Sarah Wayne Callies Talks All Things Walking Dead
We here at ComicBookTherapy have a ton of Walking Dead goodies we will be bringing you over the next several days. This week will see interviews with Sarah Wayne Callies (obviously), David “The Governor” Morrissey, and Michael Rooker to name a few. This Sunday Walking Dead returns to your TVs, and we’ve got you covered the days before and after the premiere. First up in our coverage is a group chat we were lucky enough to be a part of with the lovely Sarah Callies (Lori Grimes). She talks about going to prison, how characters deaths in season 2 will affect the new season, what it’s like adding new characters and much more! If you haven’t seen season 2, shame on you, but don’t read this because there are spoilers for the season 2 finale.
What has it been like for the cast to transition from being on the Farm to being in the prison?
It is brilliantly designed. They really created something extraordinary I think. There was this day towards the end of last season where Andy and I were sitting in rocking chairs on the porch of Hershel’s farm as they were setting up a shot and the sun was setting. There were moments on that farm that took your breath away. You’re telling the story of loss and disease and horror and you look around and the cattle are out in the field and there’s big fluffy clouds. It’s ridiculous. I remember Andy and I turned to each other and said ‘next season we’re going to jail. Oh my God!’ The farm had become not only a character, but something that they kind of dreamed of. We took big hits last year, they were massive losses. And it was that land and that beauty that kind of helped us nurture ourselves back together. And that’s a big transition. On the one hand there are certain luxuries accorded by the prison. There is air condition. It’s out of the sun. So there are definite upsides. I think this season is easier physically on everyone than any season we’ve had before but it’s a very different feel. I miss the farm, I really do. I loved that.
You know it’s a delicate balance. We started season one with a group of people who all just collectively decided to take a bunch of creative risks and looking like idiots and risk falling on our faces. And then they started killing them. There weren’t that many of us left by the end of season one. Then season two started and they brought in a whole new group of people who none of us had ever met. Who had seen the show which was odd. Sometimes they would come on the show and they were fans, which was kind of crazy. Then they killed most of them right about the time we started reintegrating them into a new kind of family, which was a different dynamic. Then season three starts. It happened a couple of times in season two both the major character loses and introduction of new folks. I think there’s an attempt from those of us at the beginning to feel responsible to welcome people into the family and convey to them this isn’t like a job you’ve ever done you’re going to work harder you’re going to have more support your going to have more feedback, you’re going to fall in love with a crew and with a cast in a way you never have before, but you’ve got to take a deep breath and step off the ledge because we’re going to ask a lot of you. We’re really going to really take some huge risks together. And I’m proud of the fact that I don’t think there’s anybody who’s ever worked on a show, even if it’s for an episode, that hasn’t felt that and hasn’t come away going ‘wow they’re doing something really different.’ I think probably some of that shows up on screen. It’s about the quality of the workplace. It’s not a competitive place, it’s not a rude place, and it’s not a place where people disrespect each other. It’s a place where people know there lines and show up on time. In a way I think that’s part of the character of the story. We will lose people. We will lose huge powerhouses, seminal actors and then we’ll gain people like David Morrissey. There’s a great actor who joined the cast this season who came out of nowhere. All of a sudden we went ‘watch that guy, he’s already part of the family he gets it.’ He jumped in and got dirty and got wet, muddy and bloody and everything else we do to people. I guess in a way it’s kind of a part of the job. Not just to be there to say the lines and not bump into the furniture. There are only three of us left me, Andy, and Chandler. I think part of it is people who’ve been implicated with the Walking Dead virus who are a part of that cast and crew to turn around and infect somebody else when others have left and new people come in. It sounds so cheesy and I’m sorry for that, but it’s really true. This is a group of people who feel very powerful about what an honor it is to work together.
Glen Mazzara said the pacing of this season feels like a freight train. I know some time passes between the finale and the season 3 premiere, and I was wondering if the death of Shane is something that is really affecting Lori, Rick, and Carl is season 3 or if it’s more about moving forward and they’ve gotten past it at this point?
I think…I don’t know if they’ll ever get past it, but it’s also not necessarily something that we’re talking about. Lori and Rick aren’t talking a lot these days. There are things that look like a bomb detonated in their marriage, not because he died, but because they both are smart enough to realize it was more or less inevitable. In some ways it’s a success story right? Woman sees danger to her husband, woman warns husband, husband takes warning, husband saves own life. That’s a good story, but at the end of it you have the husband admitting he wanted to kill him and the wife very afraid that in the act of defending himself her husband has changed into the monster he was protecting himself from. That’s a really difficult thing to come back from. Partly I think because Rick and Lori have this huge amount of self hatred and guilt and shame each in their own heart. You feel that way about your own self it’s incredibly difficult. In one sense I think Shane haunts them like a ghost, but he’s not a constant subject of conversation.
I know that the story is more closely following the comics this time around I’ve heard. I do like that keeping Shane into season 2 actually drove and hit home the Rick and Lori relationship in the TV show.
For what’s it worth, I don’t know who told you we were following the comic books this season [laughs] but I would almost say this season is even greater a difference than in the past. That’s my opinion. I didn’t even read the full comic book yet. I couldn’t get past what happened in the prison, so you know I could be wrong.
When it comes to your character Lori, we’ve started to see Chandler (Carl) be effected a little bit. Without any spoilers or anything, what can we kind of expect his reaction to be seeing mom and dad fight, watching mom and dad go through this transition of emotion and so forth?
You know, I think Carl is growing up much faster than anyone ever expected to see but about as fast as he needs to. In season 1 and 2 he was this little boy who was at his mother’s hip and then not. I think one of the first transitions little boys make is going from being constantly at their parents side to stretching their wings and fighting for their independence. You get a sense of things going on they’re not comfortable with. I don’t know how much of the math Carl’s going to do, but he’s not an idiot. He’s going to figure out mom and dad aren’t good. And he’s probably going to figure out Shane’s connected to that. I think the response to that which they’ve written for him are really honest. Glen Mazzara has three boys, I think he spent a lot of time thinking long and hard what’s the truth of that family relationship. And as a result, Chandler has a very mature set of acting duties this year. He’s done it with the alacrities enough that we expect of him. It’s remarkable there are not many actors his age who can act with the kind of depth he has to do that Chandler does with routine. It gets pretty dark between Lori and the cast, it does.
You’ll see a lot of his reactions. I think Lori pregnancy is at the forefront of everybody’s mind in that group of survivors, not just Rick. I mean Carl, he can’t run from it. A certain point Lori won’t be able to run at all. She’s going to have massive nutritional needs, complicated nutritional needs. And barring disaster, there could be a baby. What could possibly be more complicated than that? It’s extraordinary, life affirming. The first time the group has gotten bigger instead of smaller. Where do you get diapers? Where do you get diapers right now? How do you keep a baby quiet if you’re not someplace safe? Those questions drive a huge amount of the action.
With Lori being pregnant and taking care of another child in season 3, I was kind of wondering about her relationship with other members of the group. In season 2 it seems like she spent a good amount of time with Rick and Shane, now that Daryl is taking more of a leadership role and she needs more help are those bonds with the other characters strengthening?
They are. I think that’s part, who has stepped up for her and what’s happening. We’re not living in circumstances that make it particular easy. So Shane dying isn’t going to be news to people for long. And how he died and probably why he died. What you’re talking about is a woman, who whether she knew it or not at the time, and extramarital affair, got herself knocked up, and then her husband killed the guy. This is a big question in Lori’s mind, how is the family going to respond to that? Some people move away from her and some people move closer. I think it’s a little surprising.
It’s been so nice sitting here and hearing you talk about all the deep emotional character stuff on the show. I do want to talk about blood, and guts, and gore for a minute. It seems like part of the challenge, or the fun of having the prison set, is that we know there’s something dark lurking around the corner there’s a lot more action set pieces and stuff going on. How do you guys respond to that this season as a cast? Does it feel like there’s a bit more action and fun stunt stuff for you to do this season? The pregnancy thing must be hard to deal with?
I think in the season in which I’m pregnant I’ve racked up more kills than the rest of the show combined. There’s something about it, she’s a tough mother. It’s a balance. The show has always been like that. You go through shows where you have conversations and talk to people and then you go through episodes where you don’t stop running. I love that. I love that in the show, love that balance. If it were unrelentingly a family drama I think we would get drained with that. I know after Andy and I shot that episode last year around Carl almost dying. He looked at me at a certain point and says ‘Oh my God! Give me your gun, give me a pile of walkers and let me go to work. Let’s do something else.’ It hurt and it was exhausting and draining in its own way. You do that for a couple episodes, and then you run around, especially Andy, where you hit people and shoot people and put axes through walker’s heads. Then you find yourself in a field talking about your marriage. I love that balance. I think it’s good for the show. It’s great for the actors and the crew too. It makes it very difficult to get repetitive. Clearly there are some fans crying for more of one, or more of the other but I bet if you really got down to it with either group they’d like the balance too. You don’t care who the people are, you don’t care when they die. I think every time you have a scene that’s more emotional, then the next scene where they do die or almost die is so much more powerful because you care about them. You relate to them more. You know its fun. I like it. Put a revolver in my hand and let me shot something dead in the face. I’m all for it. I started going to the gun range because I wanted to look like I knew what I was doing. I ended up buying a revolver of my own. I was like this stuff is great.
There you have it. During the call we got to cover a lot of ground on a variety of subjects. It looks like the team dynamic will be shifting even more as Lori continues on with the pregnancy. What do you think of some of her points? Are you getting more excited for season 3 now?