Z NATION’s Keith Allan previews what comes next
Z NATION airs Friday nights on Syfy, and as the show has progressed, we’ve seen the team work together to, somewhat reluctantly, save a man named Murphy who holds what could be the cure or vaccine for Zombie and zombieism. On tonight’s all new episode, the gang encounters seemingly utopian cult and face major consequences.
Keith Allan plays Murphy and we recently spent some time chatting about how he got involved in the show, what else he’s done for Syfy, and what he thinks might happen when Colbert moves to CBS? Check it out!
What was it that drew you to the series – how did you get involved?
I have a sort of special circumstance in working on the show. As you know, The Asylum is the producer of it, and The Asylum and Syfy produce it. The Asylum is well known, of course, for SHARKNADO and many, many other films. I was working there as an employee, basically as a stage manager there; then I worked there for probably three years, in that capacity. I’m an actor in LA and you know, I need to make money, haha. I wasn’t making a living as an actor at the time; it comes and goes sometimes. I was working there, and had been, basically for a month or two, and they asked me to audition for one of their films, which was THREE MUSKATEERS because they knew I was an actor and I had directed some short films and things like that, so the next thing you know, boom, I’m in one of their movies. From there, I wound up writing and directing a feature for them, 11/11/11, which is a child-demon possession theme, and acted in several of their movies, and ended up writing some screenplays for them, for Syfy Channel, 2 of which were zombie movies. I co-wrote, I should say, with my partner Delondra Williams, always like to give credit, ha, RISE OF THE ZOMBIES and ZOMBIE NIGHT, both for the Syfy Channel. So I had a little zombie background going into it. When they had announced that they were going to start working on a television project, they had asked me to audition for it. I couldn’t have been happier, of course, because I love working [laughs], and it was also just a great, great character. It was so much fun. They put me through the mill on this; I probably auditioned 7 times for the role. They’d look at me, read me, basically the same scene over again, and then they go “Good….good” and you’re going, ok, thank you, I guess [laughs]. You do that a few times, and it’s like, oh my god, I’m never going to get this job. hey’re going to give it to someone with a bigger name, someone who is more well known, but it came down to me. Syfy was really happy with my audition and so was The Asylum, so yeah, I got the gig. I got the job on a Friday around 4 o’clock and I had to be in Spokane by Sunday [laughs]. I basically threw a bunch of crap in the card and hit the road; so I was out of town for 5 months. It was a whirlwind thing. I didn’t think I was going to get it, and then I got, and THEN you have to leave town and find someone to watch your cat.
You mention loving the character – I love him, too. He’s a last hope that these people have. There’s a darkness there, there are secrets there, that we’re slowly learning. What are favorite aspects about him you find relatable or favorite things?
When I look at a character like this, I look at him and think, well, where did he start from? No one really starts out as an asshole, you know? It’s an accumulation of events and circumstances in life, where they feel like they’ve been unjustly treated and life is being unfair to them, blah, blah, blah. Some people are more justified than others, and quite frankly, I think he is pretty justified. As is everyone at this point in the apocalypse. Everyone has lost someone and everyone has their lives thrown into chaos. You know, Murphy, he’s been through a lot. He’s also been a victim of other people’s agendas. First in the penal system as a prisoner and then the government takes him as an unwilling lab rat, experimenting on him, doing human test trials on him against his will. So he’s a prisoner there, and now he’s a prisoner again. He basically is these people’s prisoner, so he’s got a lot to be upset about [laughs]. Some people are just going to be better at dealing with that, than others, and he’s just gotten so good at it. He gets by the best way he can, and often the best way he can is sort of make the snarky remark, or insult someone or something like that. His sense of humor is one of his survival skills and I certainly can associate with that. That’s something that I use in my life all the time.
Talk a bit about their journey – going to different cities; where will we go next, and what do we see next from the team?
Without giving too much of the story away, our eventual destination is California, because we’re trying to get to the lab in California so they can extract my blood and save humanity, so that’s our goal. What happens along the way is that we’ll often get sidetracked because of the circumstances. As is the case when you don’t have fuel, you don’t have food. You come across people that want to kill you, you come across a hoard of zombies that you can’t get around. It’s pretty, and without giving too much of the story away, it’s not as easy as just getting into the car as driving. There are obstacles all along the way. I think that is a couple of the reasons that makes the show interesting to me. It is kind of a zombie road trip; we are traveling, you never know who you’re going to come across, or who you’re going to have to kill in order to get to the next town [laughs].
What’s different about the show for me, from other post-apocalyptic settings is that there is this hope, you are this hope for them to stay alive – he has this weight and hope of a nation on his shoulders. What is that like?
I think there is certainly that, he realizes that. He’s also not treated very well. They’re certainly not treating him like he’s royalty by any means. He’s always getting slapped around or thrown around; he is abused quite a bit and sometimes more justly so than others. As the show goes on, he starts to feel his own importance which can get the best of him; his ego, he gets a little holier than thou, sometimes. Then he gets slapped back down again! He does realize that he is special, but I think it also terrifies him. It’s a huge responsibility to have. It’s like, okay, I’m going to save mankind now? [laughs]. It is sort of thrown into this mission, these circumstances; he didn’t ask for it. That takes a certain type of person to be able to handle that with any dignity and courage, and I think he’s lacking in a lot of those skills. He has to go day by day, about how he is going to make it through the day. This stuff is interesting because he’s seen a lot of death and, like a lot of people, would not have survived the apocalypse without these people protecting them, he lacked survival skills. And now he’s starting to form some actual friendships with these people, and starts to care for them. I think that starts to play on his sense of humanity, also. I think it’s been a long time since he’s really cared about anyone or anything, and through this journey, he’s starting to actually care about these people. He may not show it all of the time, but it’s certainly there.
What are you saying when people say why should I watch Z NATION?
First of all, I think [laughs], if you can’t handle blood and guts and brains, you probably shouldn’t, because [laughs], we have a lot of it! I love it. I love that kind of stuff. I love the special effects that they’re throwing into this. I love the creative ways that they go about killing people, or killing zombies, that I feel like it’s exactly what I want from a horror show. I want it to have intensity, I want to have those scares, I want it to be gross, and I want to laugh at some point. I think it’s delivering on all of those levels. On top of it, we get to have some really nice dramatic moments where we get to sort of see what is underneath these characters skins, so I think for an hour of your time, you’re getting quite a variety of things in our show, and so that’s why I love it. It’s really hitting on a lot of levels that is what you want from any horror show.
Do you get time to watch other TV?
You know, I love TV! There are a few – boy I just got hooked on ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. I just started watching, and boy I love that. I tend to be drawn to shows that are really well-written. And acted. I have a very low tolerance for bad acting [laughs]. I’m a bit of an acting snob, I admit it! Things like THE NEWSROOM – totally drawn to that – solid actors and solid writing! I love a whole variety of stuff. I love animation stuff – FAMILY GUY, BOB’S BURGERS, and ARCHER. ARCHER is brilliant; I just love that show. I do love a variety, except not a lot of reality television. I’ve got one reality, maybe two, that I will watch. But I have a hard time. Anything that has people being ridiculous or mean for the sake of it, I can’t do it! And then I would say THE COLBERT REPORT. I’m addicted to his show. i just think he’s a genius.
I can’t wait to see what happens when he moves over, when he takes over for Dave.
It makes me sad because I love that character and I love what he’s done with that show, but he has been doing that for about 10 years, so I can see why he’d want to move on. His writing staff is so good; they are just so top notch, so I’m not worried! I’m confident that he’s going to do oh just fine!