Interview with Jon Bernthal

Jon Bernthal is currently starring in AMC’s new TV series, “The Walking Dead”. Jon is no stranger to TV or movies. He appeared in recent films like “Night of the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” and “The Ghost Writer”. On television, he recently co-starred in “Eastwick” and HBO’s “The Pacific”. Movie Mikes had a chance to talk with Jon about his role in “The Walking Dead” and his other recent projects.

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Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your character Shane Walsh in “The Walking Dead”?
Jon Bernthal: I just came from New York Comic Con, unlike San Diego…New York was a more feisty crowd and they booed the hell out of Shane. I dig that people feel that strongly about the character but since I am playing him I think that Shane is a really loyal friend of Rick’s. We are going slightly in our own direction from the comic. We are playing up that Rick, Lori and Shane are childhood best friends. They grew up together. Shane is Rick’s best friend. I look at him as Rick’s pit bull. He is naturally Rick’s number two. I think that is how they work as friends. Rick’s is settled and has this great wonderful family. We are hinting that Shane is this wild and crazy bachelor. He is a guy that can just roll into Rick’s house at any point, pull up a chair and start eating dinner with them. When the apocalypse hits and Shane assume Rick to be dead, the first thing he does is go and get Lori and Carl to protect them. He leads them out in the woods with a group of survivors. I think at that point he crosses into this leadership position. It doesn’t suit him, he is a number two guy. When Rick comes back in order for the group to survive, it makes more sense for Shane to fall back. Unfortunately now he has had a little taste of what it is like to be number one. That is a center where a lot of the drama comes from in the first season.

MG: What was it like working with such an amazing ensemble cast?
JB: I gotta tell you, I have been out in Los Angeles like 5 years now and I have been really lucky. I have got to work on some really cool projects. I gotta say, this project really kicks everything in the ass. I have never worked with actors like this. In episode three when we are all together, everyone is just so great together. They are all so talented. As far as Andrew (Lincoln) is concerned who plays Rick Grimes. I have never seen anything like it. I already got a chance to see the pilot and saw how great he actually is. Getting to work with him day in and day out is so great. I think that there is not a person on television right now that can throw down a performance like he does. I am thrilled to be working with such great people. They are all awesome.

MG: What was the best part so far about working on the show?
JB: Frank Daramont is a genius. They created this unbelievably interesting character. He dies really quick in the comic , but Frank really explores this guy. He is giving me an opportunity as an actor to week in and week out try to change the audiences mind about whether he is a good guy or bad guy. It is really cool character for me to play. I think he is going to be a character that keeps people guessing and keeps proving people wrong. It has been a great opportunity for me. Greg Nicotero did the makeup and he is the best in the business. I love AMC, it is my favorite network. The comic book is so amazing and we are lucky to have (Robert) Kirkman on board. We are able to come up with some really cool tangents from the comic. It is all really cool. I think my favorite part was honestly going to work everyday and being a part of this all. We felt like we really did something good.

MG: How do you feel working on this show differs from your other TV shows?
JB: I think this show is different for a whole number of reasons. Look, I do not think I can really compare this with anything I have done on network TV. He we are just playing by a completely different set of rules. First and foremost everyone really wanted to make a show that was as good as possible. AMC’s whole outlook is quality first. They really want to bring people to the show rather than bring the show to the people. They not taking any shortcut or pulling any punches. The only thing I have been a part of that I can compare it too was “The Pacific”. I think “The Pacific” described the numbness and the horrors of war. This show is really about digging in and finding humanity in a really fucked up world. This is a real character piece. It really shows the relationships between the characters and emotions. I tell people I am going a zombie show, they all of the sudden think of a gory campy cute thing. This show IS gory but there is nothing cute about this. It is really gritty show. These characters really land like they do on the page. It is something that is really human. That is what really takes it apart from “The Pacific”, it is not just about the big battle scenes. It is really about these people and most of that really comes from the comic.

MG: What like it like working on such a big budget film like “Night of the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”?
JB: It was really cool. A lot of that movie was done in improv. We went off script all the time. I got a chance to do improvisation with Christopher Guest, Hank Azaria and Alain Chabat (who played Napoleon). They were some of the best actors I have worked with. They have this great sense of comedy. A lot of the stuff we did ended up getting cut from the movie. We did a lot extra stuff but I do not think it served the main storyline. Ben (Stiller) was a great guy. I really loved that movie. It was ton of fun and I never been apart of something like that before.

MG: Last fall, you played Raymond Gardener in the TV show “Eastwick”, how was it working working on that show?
JB: [laughs] It was cool man. I grew up playing sports like baseball and football through college and I am boxer. I am active type dude and that was a pretty feminine show. It was weird going from “The Pacific”, where it was like 150 guys in a rain forest in Northern Australia to a show about three beautiful woman on the back lot of Warner Brothers. It was a different experience for me. It was cool. I made some good friends from the show and it was interesting experience.

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