Emma Bell interview: The Walking Dead, Final Destination 5, Frozen and more

As Frank Darabont’s magnificent The Walking Dead arrives on DVD, we chat to Emma Bell about zombies, Final Destination 5 and working with Tony Todd…

With the UK DVD release of The Walking Dead coming up on May 16th, we had a chance to speak to the lovely Emma Bell about the series, eating lunch with zombies, Final Destination 5, horror movies, 3D, and wanting to get inside Scarlett Johansson’s corset.

Warning: this interview contains spoilers if you haven’t seen Frozen, or season one of The Walking Dead series or The Walking Dead comic book storylines.

First things first, then, we really enjoyed The Walking Dead. Are you able to tell us anything about Season 2?

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Well, they’re in the writers’ room right now and they’re coming up with great ideas. I know that they’re definitely going to be following the comic books as a guideline. It’s kind of premature in its stages right now. I don’t think they start shooting until July or June, so we’ve still got a little while.

Any chance of Amy returning in some way?

Well, as I said, it’s all still up in the air, but I’d love that. I pretty much harass them every day saying they need to bring me back, so I really, really hope so. We’ll just have to see.

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You built up a friendship with Laurie Holden (who plays Emma’s on-screen sister, Andrea, on the show).

Yeah, Laurie and I actually became really, really close. We both figured out that we had a lot in common. We’re both blondes with the same birthday. It was really an instant connection between the two of us when we first met, and I see her all the time. She’s almost like my big sister in real life.

So, what can you tell us about Andrea’s character in the next season?

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Well, as they’re following the comic books, I would assume, then, that Andrea’s character becomes a little bit more hard-edged and she sort of becomes a badass. She has a gun and she’s very stealthy and becomes like an assassin character. So, I know that that would be really cool and Laurie would love to play that, so we’ll see.

When you read the Walking Dead comics, was there a particular character or storyline that impressed you?

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Glen storyline, especially when he gets a girlfriend, because it’s such a beautiful romantic relationship, especially in that time with the zombie apocalypse going on. His character is such a cool character anyway, from the get-go. He’s sort of this kid who’s a pizza truck driver who then puts his life on the line and meets this girl who he falls in love with and she becomes his life and it’s all super romantic.

I also really love the Andrea storyline and how she does become a badass. I think that’s really cool, and very empowering for women.

There’s a lot of really great female roles in the series, where they’re all really strong, which is great.

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As a young actress who’s worked in the horror genre, what’s your take on the role of women in modern horror? Have we seen the end of women just playing screaming victims?

I hope so. I really hope so. We’ve moved on, women in general and in our own society, so we need to move on in how we’re portrayed in art. There’s still always some room for a screaming damsel who needs to be rescued. I mean, obviously I’m a girl, so I want to be rescued every once in a while, right?

But I think it’s good also to be able to play a woman who can defend herself and face demons on her own. I think that women are much more complicated than just damsels in distress, so I hope this is what we’re going towards.

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How do you think your smaller roles in other genre shows like Dollhouse or Supernatural prepared you for something like The Walking Dead?

I think the genre really likes me or something. Those were all great shows to be a part of and definitely those aspects came into play.

When you’re doing a show like Supernatural or even Dollhouse, there’s this otherworldly quality to them, you know? In Ghost Whisperer, I’m chased by my father’s ghost. So there are elements that are not concretely in front of you. They’re sort of ideas like being chased by a ghost, or in Dollhouse, the idea of being this brain-washed person who’s just a doll.

In Supernatural, I was kidnapped by demon hunters or demons. So, in all those, you definitely have to suspend your disbelief and that certainly helped me for The Walking Dead.

Tell us a bit about life on set on The Walking Dead. Was everyone watching zombie movies behind the scenes for research?

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Well, we were surrounded by zombies every day and they were no joke, these zombies. Greg Nicotero and his team of artists made the zombies look so horrifically terrifying that there was no research really necessary.

The background players who played them went to a zombie boot camp, and they never left character. They just never broke character. So, like, we’d go into lunch and they’d all be sitting over one side of the tent eating, and if you walked by, they’d look over at you and start to get up as if they were going to eat you.

Sounds pretty scary.

But seriously, the cafeteria was funny. It would be like all of the zombies on one side and all of the actors and the crew on the other. It was like high school.

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Even scarier. We thought the TV series had a very movie-like feel to it. Was that the same behind the scenes, or was there a sense of TV-style time pressure?

You know what? I actually did not feel a TV-style pressure. That’s a great question, because normally, TV is very fast paced. You have to do your scenes, then move on quickly to the next ones.

AMC was just wonderful. Fox International were wonderful as well, and Frank [Darabont, director] and Gale [Anne Hurd, executive producer] and everybody who would usually be the ones to tell us to move it along, really gave us the time to get the scene and get the characters, and I think, hopefully, that shows.

Hopefully, one of the reasons that the show is so well loved is because it was really treated a little bit like a series of little movies.

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Have you gotten over being eaten by Greg (Nicotero, special effects & make-up, and the zombie who took a chunk out of Amy) yet?

I like to give him crap for that every time I see him. I’m like, “You killed me!”

I was actually really happy that Greg was the one to kill me, because the prosthetic that I had on my neck was over a major artery in my neck and at first he was going to have someone else do it, and then he said, “You know, I think I’ll be more comfortable if I did it, because if this person misses the prosthetic they could actually bite into your real neck,” because you couldn’t tell what was prosthetic and what was my neck. That’s how good he is.  So, when he told me that I was like, yes, please be the one to bite me.

Did you go to zombie boot camp to prepare for your brief zombie scene?

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No, I didn’t go to boot camp, but Greg and I had a really long discussion about it because I really wanted to portray it correctly. I didn’t want to just pop awake as a zombie. I mean, I know that that’s how zombies are portrayed in other things, but I wanted to make it unique for this project. So, we had a really long discussion about it.

I didn’t want it to be a surprise to everybody. I wanted it to be really sad. So, we came up with the idea that she was like almost a newborn. She doesn’t realise she’s a zombie. She’s like a newborn animal that’s hungry and is looking for its mother for like milk or nurture.

I think that really came across. It was a surprisingly touching scene.

Thank you! I’m really glad.

With Frozen and now The Walking Dead, you’ve worked in some pretty extreme conditions on some very traumatic stories. Are you going to do a nice happy romcom at any point? Or is the horror genre where your heart is?

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That’s always such a joke between my friends and my family who are like, “You need to do a comedy. You’re so funny.”  I don’t think I’m very funny but-

There is something, though, about dark things that I’m very attracted to. As an actress, I would love to play everything, comedy, romantic comedy, romantic drama, a period piece, you name it, I’d love to play it, So, yeah. I think we could get that done at some point.

But horror draws you in?

Well, I think horror is very popular right now. There are a lot of horror projects going on. But I’m also very attracted to beautiful things which have a sadness to them, and that are maybe a little bit haunting.

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I love Tim Burton, because I think that his style is very much that. The worlds he creates are so beautiful, but there’s something very haunting about them, you know? As an actress, there’s just so much to play with there, a lot of drama and deep places you can go with that, and for some reason, that really appeals to me.

Which movies or TV shows scare you?

Paranormal Activity made me really creeped out. I actually really can’t go to see scary movies any more at this point. You know, ones with killers, I can’t. It just freaks me out. I feel like maybe someone will come get me, so I just can’t watch that.

It’s funny, because Sarah Wayne Callies [who plays Lori on The Walking Dead] is deathly afraid of horror things. So, the fact that’s she’s on this show and she watches it every week, she would always tell me she’d have nightmares after watching her own show.

Talking of movies that make you jump, what can you tell us about Final Destination 5?

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Well, it’s getting a bit of a reboot in that, though all of the movies have been successful. Thankfully, fans really wanted to see the franchise get back to its roots. So, they went back to the drawing board to see how the first movie was created and what elements were put in and they’ve worked on the script, which is really good.

We have a wonderful director named Steven Quale, who was basically James Cameron’s right-hand man and helped him come up with the 3D equipment for Avatar. So, his effects and his knowledge of that world is immense. It really shows up in how the movie is being shot and, of course, our movie’s in 3D, so his influence will be really great for it.

What do you think the 3D is actually going to add to the picture?

These movies just find bigger and better methods of killing people off in just awful and gruesome ways, and people love to watch that. But now with the 3D, it’s not just going to be watching it, it’s going to be almost feeling it.

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I’ve seen some of the 3D footage and it’s terrifying. When things come flying at the characters in the movie, they really come flying into the audience. People are going to be squirming. The target audience is just going to love, love, love it.

And the story?

Well, as far as the storyline goes, I play Molly and the main guy is named Sam, played by Nicholas D’Agosto, and he’s the one who has the premonitions. So, we get to have this really nice love story outside of the horrific events that are happening.

Can you divulge any of the death scenes yet?

Well, they’ve come up with some pretty sick ways to die. The main premonition is about a suspension bridge collapse, so think about how many ways people can die on a bridge. It’s pretty awful.

Was your character involved in that scene?

Yeah, all of us are there in the collapse scene. We all go through our little brushes with death. So, yes, I was there.

Would you say the Final Destination 5 deaths are as grisly as those in Frozen or The Walking Dead? Anyone eaten by wolves or torn apart by zombies?

They’re even more grisly, if you can imagine that.

Did you have any screen time with horror legend, Tony Todd, on the movie?

Yeah, my friend Tony! He’s cool. He’s really cool. He has, like, two or three scenes and I’m pretty sure I’m in all of them, actually. He’s a really interesting actor. Obviously, he’s done pretty much all of the movies, so he has his character down pat. He’s very cool to watch.

As an avid reader, do you have any dream adaptations you’d like to work on?

It’s funny you ask that, because I’m constantly reading books and thinking of adapting them. I love all of those series about magical worlds, but unfortunately, most of those that I read and think, “Oh, this should be made into a movie,” turns out already to be being made into one already. Like The Hunger Games. I read and thought, “This would make a great movie,” and of course, they’re making that into a movie, and what was the one, His Dark Materials?

The Philip Pullman trilogy.

Yeah, and then actually a few years ago I read The Other Boleyn Girl before the movie came out, and I so wanted to be in that movie and be Mary Boleyn that I started adapting it myself into a screenplay. I don’t know what I thought I was doing, but then when I found out it was being made into a movie. I rented a costume and used one of the scenes I’d written and I put myself on tape for Mary and sent it. I would have loved it so much. I mean, obviously, I didn’t get it, but at least I knew that I was on the right track.

So, you’re really looking to get in a corset and a bonnet then.

I would love that. I’m obsessed with British history and the Tudor period is my favourite period of time.

What other projects do you have coming up?

I just shot a pilot for NBC [Civil War drama, Reconstruction], so I’m hoping that it gets picked, as it’ll be totally different for me to work on a historical drama. It would be really great as an actress to expand my body of work, plus I love period pieces, so that would be a dream come true.

You never know, though. It may or may not get picked up, so I can’t really put much emphasis on it. Other than that, it’s just trying to get the next thing.

Emma Bell, thank you very much.