In the latest Empire Podcast there are 10 or so minutes of David Morrissey talking to our very own Nick De Semlyen and Chris Hewitt - but here below is the extended version, transcribed and uploaded just for you. Read on to find out about Morrissey's new favourite bands, whether he ever watches his beloved Liverpool when he's shooting in Atlanta and just how it feels to star in a film alongside Stan Collymore...
N.B. A large chunk of this interview deals with the second and third seasons of The Walking Dead, so if you're not up to date with the show you may want to click away now.
We’re delighted to be joined in the pod booth by the star, Welcome to the Punch and of course the Walking Dead Season 3, the Governor himself, Mr. David Morrissey, who’s also – I don’t know if you know this, a former co-star of both myself and Nick.
No, what was that in?
Oh yes, of course, with you hounding me with microphones… That’s right, we were running after Aidan Gillen, was it that scene, or –
You were coming out of a pub in Shoreditch and making a very slimy speech.
Yes, I remember that. Yes. You were given my full Piers Morgan I gather. Did I have a pink shirt on? You’ve got to be a certain man to wear a pink shirt.
We were playing kind of scuzzy paparazzi journalists, which wasn’t a huge stretch.
How did you drag that up?
It’s embedded in our minds. I think we’ve been cut from the film.
Did you not make the final cut?
No, we scoured the film and there’s no sign of us.
Yes, they got that memo then. I’m glad.
That must have been a strange day for you though I can imagine, because as I recall, you were just improvising towards the end.
Yes, it was a really strange day, because it was one of those things where the director said, ‘Okay, let’s just make it up.’ and I was like, ‘What? Okay.’ But it was quite easy. We had fun with it in the end. So yeah, I did say a couple of mad lines. I remember at the end, it’s basically Jason attacking me with two Rottweilers.
How was that for you?
|"I love The Walking Dead, I love doing it, I love everything about it. I came to the show as a fan because of Andrew Lincoln."|
You’re a wise man. And Welcome To The Punch is coming out in March, and you’re not playing a slimy journalist in that one. You’re playing a slimy cop.
I play a very slimy cop indeed. He’s head of the Met and he’s taken a chance on bringing James McAvoy’s policeman back into the force after being injured. I take a lot of flak of bringing him back – people think he’s not physically or mentally up to the job. And when he comes back he encounters the man who attacked him in the first place, played by Mark Strong. And he slightly goes a little AWOL in the pursuit of this man and I have to try and rein him in and then there’s a whole conspiracy theory thriller element to the film after that. Two great actors in Mark Strong and James McAvoy there, and also I get to work with the great Johnny Harris, which is a privilege and a pleasure for me.
It’s not a bad cast.
Yes it’s great, Andrea Riseborough is really great and it looks fantastic. [Director] Evan Creevy did Shifty, which is a film I really loved – and this is a really different film. It’s like he should have done about 16 films in-between to get to this, he’s really accelerated himself. And the film looks like a big American movie in a way. It uses location in a way that British filmmakers don’t tend to do, so it’s a great film and I think a great achievement by him, I think.
And it’s interesting as well because it’s a British action-thriller, and we have very, very few of those.
He makes a Manhattan landscape out of Canary Wharf – he really uses that to every inch of it. There’s a lot of steel and glass on show. And to have like a motorbike chase, with four bikes going through London is just superb. And you do watch and think, 'When did they close off those roads?' Because London is notorious in the fact that it will never close anywhere off for you, particularly in Westminster. But he managed to do it. There’s a lot of night shooting. The only time they could close off Canary Wharf was 4am on a Saturday really – so we did a lot of night shooting.
What's that like, to hold and fire a gun, in Britain especially?
It’s odd really, because it’s very unusual that that happens. There are a couple of shoot-out scenes in it and you just don’t see that in British films, certainly from a police point of view anyway. So yes, it was quite strange, also strange in the sense that, technically when you get to an American film or something like The Walking Dead, firearms are on set all the time. You’ve got people who look after them and use them and stuff, and in Britain it’s slightly different. We’re not used to handling them in that way. Thank God.
|David Morrissey with Laurie Holden in Season 3 of The Walking Dead|
Talking of The Walking Dead, you’ve shot the Season 3 finale already… how was that?
It was great. It’s a very difficult show to promote, The Walking Dead, because I can't really talk too much about it. But I love the show, I love doing it, I love everything about it. I came to the show as a fan because of Andrew Lincoln. Also in the pilot there was a great mate of mine called Lenny James who played the character called Morgan – Andy’s character hides out in his house – and I just loved it. I watched it because they were in it, and then I just got so hooked into the show. That sort of zombie genre is not my bag and then when I watched the first pilot I realised that it was much more of a character-driven show, it’s about people in danger and what will you do to protect those that you love. So when I had a chance to join it, I was just over the moon. It’s great, and I’ve loved every minute of it.
I read online that on his days off, Andrew Lincoln plants trees. Is that true?
I have no idea. I don’t spend that much time with him on his day off, thank God. I mean, yeah, that he probably does. I mean I think he has some sort of homestead somewhere. So yes, maybe he is a bit of a green fingers.
Because you guys were kind of separated in two different places.
When I work he has a day off and when he works I have a day off. That’s the characters certainly in the first half of this season. They never meet. It's all about, ‘When will they meet, and what will happen when they do meet?’ So it’s been very weird because he’s a really great mate of mine, but I only ever see him every now and again. We cross paths as I’m driving into the studio and he’s driving out sometimes. So it’s been a very strange thing for me, coming in being such a fan of his, and wanting to work with him. And I haven't had that much chance yet.
So when you do cross paths, in the car park, do you flick the vs at each other? Just to keep that sort of adversarial relationship?
There’s a bit of that, yeah, so give I him the bird. But now it’s quite strange, because Andy and I stay in accent when we’re not working. Whenever I see him across the car park and in his garb and his costume, we sort of tend to avoid each other really. It’s quite weird. But it adds to what we need to do really, to create our camps.
There’s an element of jealousy because you guys [in The Governor’s camp] are often in a kind of luxury…
My location is Woodburn, but he keeps calling it 90210. It’s just because he doesn’t get a shower and I get to shower. Where my character inhabits is like this lovely little town, and he’s in the middle of this mess – bugs and ticks and snakes and all sorts. He loves it though, he loves being down there, so that’s fine. My demand in my contract was that I had air conditioning.
I can imagine that. The treatment of The Governor in this season was very interesting because in the comic book he is possibly the vilest character in the history of comics. And it was interesting how much depth and shading and humanity the first eight episodes gave him.
Well, my starting point was Robert Kirkman’s novel, The Rise Of The Governor. Robert wrote two novels, that and The Road To Woodbury. And they’re not graphic novels, they’re straight novels. And that’s where I got the character from, that’s where I started from. I think in the comic books you find this character of The Governor fully formed. He's right at the edge of his breakdown really, he’s very full of blackness and evil, he’s a villainous character, and you can reach a creative ceiling very quickly playing a character like that. So when I sat down with the writers we talked about starting him much earlier in his journey, and the complexity that he has in that, and I think you need to have a sense with this man that you’re batting for him, that there are bits of him that you love, and bits of them you hate - you’re both repelled and attracted to him at the same time, you don’t know where you are with him. And certainly I feel that the audience are going along on a journey similar to Andrea’s with the character. Sometimes he presents one face to her and then another time it’s a much darker, a much more difficult character to like. That will continue because you want his good side to emerge, you want him to be a better man really. And I think the more complexity to it, the more ‘Which one are we going to get today?’, the better. It’s a better journey for the audience to watch.
And certainly seems in the second half of the season – although I know you can't say much – like the bad side will win out, and that perhaps he’s cut the little string holding his sanity.
But also he’s lost his daughter. His main focus of hope for the future was his daughter and this warped idea that he and his co-worker Milton had: that there might be some redemption, there might be some semblance of the past involved in these walkers. That was where he planted all his hope and that’s been taken away from him now. So he is in trauma, he’s in an emotional spin, but whether he spins out of that, whether he spins out of control or back into humanity is something that the second half will explore and I think that knife-edge of, ‘Who do we have today in front of us?’ is going to continue. We all have that slightly to degrees in the workplace: sometimes we work for people who are very nice to some workers and not nice to us. Or we work in places where you think, ‘Oh that guy is great when he’s in this environment, but what happened yesterday?’ And I think The Governor has that. He’s slightly making it up as he goes along. He’s not used to this. It’s not like he has this master plan or something. He’s just been thrown into this terrible world, and it’s about sink or swim really. And power is a terrible corruptor and it’s corrupting him.
There’s an aquarium room with all the severed heads in it. Is that the most ghoulish set that you’ve ever worked on?
Yeah, it was pretty grim. It reminded me of – and I didn’t really feel it until I sat down – David Bowie at the end of The Man Who Fell To Earth, where he’s just watching this bank of television sets and they’re all having this terrible sensory effect on him. I think that’s what the Governor is doing. He’s trying to desensitise himself to this awful world, and of course the thing about the undead is they only die when their brains have gone, so just the head means they’re still alive. So they are living, actually moving creatures. The one thing it did do is remind me of the genius of Greg Nicotero who is the special effects genius behind the show and he and his team, what they do with the zombies and the walkers and the make-up and everything like that is just unbelievable.
And he’s directed a few episodes as well.
He directs quite a few, yeah. He’s the go-to guy really. He’s won quite a few Emmys for our show as well. And later on in the first half of the season, Michonne and I have a fight in that room, and there’s a bit where the glass smashes in all the fish tanks, and all the heads are rolling around. So we’re rolling around and every now and again you turn around and there are these chattering teeth and they’re staring at you, really looking at you and the eyes are moving and you absolutely brick it. It’s great. So there’s not a lot of acting going on when you see us really being frightened at the prospect of being eaten by these things.
Nick and I were at The Walking Dead breakfast at Comic-Con last year. And it was interesting watching you guys, because at that point Sarah Wayne Callies had been killed off. And obviously she didn’t tell us. But it is a show where you knew she’d gone, everyone else knew she’d gone, but you have to face it every week.
I think what's really great about the show is it’s not a Star Trek show. The protagonists don’t beam down with a guy that you’ve never seen before and you think, ‘Oh, he’s the one that’s going to get killed.’ It’s not frightened of killing off its leading characters. No one is safe. And I think that gives it the frisson for the audience that they think, ‘Who is it going to be? The people I really like, are they going to go?’ We’ve finished the first half of the season on a real cliffhanger, and a lot of messages that have been coming to me are saying, ‘Don’t kill Daryl!’ But no one’s safe. That’s what gets people watching it live on the night and also that sofarisation of sitting there, tweeting about and experiencing it collectively as a nation, I think that’s been really successful in our show. And that’s why the scripts in the forthcoming episodes are so closely guarded.
I’m going to watch your reaction very closely when I say this. Don’t kill Daryl.
No one’s safe…
Of course you’re quite a prominent tweeter yourself.
Yes, I like tweeting. Since The Walking Dead it’s gone a little bit strange, it’s gone massive. So I don’t tend to read everything that comes at me, because there’s so much of it. But I do enjoy Twitter, yeah. I run a charity as well called CAST, which is sort of a creative arts charity. And so we set up a Facebook and Twitter campaign for that, and that was very successful. I like music, so what I do is I tend to tweet some music and then people tweet back to me and say, have you heard this, have you heard that? And I like that. And it’s a take it or leave it thing for me. I do know other people who’ll be standing next to me and then they’ll say something to you, but only via Twitter then you have to get on your phone. So that’s a bit weird. It’s not something I’m slavish about, but I enjoy the interaction very much.
And judging from your Twitter feed, you’re a big movie watcher as well. I saw you picking up Amour and Berberian Sound Studio.
Berberian Sound Studio is my movie of the year. I think its simplicity is just unbelievable. I mean it’s got three locations, it’s got this great performance from Toby Jones in the middle of it. But it’s a classic horror film. It really gets you and you don’t really see anything, it’s a sensory experience. So I love that. I love that about it, and I thought it was such an atmospheric movie and such a clever film. And Amour, as well, not a lot of locations, three great performances… I found it very touching and moving, but in the end very life-affirming, actually. I didn’t find it the depressing film that a lot of people were talking about. It really gave me great hope about life, rather than sort of being miserable about it.
You are also a Liverpool Football Club fan.
I am, first and foremost.
So bearing that in mind, what's your assessment of Stanley Victor Collymore’s performance in Basic Instinct 2?
With Stan, I tell you, he was great. He got out quick. He went down easy, I thought. I remember sitting with him and, thinking ‘God, that guy looks like Stan Collymore. And then I went, it is Stan Collymore.’ And Michael Caton-Jones says, ‘Yes, he was playing football at the beginning’ and I was like, ‘Wow.’ But Stan’s in the pre-title sequence, which you might think didn’t take him so long to do, but it did because he ends up in the Thames, and he had to get his badge for that – he had to do all this sort of stunt stuff and all that. And he really went for it, but I don’t think he got the bug. I think he’s very happy at Talk Sport now doing his own phone-in show. But it was great to meet him, I have to say.
And what about you? Was football ever a possibility for you?
Never. No. I mean I love playing football, I played in goal, but no, I was always happy to be a spectator. I played football and I played five-a-side regularly up to a few years ago. But no, it was never an option. I flattered with boxing for a while, but it was very quickly dashed. But again, I enjoy that sport.
So whenever you’re on location, down in Atlanta, is it easy to keep up with Liverpool stuff? Watch the matches?
Yeah again, that’s the modern world we live in; I mean Twitter is great for that. Whilst I was in Atlanta there was the TV show, Being Liverpool, going on as well, which was quite an odd show for me to watch. But I both enjoyed that but also was quite worried about it. Brendan Rodgers was telling team tactics, I was saying, ‘Don’t tell them that!’ So that was quite odd. But yes, Liverpool is an international brand, so it was out there. But yes, I’m very proud of my Liverpool roots, of my association with Liverpool Football Club, my love of them.
I can't think of another club that’s supported by so many famous people. Sam Jackson supports Liverpool, or claims to anyway…
I nearly dropped my bacon sandwich when Sylvester Stallone walked on the Goodison Pitch. That was great. Bill Kenwright had done a movie with him and he’d told him to walk out there, and it was just fantastic to see… I’m surprised he didn’t end up in goal. Robert Duvall is a Hibs supporter, I think…
Well he cast Ally McCoist in that film he directed, A Shot At Glory.
That’s right – he’s mad into Scottish premiership isn’t he? I don’t know where that came from. But imagine turning up to a St. Mirren game and him standing next to you, that would be weird.
He’s the man of the world. And you’re a big music fan too, what kind of stuff is on your record player at the moment?
At the moment I’m listening to the Allah-Las. Do you know them? They’re a California band who I really love. And there’s a great band from Liverpool called Outfit, who I really like. And then there's Lee Childs, too.
So where do you get your music tips from?
I have a 17 year-old son, so lots of things come from him. But really, Twitter has been a really great inspiration for me, people just sending me stuff. And I read all the music press, I’m quite geeky with all that. Bill Fay was a great album last year, I loved that album and there’s a great album by Jonathan Wilson called Gentle Spirit. You know that album? That’s great.
Do you like the new Bowie single?
Yes I did. I thought it was great. Although I did think in the video he looked a bit like Keith Lemon in that sort of puppet thing that he had. That was a bit weird. But yet, I was overjoyed by that. It’s so great just to hear his voice again, and even in that terribly sad song. I haven't had the album yet, but I thought that was a great song.
We’ve got to let you go in a second here, but the first thing I remember seeing you in was Framed with Timothy Dalton. What are your memories of that?
Well my big memory of that was he was James Bond at the time. And I was really nervous. I went up for it about 17 times, and I eventually got the lead role and I thought it was a fantastic script. The great thing about Lynda Le Plante scripts is when they come, they come fully formed. It was one of the few scripts I’ve ever had that you don’t get any pink pages or anything like that. That’s it. She worked so hard on it that you have it. It was a brilliant thriller. And then they cast Timothy Dalton and when I arrived at our first meeting he was late because he was coming from L.A. and it was the L.A. riots. And he came back and he was telling me all about how the city was aflame and that was an amazing thing. He was a great guy to work with. I really loved it. And when you’re working on something so solid, that story, you just know which are the points you need to hit. And I really had a great time on that show and Penelope Cruz was in that too, you know…
Yep, she played one of Timothy’s girlfriends who seduced me. That took all of two seconds. She just turned up and I was like, ‘Oh go on then.’ So that was really amazing. She must have been about 18 at the time, and she was just amazing, she was just so beautiful. And then she was in Captain Corelli's Mandolin quite a bit later. So yes I taught her everything she knows, all about the acting life…
I need to see Framed again, I think. Anyway David, it’s been an absolute pleasure.
And for me, all the best.