GCE Exclusive: Interview with Daniel Thomas MayMay 5, 2013
The GCE had the opportunity to attend the ParaHorror Convention yesterday, where we caught up with The Walking Dead actor Daniel Thomas May, who played Allen on the show. We talk about Allen and his character, The Walking Dead comics and the time he spent on stage in theatrical productions! Warning: There are Walking Dead spoilers for both the show and comics (up to issue 100).
Tell us a little about your experience working on The Walking Dead.
Well, I came to the show in the role of Allen as a fan of the comic books and I was way into them and of course, I live in Atlanta and when I found out they were going to be making the TV show and that they were going to be making the TV show in Atlanta, I was terribly excited. It took a couple of years as they were shooting down there until my agent brought me the audition for the role and it turned out to be Allen. I was beside myself because not only did I not only have a role on this fantastic TV show but I had a role as one of the comic book characters and one of the characters that I loved. It was great–to be able to get there on set and the first two nights that I was shooting Robert Kirkman was there and that was awesome! To actually get on set and have Robert Kirkman there because he wrote the first episode that I came in on, episode 3.08–I got to meet Robert Kirkman, Greg Nictero, you know all of these guys that are idols of mine in the industry, it was just amazing. And Chad who plays Tyresse, and Sonequa and Tyler, we all became a tight knit group–our own little family. The four of us really became quite close because that’s who you are working with day in and day out. It was great, it was an amazing experience.
Being a fan of the comics, did you have a favorite character or story arc?
My favorite character is Abraham. I’m hopeful that they will eventually get to the point where they will bring that character into the show. It’s such an alternate timeline version of the story–the TV show has it’s own universe now so who knows how that’s going to work out but definitely Abraham. Honestly, the whole Woodbury arc still is, I think, probably the most stunning in the comics. When I reached the end of the arc–I have several friends who read through it as well and we all kind of agreed–when we got to the end of the Woodbury arc, it felt like a good place to take a break. It’s like “I’m done reading for now.”
Things went down a lot differently for Allen than they did in the show. What would you have liked to happen with him that didn’t?
I want to live! I wanted to live.
In the comic he had that tough kind-of friendship with Andrea…
Yeah, which they sort of turned into the fighting that was happening with Tyreese. That same sort of thing where Tyreese is trying to get Allen to cope with the loss of Donna, and Allen fights back against that so you get to see a little bit of that–the sort of thing that happened with Andrea in the comic books. I would’ve liked to have seen that carry on just because I felt like there was more story to tell in terms of how Allen and Tyreese relate and the whole relationship that they brought with them. The fact that–as we saw–in the episode where we had the fight, Allen can really get under Tyreese’s skin. I love what Chad does with him on the show because he’s so even-keeled and he’s so intent on peace and retaining his humanity which is a huge theme on both the comics and the show. I was so excited when I saw the script when we got to have that fight. I was like “Alright! Here is Tyreese’s dark side that everyone has been waiting for–the bad side of Tyreese that everyone knows from the comics is there!” I was honored to have Allen play a part in bringing out that side of Tyreese. I’m really interested to see what they do as they bring it into season four and what they do with his character.
Do you think Allen saw any of himself in Rick through what they had in common with their losses?
I don’t think that he understood Rick; I think Allen was unfortunately so much focused on his own pain and loss that he wasn’t thinking correctly in terms of extending that beyond himself and recognizing it in others. Unfortunately, the only experience that Allen got to have with Rick was when they were thrown out of the prison–it cast everything in a negative light. I have tried to make this argument time and time again–it’s funny, the response to Allen is understandable and predictable. People don’t like the character and I totally respect and appreciate that–I’m an actor, I’m used to that! But I nonetheless love having conversations with people: “So what would you do? What would your point of view be of Rick? Take away the fact that he’s the hero of the show and you’ve been watching him as a television viewer for however long and you love the character and you understand where’s he’s coming from. If your only experience of Rick is that he completely flipped out, drew a gun on you, chased you out of a prison and threw you out to the wild zombies again… what would you think?” I understand people don’t like Allen calling him a crazy cowboy but really! It’s all about the point of view. I like to think that things could have played out differently, that all of our group could have made a home there at the prison and been a integral part of their group, it just didn’t play out that way. It’s too bad.
What was the hardest thing about playing Allen?
Holding onto and keeping track of the sense of loss and the sense of fear that was central to the character. Donna’s death had such a huge impact on him and I had to do that from the get-go, that was my first episode, I had to be in there and realize ‘oh, great, you lost your wife’. Holding onto that throughout was one thing for me as a fan of the comic books I wanted to be a part of Allen in the TV show. In the comics, Allen never really gets over it (the death) and they will have a random frame in the comics that would be ‘oh look, there’s Allen and he’s crying again’. Allen, he’s never quite settled. I think we were really able to communicate that on the show. Allen’s whole reality was shaped by the necessity to protect the sole surviving member of his family which he even failed to do when Ben was killed. That put him right over the edge.
Regarding the death of Allen’s son, Ben, would you have liked to explore his devastation over losing both Donna and Ben or did you feel that when Allen died it was the right time for his character?
I’ll tell you, I did get to explore those things and it didn’t make it into the episode. I don’t know if it will ever show up as an extra feature or a deleted scene or something but I would love it if it did because I was really proud of that scene–it was scripted and shot. It addressed what happens and why Ben was left behind and how it impacted Allen. It was a great thing for me to be able to springboard from that into going in and attacking the prison and why Allen is so intent on going in and taking control. So it did happen, and I did get to explore it–I think ultimately when it came down to telling the stories they needed to tell, it was something that chronologically didn’t make the cut.
In answer to the question about Allen’s death–was it the right time to have it happen? I think the timing was right. I think that Allen, having lost Donna, it chipped away a part of him, and then Ben went, he just was not prepared to be in this world anymore. I think that what the Governor did was in some way–although I’m sure the Governor wouldn’t see it this way–but it was almost like a merciful thing that he did. When it came down to it, despite all of Allen’s lip service that he paid to the idea of getting the people in the prison, Allen really wanted to believe he was a killer, and that he could be hard enough to survive in this world. When he had a gun trained on the man that just done this horrific, awful thing–which you could argue should earn him his death—Allen couldn’t pull that trigger. He couldn’t take that man’s life, and it cost him his own life. He didn’t have the strength to stand up against someone as evil as the Governor.
Now that Allen is gone, will you be watching the show on Sundays?
What do you want to see happen in the show?
Oh gosh, I would love to see them bring in the cannibal story arc, the one that originally belonged to Dale. I’m curious whether they will try and do that with Hershel or what, but of course that’s long after the prison in the comics so who knows especially with them wanting to keep them at the prison longer. Which could mean that they just bring the storyline to the prison. There’s lots of ways to keep the action centered in the prison and Woodbury and still bring in the interesting storylines. The Hunters story arc was pretty harrowing.
I’m waiting for the Saviours arc, in the comics that’s not until around issue 92 or so.
I’m still around the Alexandria safezone arc. It’s just gotten to the point that it’s gotten overrun. I know about issue 100, it’s impossible to avoid that spoiler… I wonder if they could have the Governor in the TV show since it’s an alternate universe–they could have him go off and create the Saviours! One of the things that I love that the writers did in the third season was the parallel storylines of fathers and loss–you have Rick losing Lori and the fear of losing Carl, you have the Governor having lost his wife, and then having to deal with losing Penny. Then you have Allen losing his wife and the fear of losing Ben. You even have Hershel with the fear of losing his family too. It’s a huge element to the TV show, this idea of fathers and how they protect their family when the world is ending.
Do you have any more conventions you will be attending this year?
Yep! So far I’m doing Spooky Empire in Orlando, then FanBoy Expo in Knoxville and there’s an event in Atlanta called the Icon Zombie Apocalypse, so I’ll be there, and I’m looking at future dates too. Every day I have people asking me if I’m going to this convention and that convention–if I haven’t I look into it and I would love to do more conventions too. This is my first convention and I’ve been to a convention as a fan but this is the first where I’m meeting fans of the show and I’m having a blast!
What other projects do you have coming up?
Monday night should be my first episode of Revolution. I’ve got a recurring character on there–I’ve also got a new show called Being Mary Jane for BET. I’ve got a couple things in the works and I’m always looking into the future for more projects.
You have done a lot of theatre in your past, would you like to go back to that?
I love doing theatre. I would like to go back to it but right now it’s such a time commitment that the place for me to focus right now is on film and television. I’ve got over seventeen years of stage work that I’ve done and I’m proud of. Lots of great relationships in the theatre community.
Is there any stage production you’ve always wanted to be a part of?
I love Tracy Letts stuff. He’s got this great show called ‘Bug’ that I did many years ago. It’s funny, I’ve honestly never been the type of person that has thought about ‘oh this is the one I have to do!’ I’ve done things as they come to me and it’s worked out pretty well. I’ve gotten to play Stanley (Streetcar Named Desire) twice actually, I got to do Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and I’ve done lots of Shakespeare. I loved doing Macbeth because we got to do a really dark, bloody version of it that was actually set in Scotland so we were running around in kilts, but I really wanted to get the horror aspects of that right. It was a perfect marriage for me because I love horror. I love playing Hamlet and I got to do that with a very talented director and good friend of mine. That show was exhausting, but it was an amazing experience. It’s something I wish for any and every actor.
Thank you for your time today, Daniel!
Oh, thank you so much, it was a pleasure. Thanks for crossing the border to come here!
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