Last month, I met up with Sarah Wayne Callies, part of the cast of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” which is now in production all over metro Atlanta.
Callies, who plays Lori Grimes, the wife of the lead character Rick Grimes, had arrived early in town to get used to the hot weather, something the actors have to acclimate to since most of the shoots are outdoors. She, as a celebrity spokesman for the International Rescue Committee, visited the Atlanta operations, meeting with refugees from countries ranging from Iraq to Afghanistan. The organization helps people transition from their home country to the United States.
We toured English classes, the computer room, a day-care area and the store where refugees can pick up supplies for free. We also visited a couple of refugees from Congo and Afghanistan who were placed in apartments in Clarkston. (If you want more info about the organization, check out the website at http://www.rescue.org/us-program/us-atlanta-ga)
She sees the parallels between the refugees and her character on “The Walking Dead,” where humans are effective refugees in their own country thanks to zombies. “It’s so easy to make a joke of it,” she said. But actual refugees are often booted out of their country for religious or political reasons. “It’s easy for people born here to take our lives for granted so it makes sense for me to reach out.”
As for being on the AMC show, which is the network’s most popular, far ahead of “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” she has nothing to complain about.
“I love this job. I love the people I work with and the people I work for,” Callies said. And after I teased her about the 90-plus degree days she’ll be facing yet again, she said, “It’s not a show where you worry about looking pretty. It’s just a show where you worry about getting enough liquids and keeping your electrolytes up.”
Last we saw the ragtag group of survivors, they were in vehicles trying to escape Atlanta, where their last hope, the Centers for Disease Control, had just been blown to smithereens. She said given the lack of gasoline, escape may not be so easy.
Callies is impressed with Andrew Lincoln, the lead who plays her fictional husband. “He’s up for anything,” she said. “He never complains. He has such grace.”
Not that the Atlanta conditions are that much worse than her time on “Prison Break,” where she played the love interest to Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller). Her character was killed off season two but due to popular demand, they conjured a way to bring her back season four. She spent much of her time there in grungy surroundings, especially the old Illinois prison they shot in the first season. “There were toilets that hadn’t been flushed in years,’ she said. “The smell would practically knock you out!”
As for the two rather tough roles she’s had on TV, she said: “These are roles that choose me. They aren’t the only things I auditioned for.” She did a guest spot on “House” once. “I was indoors for five days. It was the most humane thing I’d ever done!” she joked. Then she did a film in Nigeria. “I kept thinking, ‘Maybe I should have found a way to stay on ‘House’!”
After she got killed off on “Prison Break,” she said she was on maternity leave, in a bubble. She wasn’t aware of the very public backlash to that news. “I hadn’t slept in four weeks,” she said. “When I became aware of it, I sort of burst into tears. It was such a great honor.”
She understood the absurdity of the plot twists on “Prison Break” but defended them. “My position is to stick slavishly to reality would rob the story of some of its panache. I’m from Hawaii. The Hawaiian mythology is not realistic but powerful and teaches something about humanity. Storytelling can do many things more important than mere reality.”
Here’s my video interview with Sarah:
And here’s a little teaser from the first day of shooting in Henry County earlier this month off Highway 20:
By Rodney Ho, firstname.lastname@example.org, AJCRadioTV blog