“The Walking Dead’s” zombie-killers come to Milwaukee
The Riverside Theater hosted Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Norman Reedus, producer Greg Nicotero and a horde of rabid fans.
On the AMC series The Walking Dead the undead “walkers,” aka zombies, ravenously eat the living. Last night at “An Evening with The Walking Dead,” at the Riverside Theater, it was the audience who was bloodthirsty, eating up the real-time conversation with zombie killing characters Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Daryl (Norman Reedus), and executive producer/make-up expert Greg Nicotero.
After a series of highlights from the current season proportionally settled the crowd (although there were still cheers and jeers aplenty for the characters shown), Yeun, Cohan, Reedus and Nicotero walked out to their seats onstage, along with moderator and AV Club managing editor Kyle Ryan, while the show’s faithful whistled and whooped themselves into a frenzy.
Those faithful include Walking Dead watchers of a more amorous variety, including a contingent known as “Daryl’s Dolls.” They first exploded only an instant after Reedus and the cast stepped on stage (the trigger, a simple aside about The Rocky Horror Picture Show), and shortly after gave their main man a standing ovation after Nicotero mentioned them by name.
As an outsider, the infatuation was pretty funny, considering that Reedus was constantly squirming on stage, looking at himself on the large screen that hung over the couches, and holding his microphone against his neck. At one point he played a song on his smartphone. The Dolls didn’t mind his awkwardness; his hair was perfectly flat-ironed and we learned that he once saved a man’s life while filming the show in Georgia.
Yeun is legitimately funny, something that’s not apparent on the show. The current season is definitely a rough one – the crew is holed up in a prison, fighting off walkers as well as some shady live people (who should probably be eaten soon anyway). “We’re always looking for food and supplies during this season,” Yeun said. “But we don’t find shit.” On the bevy of actors who are transformed into growling, snarling, oozing, and moldy zombies, Yeun feels some sympathy. “It’s hard to be a walker,” he said.
Nicotero’s make-up work can be seen in several Tarantino films, so he’s very comfortable with blood and guts. “I don’t think that The Walking Dead is that gory,” Nicotero said. “I mean, I worked on Kill Bill. We do get away with a lot of shit on the show, though.” Example: an undead torso slithering across an open field, entrails dragging behind like slimy ribbons. “For one scene we were whipping condoms full of fake blood across a parking lot and then we told the zombie actors to lie in the splatter,” he added.
Cohan was clearly the guys’ favorite. With each cat-call you could practically hear their fantasies of roaming the countryside with the pretty Maggie, shooting walkers in the head and sharing French kisses afterward. Cohan wore a Pabst t-shirt which perhaps inspired two separate gentlemen to bring PBR tallboys to the stage for the actors and Nicotero.
We did learn a few things about the show, our alleged reason for being here. The actors are regularly invited into the writers room to add their input. Daryl’s deadly cross-bow is more of a Nerf gun that gets some CGI help in post-production. The walkers are very anatomically correct; in one scene Glenn had quite a time cutting through a walker’s dense and sinewy “arm”. Some of the walkers wear masks and all of the walkers are very good actors – they don’t just cast any old zombie-esque person on the street.
Once the moderator moved to the question-and-answer portion of the night the party kicked into a higher gear. Yeun grabbed his microphone and jumped down into the audience despite the possibility of being torn apart limb-by-limb by the rapacious fans; Reedus followed later, risking his life with the Dolls. Some of the audience’s questions were meaningless – “Will you party with us after the show?” There were questions about who would win in a fight between Glenn and Carl, the young boy on the show. Others were thoughtful – “Do you think you and the other survivors will be able to repopulate the Earth?” After all, the show is ultimately about survival and so many people are drawn to it because we ask ourselves what we would do in the face of a zombie apocalypse.
As crazy as the Riverside crowd got, the Walking Dead crew never seemed to doubt their decision to come to Milwaukee – their only such Q&A scheduled for the time being. The Midwest pride peaked partway through with a single cheer from Yeun: “Wisconsin! YEAH!”
The crowd roared back with excitement, just like the zombie horde we know and love.