I had the pleasure of talking with actor Josh Mikel about many aspects of his acting career, including his role on ‘The Walking Dead’ season 7. He may play a bad guy well, but he comes across as the exact opposite in real life. Not only does he have only positive things to say about his co-stars and directors, he seems to truly love acting and the art of it, not just having his name in the credits.
Horror Fuel: “You appeared in the Sundance series Rectify. What was it like to be part of a story about a man falsely convicted and sentenced to death row ?”
JM: “While I am interested in the subject matter of the show (I’m very much of the opinion that there is a huge need for prison reform in this country), I think what attracted me to Rectify was more the divine auspices that brought a show like that into the world. Created by Ray McKinnon, and Sundance’s first step into scripted TV with AMC that just so happened to be shooting in my home state of GA- there were so many folks involved that I wanted to work with/ for because of their affinity for creating good work. I think a lot of folks might have the false impression that actors pick and choose the stuff they end up on, when the reality is a lot of us audition a lot, and take what comes across our plate more often than not because being a working actor is the initial goal- so when you’re fortunate enough to land on something with such heart and artistry as Rectify, it’s a real gift.”
Horror Fuel: “The series takes place in Georgia, being a Georgia native yourself (I’m from Georgia as well), did it influence your views on the legal system?”
JM: “I don’t think what happens in the show is necessarily exclusively reflective of GA’s legal system, but the nation’s. I think for-profit prisons have put a lot of folks behind bars that don’t belong there. In Rectify’s case though, I think the show does a nice job of not pointing the finger so much at the legal system, which is one of the reasons why the show is interesting. I think it’s very diplomatic in that way. At the time of the murder, Daniel was convicted presumably using all the evidence that was available to the prosecution. His sentence was overturned thanks to DNA saying otherwise, and there are folks who have a vested interest in keeping Daniel locked up, but I don’t think the show necessarily sets out to say something about crime and punishment in this country.”
Horror Fuel: “In 2014 you starred in the creepy supernatural film ‘Last Shift‘, which I really enjoyed, what was it like on the set?”
JM: “Well first off, thanks for checking it out, and secondly- I’m not sure if you knew, but we actually shot in an abandoned police precinct in Sanford, FL, which in itself needed very little production design (it was already creepy AF). It was a fun shoot though, and they managed to get that entire film in some ridiculous amount of time (I think like 14 days). I wish I could do it again- there’s a million things I would have done differently. Anthony DiBlasi (the director) has kicked around the idea of a prequel or sequel which I really hope he puts together. Lee Grimes did my makeup, and he’s a grade A bad ass, and of course Juliana killed it.”
Horror Fuel: “I would love to see a prequel! I would also like to sequel. In other words, I want more. ”
Horror Fuel: “Can you tell us a little about your work as a stunt actor?”
JM: “I don’t work exclusively as a stunt actor ever, but I do occasionally do some of my own small stunts on set (say small falls into pads or fight choreography). I love being able to do what I can, but I’m not going Tom Cruise on anything yet. Largely because I saw my buddy Andy Rusk who was doubling me on a film (The Stephen King film Cell) do a stunt on my behalf and knock himself out. Since then, I figured it best to leave that larger stuff up to the professionals.”
Horror Fuel: “You’re most recent role is as Jared, one of Negan’s Saviors on the hit series ‘The Walking Dead’. What is it like playing a Savior, which are generally seen as the bad guys?”
JM: “I love it. I love playing bad guys, especially in a world like TWD’s. I don’t necessarily see us as the “bad guys.” This isn’t new territory, but everyone in the show is bad because we’re all survivalists at this point, and we have to make some terrible decisions. It’s just to different degrees, and some of us have made easier, less dignified decisions (I’d say many of us Saviors probably chose comfort and safety over integrity in teaming up with Negan). I think in Jared’s case, I’m approaching him a bit like a trauma case whose PTSD is so severe that I’ve lost all respect for the life of others and my own- so I don’t think I’m bad, I think I’m just not fitting into the world we used to know. That’s a dangerous type of person to keep around.”
JM: “Nothing but kindness, really. It’s amazing being a part of something so much bigger than myself, that folks have loved so long before I stepped into the universe. I’m just hoping, in my little way, I honor the story and the fans of the show who care so deeply about these characters.”
Horror Fuel: “You looked like you were enjoying your role while you kicked Richard’s (Karl Makinen) butt. You play a bad guy well. Is there anything special you do to get into character?”
JM: “Thank you! I was. It was fun as hell. I think about my work as Jared less about it being mean or being intentionally dickish and more in terms of – we the saviors have offered an umbrella of protection (by way of not killing the Kingdomers) that deserves respect, and when those respects aren’t paid, it makes my life harder. When they don’t play by the rules, it’s suddenly someone saying that their comfort is worth more than mine. That’s an easy thing to get pissed off about, especially when you feel that they should be kissing the ground you walk on.”
Horror Fuel: “Can you explain the frame of mind the Saviors are in? What attracts them to Negan?”
JM: “I think when your ship is going down you grab the life raft closest to you, and sometimes that life raft is a sadistic bat-wielding megalomaniac. I think that’s the case for a lot of groups that have survived this far- we didn’t meet in a chat room of like-minded individuals, but were forced together one way or another, and if we weren’t up to snuff- we didn’t make it. So with the saviors, I think you’re witnessing the folks who have proven to Negan that they’ll stay in line in his world. Which likely aren’t folks anyone wants to be around. Those good folks ain’t around anymore.”
Horror Fuel: “What has your experience with cast and crew of The Walking Dead been like so far?”
JM: “It’s been amazing. It’s a dream to be on the show. I auditioned a bunch before getting this role, so I’m so happy to have finally made it aboard. I will say that on set, it doesn’t feel like it’s the biggest show on television. I really think the team calling the shots (Scott, Gale, Tom, Greg, Robert Kirkman- everyone on board) they’re just such cool people, I think they’ve managed to surround themselves with more cool people and that’s through every rank of the show from EP to PA. It’s unreal. On a smaller scale the cast in my scene from 702- Karl, Khary, Kerry, Logan, Jayson, Carlos, Cooper, and of course Lenny- just the coolest most welcoming folks. I can’t tell you how rad it was to work with them.”
Horror Fuel: “Will we see more of Jared in the second half of season 7?”
JM: “I show face in the 7B trailer, so unless they do some heavy cutting, I think so ;)”
Horror Fuel: “Do you think you could survive a real zombie apocalypse?”
JM: “Hahaha I do not. I’m not sure I’ll survive a Trump presidency let alone zombies.”
Horror Fuel: “I get it.”
Horror Fuel: “Are you working on any other projects?”
JM: “Back to the drawing board for me. Auditioning and trying to not go crazy during the holidays when things slow down to a near halt through the beginning of pilot season in Feb.”
Horror Fuel: “If you were not acting what would you be doing?
JM: “I do graphic design & illustration, I’m a playwright, and I’ve directed a bunch of music videos – that’s how I made my living up until the past two years when acting took a more front and center role in my life. I’ve been excited to continue doing those things, but in a less “oh, shit I have to pay the bills” sort of way.”
Horror Fuel: “I hear you are quite the musician. Tell us about your music, please.”
JM: “I play drums in Look Mexico. We’ve got a show in Tallahassee 1/27 with Surfer Blood and we’ll likely play a bunch more in 2017. You can find us on Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp and (some of) our vinyl is available through tinyengines.net ”
Horror Fuel: “What made you want to become an actor?”
JM: “I’ve always loved performing, and I always loved being a villain. I was obsessed with Disney villains, so a lot of my work is an extension of that. Once I went to school for theatre and started understanding the craft more, the kind of self awareness it gave- the headspace, I wouldn’t trade anything for it. I’m not sure I ever thought I’d be acting to the extent I am, which is maybe why I’ve made some sort of a career in it. I’ve tried to keep other irons in the fire as to not put too much pressure on myself.”
Horror Fuel: “What is your favorite horror movie and why?”
JM: “Man, folks are going to hate me for this, but I’ve never really been a fan of horror. I’ve always had pretty vivid dreams & nightmares. I spend so much time lately playing shitty people and living in a shitty headspace that I feel like I have to compensate for that somehow. I also HATED to be scared when I was a kid. That being said, I fucking love The Shining. I don’t think it’s a horror film really, or at least what I think of as a horror film. It’s beautiful. (There’s a larger conversation here about good horror, and how much laziness horror directors get away with because of how forgiving fans of the genre are- but with my limited familiarity with horror, I’m not dumb enough to head there) THAT being said, I love working in horror. It really is such great training. It’s high drama always (like getting your skin peeled off kind of high drama) so for actors who oftentimes are thrown nameless superfluous parts, it gives folks a real opportunity to play something bigger and flex their chops and thusly is a great place for folks to find awesome new talent. It’s also amazing how devout fans of the genre are. So long story short. I love horror. I don’t love watching horror.
THAT BEING SAID- one of the first films I ever did was this horror short by my friend Ryan Spindell that I’m still really proud of (it’s good horror- not because I’m in it, but because it’s well done). Check it out!”
Mikel made several interesting points about being a Savior. Maybe they aren’t really bad guys after all. Negan on the other hand, well, he’s a bad boy.
Be sure not to miss ‘The Walking Dead’ when it returns this February and keep an eye for Josh Mikel‘s character Jared. To stay up to date on Josh’s projects, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and visit his IMDb page. You can find out if his band Look Mexico is playing near you by visiting their official website.
If you are Netflix subscriber, you are in luck. ‘Rectify’ and ‘Last Shift‘ are available on their streaming service. I highly recommend them both.
Photo By: Curtis Bonds Baker