels,” and I’m throwing squirrels at people. I was like, “Do you want me to lasso?” and then I had to say “Merle, get up here”. I’m way back here and I’m looking at all these people that are friends, and they are looking at me like, “Who is this asshole?” (audience laughs)
AL: We really were (laughs).
NR: They put me in a corner. And I was like don’t look at me. I found the character that day, ashamed of who he was, whatever that means… but that day was so special to me.
AL: That’s great.
AP: As you go along, I’m sure you’re very aware of the fan pressure globally. Is that something that puts unnecessary pressure on you or do you love it?
AL: It’s such a bubble where we shoot. We go off to the middle of nowhere in the woods. And the crew that has been involved, pretty much 85-90% of it, has been on it since the beginning. So we kinda go off and get sweaty and dirty and just do this thing and then we come and get assaulted by you guys. And it’s weird, I’m not going to lie to you. It’s just unbelievable. What you realise, is that it has gone out of our hands, it has become your shows, the fans (audience cheers). The only pressure I feel is to tell the greatest story you can tell. But we’ve always had that mentality. I spoke to my agent, I said, “Are we really doing a zombie show? I’ve been working for 18 years and now it’s zombie?” and he said, “Trust me.” It is like throwing yourself off a cliff, you have to commit to it. It’s life or death; the acting students will know this. You’ve got to inhabit it, otherwise it just becomes camp or it doesn’t ring true. So everybody, the attitude has just always been like this, giving everything we’ve got and hope that it works.
AP: What’s great about it is that you guys take it absolutely seriously. I mean, the intensity and all the human drama, is all for real. The zombie thing is almost peripheral.
AL: Yeah, it’s Lord of the Flies. It’s about survival, It’s about how people change. I’ve always said it was a family drama set in hell (audience laughs).
AP: Sums up my life (audience laughs). As you rightly point put, it belongs to the fans now and the fans are just so rabid about their obsession with the show. The fans have gone on and done their own versions of the show and taken storylines on their own tangents.
NR: I saw a porno the other day (audience laughs).
AP: Is that right?
AL: What is it called?
NR: When you come to New York, I will show it to you. But the guy who played me, good job! (thumbs up from NR)
AP: Big crossbow.
NR: Big crossbow (audience laughs).
AP: As I was saying, the fans have gone on and done their own worship of the series, this Youtuber has put together a video montage of both of you. We’re going to take a look at it right now (AL covers ears and does not watch, clip plays and features bromantic scenes of the two). [link www.youtube.com/MrKulawyJohny]
NP: (to AL) I love you, by the way.
AP: Yeah, so when did you guys fall in love with each other?
NR: Since day one.
AP: You had each other at hello.
AL: I think, Jon Bernthal, in the first season, the editors cut a love story between me and him, so I think it’s every season, they’re trying to hook me up with someone.
AP: There’s a special segment in the porn version with that? (audience laughs)
NR: Actually, there is, with you and Jon.
AP: So it’s about love, as you rightly point out. There seems to be a lot of love and it’s all about survival and sticking together in hard times and that kind of thing. Is that what it’s like with the actual filming process as well? I’m sure there are a lot of challenges you guys face everyday.
NR: Our crew is so in it with us. You can be in a scene and look at Mike, our cameraman, and he’ll just give you a look whether you’ve got it or not. You feel it the whole way down the line.
AL: It’s a great atmosphere to work in. I think it is one of the most liberating, safe places I’ve ever worked in. We built this really exciting space and just out of necessity. There came a point, when I just thought, we’re not here for long on the planet, are we? Let’s get existential. Why not just give it everything you’ve got and see what works? It feels like one of those shows where you can. You can go anywhere, so it’s a thrill. I love it. I love this job. Long may I continue and long may I survive (audience cheers). I could, of course, be dead already (laughs).
AP: On set everyday with the intensity and the subject matter, are there a lot of laughs as well?
NR: Yeah. A little thing we do in an intense scene if it’s just the two of us, I’ll whisper, “I love you” and he’ll whisper back…
AL: “Fuck you.” (audience laughs) It’s actually on film…
AP: It’s like a real marriage.
AL: Yeah, it was at the end of season 3, when we are carrying away Andrea’s body. If you haven’t seen season 3, I’m sorry that I’ve just ruined it.
AP: One of the things that fans look out for, episode after episode, is all that blood and all that gore. Did you expect that, going into filming this series, that it would be that in-your-face for a tv show?
AL: If you didn’t imagine that it was going to happen in a zombie survival horror, I think you’ve got to speak to your agent a bit. I just remember the second episode where Steven Yuen and I had to chop up bodies and smear ourselves in blood and gore and had hands hanging over our shoulders and a couple of feet. We shot this scene and it went on and on until about 4.30 in the morning and it really was one of the weirdest moments of my life, “Is this never going to end?” It felt so wrong on so many levels.
AP: You never expect that the phrase “hands all over me” could mean that. I remember watching that scene with my wife and she said, “How do they keep on a straight face?”
AL: We were doing it at 4:30 in the morning. We were very tired.
NR: That was right before I got there.
AL: Yeah, it was.
AP: That was pre-Norman. Now, what is it about each of your characters that made you go, “That is the role for me, I really want to play that role”?
AL: I don’t think it was a matter of wanting anything. They just said, “would you go for this part?” and I just grew into it. The first episode was me waking up, along for most of the episode. It was a great way to start this job because I spent so much time alone, the enormity of the situation and the job itself, kinda informed who this guy was. And the reunion scene, coming back and meeting my family, that unlocked a lot because I hadn’t got to work with anybody yet.
AP: And you’re a family man yourself so that was something that you relate to?
AJ: I think Frank Darabont, the director, amazing guy who created and wrote the first season… we spoke after I put myself on tape. He skyped me and we spoke for an hour and a half about his ideas for the show and about who I was. I’m convinced that the only reason I got the job was because my son had just been born. I hadn’t slept for 4 days and I looked like a zombie going in.
AP: That’s the look we want. They went, “You’re the man.”
AL: I just looked haggard. But I think that really chimed with Frank. He liked the fact that I was a father and a husband. That’s what I enjoy about the character. I love the fact that he is not a man with no name… (NR who has turned away in mock anger, audience laughs)
AP: Norman, how has your character evolved through the seasons?
NR: It’s interesting. Television is such a different animal from movies. In a movie, you have a short amount of time to tell the story. Television over 4 years, it’s such a blessing, I’ve never really experienced something like this before but you have the opportunity to zig zag along and drop these little seeds behind and with time, they turn into trees, they turn into storylines. Little things you do turn into stories sometimes. Like when Andrea shoots me, and Carol leans down and kisses me on the forehead, I went like this (flinching action), don’t hit me. That wasn’t in the script and that branched out into his childhood and stuff like that. Certain times they talk to me about having a love interest and stuff, and I really want to play it awkward, like I don’t have any sort of game or whatever. If it’s going to happen, I don’t want to be the guy that throws someone up against a tree in the moonlight, I don’t think that Daryl is that guy. After talking about stuff like that, it’s sort of happening like that. It’s a natural progression and it’s such a collaborative job we’re in. The writers are in it with us, everyone is in it with us… a lot of times, don’t get me wrong, they’re like “Absolutely not, like no way in hell,” but the poncho, stuff like that, little things, I asked for that. Props called me and was like “you’ve got so many things, you’ve got the motorcycle” (audience laughs). Especially with Merle gone, I wanted to play him like he was embarrassed of who he was and he’s putting on a front. There’re reasons why people fight, and Daryl always had to fight, his back is up against the wall, he’s that kind of a fighter. And with Merle out of the picture, and he can grow into a man and looks up to someone, has a buddy now (gesturing to AL) and is not afraid to be introduced to people and have people know him. It’s a natural progression.
AP: It’s essentially about a group of ordinary people thrown into an extremely extraordinary situation. With a storyline like that, how much improvisation are you allowed filming on a day-to-day basis?
NR: This guy here is one of the hardest-working actors I’ve ever worked with in my life. He’s got really good ideas. I’m one of those guys if I don’t like something, I’m like “No!” (throws cushion), and Andy will be like “Let me tell him.” It happens all the time. But, yeah he’s got really good ideas.
AL: This season, certainly, I’ve come up with terrible ideas. They were really bad ideas but you had some great ones. We’ve been living with these characters for four years, and any actor that is out there, knows that there is a point which you own the character. And we do get a lot of directors coming in, and it is our job to defend and honour our character sometimes. But we’re lucky in the way that the scriptwriters have been pushing and changing the characters, that has always been the attraction for me. These people start in one place, and this environment changes them and continues to change them. Breaking Bad is a perfect example. It’s an amazing show, and you see the evolution. It’s perfect, in my opinion, what they did with that show. That’s what we aspire to, that kind of storytelling.
AP: It’s great to see two actors who love their jobs so very, very much. We are going to see another clip now, this from season 4 episode 2 (zombie virus in the prison episode). Let’s take a look (AL covers ears and does not watch again, clip plays). Were you deliberately not watching or were you crying?
AL: Jet-lagged. I never watch.
AP: Have you not watched your stuff?
AL: Not since we worked together.
NR: Ah, let’s talk about that!
AP: Seriously, have you not watched any of it?
AP: You don’t watch The Walking Dead?! Seriously?
AL: I live it, I get to do it. Much more fun.
AP: What about yourself, Norman?
NR: I watch it with my kid because he used to be too scared to watch it. Then he started watching like this (through the gaps over fingers covering eyes). He’s 14 now so he was 10. But I once picked him up from school, during the second season, and he had this big smile on his face. I was like, “What’s that smile about?” Some of the big kids told him, “Is your dad Daryl Dixon? We love him” So now he’s getting big kid love, and I make it a thing to watch it. He’s funny, he loved the Governor, then hated the Governor, he changes all the time. I don’t tell him what’s going to happen, ever.
AP: If I had a 14 year old, I would do the exact same thing, bonding over this. So is it an actor thing, that you just don’t watch yourself?
AL: I’ve spoken about it quite a lot. I worry that I’m boring people now but I just don’t watch myself. I’ve stopped watching myself 15 years ago. It just wasn’t helpful. I would watch myself and it was kinda painful to watch myself. I became self-conscious and I just thought, I’m going to stay out of it and not watch it.
AP: You should watch it because you’re pretty damn good (audience cheers).
AL: Thank you.
AP: (starts talking but gets interrupted by walkers) LaSALLE students trying to get a gig on the show. How’s that for a non sequitur? (audience laughs)So how are the action scenes like with the gun action and the crossbow?
NR: Oh yeah, I have injured myself a couple of times.
AP: How much of yourself do you put in?
AL: You can’t be anything but. You have to be psychotic. That’s what I do, I have to pull everything, imagine, it’s all in you, you just have to find a way to find it. There are some qualities that I just do not have that Rick has, the determination, the courage. It’s all me, you just find different ways physically. I like moving, and dialect, I think gives you a character straightaway. And living in the South is really helpful.
AP: Was it a challenge for you? Obviously being a British actor, adapting to a different accent.
AL: Well, yeah, I didn’t want to eff it up. If someone asked you to lead a show on AMC, you want to get that bit right. I went earlier and worked with a dialect coach, and I still work with a dialect coach on the really small nuances. I did 3 weeks before we started filming, and I stayed in dialect when I was out.
AP: So very immersive day-to-day. Having said that, how have you managed to find the time and opportunity to do other work? I know you guys are really busy outside, with commitments like this. How do you manage that?
AL: I go home and see my family. That’s what I do (audience goes awww).
NR: I go home to his family (audience laughs).
AP: Have you had other opportunities to dabble in other aspects, directing… can you tell us a little bit more about that?
NR: I’ve got a book on photography that just came out….
AP: All your selfies.
NR: I think there is one. Yeah, it’s all over in bookstores.
AL: It’s great, it’s beautiful.
NR: He actually wrote a foreword for me….
AL: At crossbow point (laughs).
NR: I’ve done some films in between and stuff but this job is so satisfying, and it takes so much out of you, that the desire to go get work in between is something I don’t think either one of us are dying to do. Although sometimes you find a thing to do, but all we talk about is when we are going back. I really like this job.
AL: We go back in April and we finish in November, nothing shoots really in December or January, and the window with us gone is very very small. But I’m actively reading scripts for things to do and I love working in America.
AP: Both of you had quite a different journey getting to where you are. Andrew, you went to RADA, and Norman, you fell into this almost by accident. The way IMDB has it is that you made an ass of yourself and then someone went, “that guy…”
NR: I don’t know if IMDB says “ass of himself” but yeah, that is how it was.
AP: So drama students take note. You either go to drama school, or you are very loud a a party.
NR: I was just at a SAG [Screen Actors Guild] thing and it was all actors. The look on their faces when I tell them how I started (audience laughs)… Everyone’s path is individual, how they get to and where they are going is their own individual thing. And I’ve been learning a lot as I’ve been working and I’m always learning. I never feel like I’ve got it. I’m hungry all the time, and we help each other. The whole cast is always learning together. Like Scott Wilson…
AL: Who plays Hershel in the show. He’s just a god, a legend. This is his 52nd year in Hollywood so you get to learn from incredible people like that and then, the joy of being an actor is that you get to work with new people coming out of drama school, and their ideas and their energy. That’s the buzz, you never settle. If you do, give it up man.
NR: I love that as well, I mean you don’t watch yourself and you find the excitement doing it. You’re right. It’s all about that. It’s totally true.
AP: Very inspiring indeed. I think it will resonate very well, especially with the acting students. Before we move on, there’s one burning question I’ve been told that I have to ask. Many female fans want to know, what the heck is going on between Daryl and Carol?
NR: (does finger in the hole move, audience laughs) Melissa is killing it this year, by the way.
AL: She is a seriously good actor. You wait, wait for this guy as well. I think there are 3 episodes in the back 8 of this season that I think are some of the best episodes that I’ve ever seen. He’s in 1 of them and Melissa is just beautiful, what she does. She’s an angel man, she’s so good.
AP: So just when you think it’s pretty good, it’s going to step up?
Both: Yeah (nods).
AP: Looking out for that! Now that we are in LaSALLE, a bunch of the students have put together a little scene that they are about to enact for us. They will be doing it live here. Let’s see if you guys recognise it (skit starts).
AL: You guys should do it for all 4 seasons so that I can see the show (audience laughs). It’s great.
AP: Did you guys by any chance recognise the scene?
NR: Yeah, it’s Michonne, Andrea and Merle.
AL: Great episode.
AP: Any tips for the students here about dialogue? Because for all its action, the human drama is key to it, and it is quite dialogue-heavy. So any tips for the acting students on how to handle dialogue?
NR: Take your time, man. You got to mean what you say.
AL: Yeah. I did a play once, with Bill Nighy, great actor and…
AP: Orange Booth?
AL: Yeah, that’s right. We did it in the National Theatre in England. And Chiwetel Ejiofor, go see 12 Years A Slave, who is amazing. I remember Chiwe and me were in the rehearsal room for the first day, and we had 4 and half to 5 weeks of rehearsal, and they were “Let’s work on some scenes.” Bill Nighy had learnt his whole part and he just started talking. Both me and Chiwe looked at each other with dread because we hadn’t even started. We went to the pub afterwards and were like, “We really got to pull our socks up” because it was effortless, he just already had it there. And he said so much of acting is putting the book down, and so much of what I’ve had done up until that point was to avoid acting, avoid getting to the point where you have to start making decisions and looking in the other actors’ eyes. For me, acting is about not being afraid of looking like a dick. It’s true, if you feel comfortable enough to just get it wrong, or make a call that’s so out there, then you’re risking. And dialogue is… I just learn it man. People ask me what is it you do on the weekends, and I go, “I’m learning my dialogue man” because we don’t have scripts on set, we are too busy trying to film a scene.
NR: And also it’s a security thing. They don’t let us…
AL: Yea, we don’t bring in a script. It’s because if they find it, people will see the script…
NR: We had zombie extras taking it out of the trash at one point, spoilers were getting out…
AL: It has our name on it as well.
AP: Do you think the both of you have the same approach to acting?
Both: No, very different.
AL: That’s the beauty of acting. And I speak quite a lot. I go back to see the students and I wish I’d known this then, that you just pick what works for you. Just pick. Don’t feel that there’s a set rule. Norman is one of the best instinctive actors that I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. You can’t teach that, that’s just the way it works. And it’s beautiful what he does, and he’s crafted it. The one thing I will say about institutions is that, having doing a 3-year course myself, is that you get so many opportunities to work on your voice, movement and not one of them worked for me. I then had a very strong acting coach, and I had said I wanto work with you, you’re the best, and I really responded to that. Everybody is unique, that is the beauty of acting, is that you bring your own uniqueness. The actors that we’ve just seen brought their own interpretation. That’s what it’s about, bring yourself to it.
AP: This is obviously the voice of a lot of experience speaking. Building up your careers, were there points where, taking up tiny little roles or a one-off thing on tv or film that made you go, “Screw this, its just too much hard work.” I will say this, I happened to be in a film that Andrew was starring in ages ago called “Offending Angels” and I had a tiny role on it. And I only did it because the director was a friend of mine. I did it for free as well (audience laughs).
AL: So did I (audience laughs).
AP: Andrew [Rajan] was a really, really good guy, trying to make his first film. But for me, I was like, “Man, things have got to get better from here.” What was the experience for you guys?
NR: The first movie I did called “Floating”, and I had no idea what I was doing. Like no idea. Someone had asked me to do a play. I had just quit my job at the motorcycle shop that day and had gotten into a fight with the boss or something like that. And I just went into this play, and I was the understudy. So on the first night, the guy didn’t show up so I had to do it and I had no clue. And a lady from William Morrison signed me. The first film I did, no clue. The film is about a kid whose father was in a drunk driving accident, and his friends are at the age, they are going off starting lives for themselves, and he is stuck with the guilt and staying behind taking care of his father. And coincidentally, my dad was in a wheelchair. There’s this scene where all these crap happens and the father gets up from the chair and gives him a hug, it’s a big deal. So the director was like, “How do you want to do it?” “What are my options?” I had no idea what I was doing. So I said, “ Just give me your phone and give me 5 minutes.” I called my real dad and had a normal conversation with him. We come out, and the first take, I cried so much, so much snot came out. The second one… we shot it twice, then we broke lunch. We’re shooting in May, out in the cold, so I didn’t go for lunch, but I went to my trailer and just took a nap. When came out, one of the grips, he goes, “I know you’ve never been on a film before but no one ate, no one spoke, the trailer was quiet.” It was a small crew. I was like, “oh, that’s what this is about.” I learnt a huge lesson right there. Like Andy says, you kinda learn as you go along but you find what works for you. Like the crying thing and stuff like that, I used to beat the crap out of myself trying to find that. Now, overtime, I have learnt to get there a little quicker. You learn as you go along, you learn new tricks, if that makes sense.
AL: That’s absolutely right man.
AP: How much does the element of luck figure in one’s journey?
AL: A lot man. Perfect example, I was going to do a movie just before this script came for this. I was attached to it, we rehearsed. And my son came early, and I had to withdraw from this movie, it was a terrible thing but I had a friend in place. It was all cool but I hated it, I felt terrible pulling out of it, a low-budget movie that was good. First time director and I’m all for new writing and young directors. Anyway, it sorted out and the day after, this script came. So yeah, there’s of course luck, life is all about chance and things like that. But I truly believe talent will out, if you get the opportunities. It was 20 auditions before I got my first job. I said to my brother, who was a teacher, that you don’t do 20 job interviews in a lifetime for any other job. So you’ve got to be tough, you’ve got to back yourself. And the other thing that has taken me so long to realise is that I wish I trusted my instincts like Norman did, straightaway. I wasn’t like that. I was a people pleaser. I used to go out and try to be liked by everybody, do right by people. What that meant was that I was doing so much work off-camera, that I forgot about what my job was. And then I started to go, “Fuck all that, let’s be real.” Sorry for the language. My parents like to say, “Could you not swear so much?” At Christmas, they said, “Well done with your career, but don’t swear so much” (audience laughs).
NR: You also sometimes have to audition, like you’ll do something and you’ll cry. And then you realise you don’t really believe in this project. It really does take a big toll… acting is a weird job. It’s nice to have hobbies, to have other things to do.
AP: Very good advice. Like in the UK, the statistics are that 90% of the actors are out of work at any one time. Is that about right?
AL: Yeah, and the 10% keeps working. That’s exactly what I was talking about. John Simm, terrific actor, if anybody knows British tv, and he said this at my first job which was a movie with him, and we were like, “Got to find another job”, and he said, “Yeah, you’ll keep working.” I always thought it was 5% but maybe it has gotten better. I don’t know, might go back and work there.
AP: What you have said is very inspiring and keeping it real for the acting students. Speaking of which, they have put together another piece. The scenario is people barricaded in the HDB building, 10 months after major virus outbreak, which may now be airborne. A group of young men brought together and all they can find is cat food… (skit starts) So basically, that was just a list of Singapore food that you should try while you are here! We have come to this bit of the proceedings where I will throw it out to the audience to ask you gentlemen whatever they want to ask while I chew on this contraband chewing gum.
[Questions from the audience]
Q1a: Andrew, I’ve seen some of your stuff like “This Life”, “Teachers”, and I understand that you directed a couple of episodes of “Teachers”. I was wondering if either of you would consider directing The Walking Dead?
NR: No (audience laughs). I think you should. We are very different. It’s so hard to do that. He’s definitely the quarterback of our team. If he were to direct, everybody would be like, “Go!” If I were to direct, they would be like, “What’re you doing to me? What are you trying to do?” (audience laughs)
AL: The funny thing, when I was directing on “Teachers”, and this was comedy show I did many, many years ago, is that I was so new, and the attitude was completely different. It was a very improvised set. I was just a mess, it was chaos. We didn’t really learn lines. Buthe relationship with the cast was we were just buds, we messed around. So I was terrified when I was doing it and I grew a goatee (audience laughs), because that’s what you got to do right, you’re a director, you’ve got to look the part. It lasted for about half a day, and they told me to get rid of it. I love directing, you get to do everything. It is a kind of 3-dimensional, beautiful, creative process, and I would seriously consider directing. I love it. I love the crew. The only problem is that I would probably have to watch the show.
Q1b: Yeah, doesn’t it go against the whole watching yourself?
AL: I wouldn’t direct myself. When I directed “Teachers”, I didn’t direct myself. That was the only stipulation. I can’t, I’m not one of those actors, it’s too weird so it would have to be an episode that Norman just talked till the end (audience laughs).
NR: I Have ADDDDD, so there’s no way I could direct…
AL : But you direct…
NR: Yeah, but I direct art films. I think you can do it.
AL: We have a good crew so they would have my back. It’s because everybody involved is so tight. I would definitely think about it if requested.
Q2: What is the funniest prank that has been pulled on the set of The Walking Dead?
AP: Everybody is looking at you Norman.
AL: We don’t do that many pranks. The reason being, we don’t have that any takes. It’s literally because of that. Steven Yuen tried to kiss me in one scene, in an emotional scene. Everybody was kissing. I was kissing Sarah (who played Lori), my wife, and Steven was kissing Lauren (who plays Maggie), and then he just leaned over (audience laughs).
AP: Hey, actually, wasn’t it your birthday recently Norman? Happy Birthday! (audience cheers)
NR: Thank you!
Q3: If you were to get infected, how difficult would it be to do what needed to be done?
NR: I’d kill him so fast.
AL: Yeah, he would. I could live with that (laughs).
Q4: Rick and Daryl have gone from mutual suspicion to being almost as close as brothers. Is there anything that Rick may do that will cause Daryl to turn against him, besides getting rid of Carol of course?
NR: I think Daryl is very happy being Robin to his Batman. I don’t know if there’s anything ever….
AL: We spoke about it, and said it would be interesting to see them go head to head at some point, if indeed we make it through the season. I love that relationship, oh wait no that’s a spoiler… this is the problem. In the back 8 episodes, there are some interesting scenes that will touch upon that. That is as much as I can say.
Q5: In the last episode, the Governor died. He was the villain and now that he is gone, what can we expect from the new episodes?
NR: You know we can’t tell you that. I think AMC is tracking this conversation.
AL: That is a good question. All I will say is that second half of the season, you’ll see the prison family at their most vulnerable and without each other, they are kind of dying. There are 2 threats… all I will say is that the only people left out there that aren’t behind closed doors or barricaded are pretty tough, resilient people, pretty dark people to be able to survive. So the threats that we inhabit in the back 8 are pretty much worse than other things.
Q6: This is directed at Andrew. You can answer as Rick, if you like. You’ve come so far and you’ve seen the deaths of Lori and Shane. If you could do over one thing, what would it be and why?
AL: Listen… (audience laughs) pretty much every decision I made was a bad decision. Where do I begin? It is one of the challenges of playing Rick, to back up some of his calls. What would I do over… this is a great question. I think Shane, a lot of that in season 2, we danced around the same subject a lot, and I probably should have listened to him a little but more. But pretty much everything I would change (laughs). I would like to not wake up in the first episode (audience laughs).
Q7a: To what degree do you work with the writers, in terms of your lines, and what do you change, what is the back and forth process there?
AL: (points at NR) He never learns, he never says the right lines anyway (audience laughs).
NR: It’s very collaborative. There’s a trick to that too, sometimes it’s better not to change things. I mean, I change it all the time, so it’s hypocritical to say that. But if something works, and it’s good, you don’t want to do that over and over again. If you feel strongly about something, they will work with you to change it.
Q7b: So the ideas, the overall story originates with the writers and as actors, you interpret that?
NR: Well, you can do your thing and their thing at the same time. And sometimes, it’s better not to let them know what you are doing (audience laughs). You have a little more freedom…
AL: At least you get it on the tape. Oh and we’re on camera (laughs).
Q8a: Firstly, both of you have different ways with dealing with fame, with the fans and with the audience. So how does that work for both of you, why do you react in different ways? (Author’s note: what.) And secondly, as actors, what is your inspiration when you perform… you can relate it to The Walking Dead since we’re here, what is your inspiration for the scenes you do each day?
NR: We act differently because we are different people. The inspiration for every scene depends on what the scene is (audience laughs).
AL: I’m with him. When you talk about reacting with fame, do you mean social media?
Q8b: I mean your direct relationship with your fans…
AL: Yeah, I’m a little bit shy. Norman does his Norman, and I do my thing. Which is pretty much what he said. Yeah, we’ll swap tomorrow.
AP: Maybe tomorrow you’ll do each other’s things… (NR points and smirks, AP makes a quick recovery) okay, three more questions?
Q9: In a tv series, because I know it’s not shot in order, how do you keep the journey of your character solid?
AL: We are episodic, we are good that way. We try to keep it in chronological order as much as we can. We never shot out of episode. Just because of the directors mainly and because we aren’t a studio set, it’s on location all the time. We talk to each other, with the other actors, where are we, where were we before, we try to get the energy up. If you shoot out of sequence, you sew it back together.
Q10: What moral lesson or life principle can you share with us that Rick or Daryl has learned so far?
AL: I think it is a moral show. It is about people pulling together. It is about hope. I think the resilience of human beings. Certainly when I read scripts, and when I get moved by the script, it is always about that. It’s the moment when someone is suffering, and another person says something or does something, and it just pulls them through. You don’t get anymore human than that. So, hope.
Q11: In the show, we see zombies eating humans loads. If the roles were reversed, and humans had to eat zombies to survive, which part of the zombies will the both of you enjoy and why?
AL: Has got to be the breasts (audience laughs).
NR: I eat squirrels on the show, so I’d eat pretty much anything. Neck, chest…
AL: I’m a breast man (audience cheers).
AP: And on that note, we have come to the end of the session. Thank you very, very much guys!