Sarah Wayne Callies has been incredibly astute in the roles she’s chosen to play because at the moment, everything she seems to touch turns to gold, a feminine Midas almost. The Walking Dead has been an incredible hit and goes to show what is possible with some solid writing and acting, the success achieved and appreciated. The same goes for the hit TV series Prison Break.
Before the interview started we had a brief exchange which showed just how much fun she could be, and it was a natural fun, not some put on effort. Sarah is someone who doesn’t appear to take herself at all too seriously, but conversely knows what she wants to do too, and works very hard at it. The end result is an actor who is now reaping the rewards for that hard work. Darshan caught up with Sarah at this years excellent London Film and Comic Con organised by Showmasters, and here’s what she had to say.
So after your character passed away, what roles have you taken up since then?
Her unfortunate demise, yes, one of those memorable television exits from a show! Actually yes, I went straight from The Walking Dead into a movie with yet another massively wonderfully talented handsome British leading man, Richard Armitage.
He’s from Huncote, Leicestershire, that’s where we’re based (Leicestershire).
Oh really!? Oh, he’s a lovely guy, we did a movie called Black Sky together, which will be coming out next year or so. And I just closed a play in DC, it was completely different thing for me. It was a 1910, Budapest revival thing! And it had all the fun of looking like a girl, I had on high heels, and a corset and dresses and wigs and things! And the Walking Dead cast, bless their hearts, they came to our opening night to surprise me. They all flew up from Atlanta and they did not know what to do with me. Norman turned to me and said “you’re a girl!”, I know! Best kept secret on television! I am actually a girl! So yes, I’ve been keeping busy. The producer I worked with commissioned a screen play so I’m busy writing that right now, and then I might actually take a break. We’ll see how that goes!
Do you prefer the more confident roles as opposed to the sort of role you played in Prison Break?
You know, I prefer the variety of both, and after Prison Break I was consciously looking for a character that would not sort of be an angelic heroine because as amazing as that role was, I just did that for four seasons and now it would be great to do something else. So when “Lori” came along it seemed like the perfect opportunity to sort of expand that range a bit.
Who was the most fun person to work with on The Walking Dead?
Ooh, it really depends on what you mean by “fun to work with”. Steven Yeun will make you laugh just by looking at you and taking a deep breath, and I don’t know how that’s possible. Norman Reedus is one of the kindest, nicest people in the world, but don’t tell anyone, it’ll ruin his image! Andy Lincoln makes you a better actor because he’s brave and courageous. Jon Bernthal is a powerhouse, and scenes with him just explode. Melissa McBride is nothing short of genius, it’s an embarrassment of riches and it’s just one of the best jobs I’ve ever had because every member of that cast really brings something different. It was just such a huge honour to work with those people.
What’s been the most challenging time doing the series?
In a way, the ending of it was, I mean it was certainly emotionally the hardest because you’re in the process of saying goodbye to everyone and at the same time trying to wrap your head around the scenes. In another way, series one was the hardest because none of us realised how hard the show was going to be! And just how exhausting it was going to be to do.
Am I right in saying you have a degree in Fine Art?
Almost, I have a masters, classical acting.
Had you always wanted to go into acting?
Actually no. My parents are both professors, and I sort of assumed that I would follow in their footsteps, and my undergraduate work was in indigenous theology and feminist theory and I was on my way to a PhD, and I did a big research project and it was so lonely. I found that I kept missing theatre and that camaraderie of a group of people coming together to tell a story. So I figured I would do my best and that I would, well, the deal that I made with myself was that I had to fail at being an actor before I’d be happy doing anything else. So if I hit a wall and fail I’ll head over to University and get that PhD!
That’s not really going to happen though is it!?
Well, you never know!
What would be the ultimate character you’d want to play?
Oh, ultimate character. Well, there’s Medea, she’s pretty great, Antigone is pretty fabulous. There are so many. I think what’s exciting right now is that there are more interesting roles being written for women on cable television, then maybe at any other time in American pop culture and Hollywood’s history. It’s an exciting time to be working. Let’s put it this way, I’m more proud to be a woman who’s been working in cable television in the states then I would be anywhere else. I’m not dying to be in movies, not hoping I get to a network because it’s a bigger paycheck. I think there’s brilliant work being done, written and directed, and acting by women right now, and it’s a great thing to be a part of.
It was a terrific pleasure chatting to Sarah, or only complaint is that it would have been nice to have longer but we had to keep in mind that there were lots of people at the event who were desperate to meet her and talk with her. We had many more questions, but in any case we’d certainly like to thank Sarah for her time, and the awesome Kevin of Showmasters who made it happen.
On the note of “ultimate” characters she would like to play, it was great to hear names from Greek mythology, and had me thinking of mythological figures such as Blenda, Freyja or even Agustina de Aragón, all of those I could easily see her doing. Here’s hoping!