Jesse Metcalfe ('Dead Rising: Watchtower')
'Watching You, Watching Me!'
Based on the videogame created by Capcom, 'Dead Rising: Watchtower' tells the story of when a mandatory government vaccine fails and a full-scale zombie epidemic ensues, a news reporter and three other survivors are trapped inside a quarantine zone. The team must use everything they can find to fight off the flesh-hungry mob and evade becoming part of the undead horde!
'Dead Rising: Watchtower' was directed by Zach Lipovsky (Leprechaun: Origins) and written by Tim Carter (The Chateau Meroux), and stars Jesse Metcalfe (TV’s “Dallas,” “Desperate Housewives”), Meghan Ory (TV’s “Once Upon a Time,” “Intelligence”), Virginia Madsen (TV’s “Witches of East End,” Sideways), Dennis Haysbert (TV’s “24,” Sniper: Reloaded) and Rob Riggle (21 Jump Street series, The Hangover).
I recently caught up with the star himself, Jesse Metcalfe, and first mentioned that in a movie world that churned out the same-old-same-old, that I had found 'Dead Rising: Watchtower' to be refreshingly fun! "Well thank you, I appreciate that. I'm glad you could see that. I think the reason why it's something fresh is that our producers, Tomas Harlan and Tim Carter of Contradiction Films are huge video game fans. They've actually pursued certain titles with a vengeance and obviously, the video game industry has sort of lost fame in Hollywood as far as allowing them to adapt their games into live action feature films. Many of them in the past have been flops, have been total failures. But these two guys are very passionate about the games and really worked hand in hand with the video game company, Capcom, to bring the experience of the game to life on screen. And I also had a great director, Zach Lipovsky, who was a huge gamer in his own right, and a big fan of the game. I think he did a great job in shooting this movie and capturing the energy and the anxiety of the game, and that life or death fight for survival feel."
Once the movie got going, and the character of Logan and his gang was introduced, it suddenly turned into a 'Mad Max'-type film. Was it as chaotic on set as it looked watching it sometimes? "Yeah, totally. Those characters are taken directly from the game and yeah, the game itself has a very Mad Max type of feel to it. It's very pedal to the metal, a constant fight for survival experience which never really stops. Much like the recent remake of the film, which I felt captured that most amazingly too."
Being that this is an all-action, all-the-time movie, what did you yourself find to be the most challenging acting aspect? "Well, this role was very physically demanding. Very exhausting, at times. We have that "oneer", in the movie, which is this continuous action sequence without any edits or cuts. We shot like 15 or 16 takes of it and at the end of every take I was gasping for breath, dumping sweat. So it was the type of role where not much acting was required. I was just doing this very physical, very real role and I left set late every night, basically covered in scrapes and bruises ... and yet I loved every minute of it. I really had a lot of fun doing all my own stunts and being a part of another world."
The scene of the zombie walking down the street eating his child out of his baby carrier still haunts me now! "Yes, yes," he laughs. "Well, the cool thing about the Dead Rising world is that, and what makes our zombie world different from other zombie worlds, is that we have a lot of character zombies. Like, depending on what a person does as their profession, once they become a zombie, through muscle memory, they maintain a certain activity that they continue to do as zombies! So it remains a source of a lot of comedy in the movie, but we had quite a few character zombies in the movie that I think people will really get a kick out of. Some were references from the game and some were just kind of new ideas from our director and from some of those actually playing the zombies. The great thing about this movie is that every single person that was playing a zombie in costume, in make up, literally loved what they were doing. These people all loved playing zombies as a hobby. The fans of these video games, well, they are very passionate so a lot of people were coming up with their own ideas about how they could be character zombies in the background. Which I think makes our world different and a little more special to the others we've seen before."
Have you yourself ever played 'Dead Rising' the video game series? "I had never even heard of the Dead Rising video game before I auditioned for this part," he laughs. "But after I got the role, I certainly logged in quite a few hours of game play on all of them. Like Dead Rising 1, 2 and 3 ... and Dead Rising: Off The Record. One of our producers, Tomas, really walked me through the games. He had a lot of other Dead Rising experts on set to fill in the gaps for me. But, yeah, there's a lot of different secrets to the game, a lot of different weapons, a lot of definitive characters to copy throughout the game. And I wouldn't call my self a virtuoso, or an expert on the game now, by any means, but I'm very familiar with all the gaps now."
Some of the gardening tool-created weapons that were used were very inventive! Did you have a say in anything built, perhaps? "Yeah, all of the weapons were pulled right from the games, so I think that the fans of the games probably really appreciated that. They were probably waiting to see what new combo weapon was going to come up next also in the film. They're called easter eggs, where you have a game reference within the story, within the action and I think people that are fans of the games find that a lot of fun. Like, when is the next easter egg going to pop up in the movie?"
"I only had say in some of the adjustments to the weapons, because some of the weapons, in particular the sledge saw, was quite cumbersome and difficult to wield, due to the way it was constructed. Also, the sledge saw was rigged to spray blood and the pot to spray the blood was inside the golf bag that was on my back! So, there I was, I had a golf bag on my back, a baseball bat and a golf club and this sledge saw, which is an actual skill saw on one side, and then a Styrofoam sledge hammer on the other side. As you can imagine, the balance of that weapon was not the greatest and very difficult to swing efficiently."
"So, it definitely needed some tinkering with and our props department was very inventive in building these weapons and knew that they would be the main focal points of the movie. These specialty weapons that get built in the game in order to kill zombies, they're almost like another character in our movie."
I know there is now a sequel planned for 2016 and the way the film ends it sets it right up. So have you signed on to reprise your role? "I have. It looks like it starts filming in January back out here in Vancouver. It's a different setting for this one, which I don't want to spoil for the audience quite yet. But it's pretty exciting. This film's going to just be bigger and better. A bigger budget, a lot more action and I think they're going to be able to improve the effects even more. I think the fans of the game, and the movie audiences, are really going to get a kick out of this story."
Well, as we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, can you at least give us an exclusive about what we can expect story wise from the sequel? "We go back to the location of the original outbreak!"
Wonderful, thank you. OK, so, in your opinion, could a zombie apocalypse much like this actually happen in real life?! "Could it happen in real life," he laughs. "Wow, well, I think the genre itself is sort of a comment on modern society and we do have different outbreaks of different kinds, like Ebola or other various different diseases. So it's not out of the realm of possibility. I think why people like the genre so much is that it's kinda rooted in a relatively real fear. So yeah, I think it's definitely possible."
"Actually, you remember when there was that pandemic of those people all trying to do bath salts and it was causing bouts of cannibalism and stuff! That's kinda like a zombie outbreak. That's not too far from what we're talking about now," he laughs.
We last met on the set of my friend, actor Cory Hardrict's film 'DESTINED,' filmed here in MI last November. So I was wondering what your memories were of making that film? "It was a tough shoot. Yeah, we shot in November in downtown Detroit, which is not a very forgiving city. It's very cold and we shot a lot of exteriors. I think Detroit is an incredible backdrop for a movie. It's almost like a modern day ancient Rome, you know. It's just kind of like, crumbling though. All these beautiful buildings, with all this grand architecture, and they're crumbing to the ground. It was certainly an added character to the movie that made Destined what I hope it will be."
Please remind our readers what 'Destined' is all about "It's kind of like Sliding Doors meets Boyz In The Hood. It's really a commentary on poverty and people being disenfranchised, and having to survive by whatever means possible. It's about drug dealing, business, and our relationships with our fathers. It's a really complex movie. I know they had aspirations for the movie to be entered into the the Toronto Film Festival, but they didn't make the deadline so now they're hoping to make it into Sundance. I hope they can make that happen."
We here at Exclusive Magazine LOVE penguins (the birds), so we were wondering if you did also? "Penguins are great, yeah. I wouldn't say they're my favorite animal, but I think they're very cute. But you're asking the wrong person," he laughs. "My girlfriends little brother is obsessed with penguins. It's, by far, his favorite animal. So if you were asking him this question, I think he'd be very excited to give you all the reasons he loves penguins," he laughs, again.
If you were allowed to own one, what would you name one? "Pepe ... Pepe the Penguin," he laughs, one last time.
Finally, any final words about anything else you would like to talk about today, perhaps? "I'm just excited to get started on Dead Rising 2. I love everybody involved on the project. I love the response we got back on the first movie and I'm looking forward to exceeding expectations on the second."
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
Jesse Metcalfe @ Twitter!
'Dead Rising: Watchtower' DVD Purchase Link