Emma Bell is an actress whose name is likely to become widely known before long. The 24 year-old has risen quickly though various low budget films before getting her big break in The Walking Dead, the latest US TV hit to make it big in the UK, and a series that boasts the tantalising combination of creator Frank Darabont, a fantastic comic book source and the acting talents of Britain’s own Andrew Lincoln in a perfectly-realised zombie apocalypse America. On the eve of its DVD and Blu-Ray release, Emma spoke about the show, the current appetite for horror and fantasy on the small screen and her leading, potentially star making role in the next Final Destination film.
FAN THE FIRE: Tell us about your character in The Walking Dead?
EMMA BELL: I play Jamie, the younger sister to another character named Andrea. They are from Florida and on a road trip back to Amy’s college when the zombie apocalypse happens. They happen to be around Atlanta and they get picked up by a very sweet man and taken to the camp, and then the story goes from there. Andy Lincoln, John Bernthal and Sarah Wayne Callies play the main trio of characters, and they stay in the camp and we’re all trying to figure out how to survive.
FTF: How did you get involved?
EB: For me it was just another audition. I auditioned for it pretty early on. They maybe didn’t have a lot of it written yet, as I knew what it was called but I had no idea there was a comic book attached to it. Actually the scene I read was one of Sarah’s scenes. I knew I wasn’t going in for that part, but I didn’t know initially that my character would be Amy until it was a little bit farther along. I found out that I booked it and it was great because I literally had ten dollars left in my bank account!
FTF: Things are a bit easier now then?
EB: Things are a little bit easier, yes . This last year I did The Walking Dead and Final Destination 5. I worked on that for 3 months, and then last month I shot a pilot for NBC. So it’s been a great year for me both financially and artistically. The Walking Dead started it all off, and I was so excited to get that role and be a part of the show. We all felt it was going to be really special.
FTF: The world that Frank Darabont manages to create, has a really sparse, eerie feel, being very peaceful but likely to be broken by terror and anarchy. How did you find the working process of creating that world?
EB: I’m glad that came across, because that’s what we were trying to do. A large part of it has to do with the fact that while it’s a zombie apocalypse TV series, really it’s about the characters. Robert Kirkman, who wrote the comic books. made that pretty evident. When I read those I thought there was an amazing character journey for these people, and what I think keeps the show on edge is that while the zombies are around and they’re a constant source of fear, most of the time it’s about human versus. human and the kind of demons we turn into or the kinds of choices we make as human beings in regards to other human beings when it becomes about life or death. I think that’s what makes it really creepy, when you see normal people who in a normal setting would be your next door neighbours turn into the most morally un-centred people. That’s what makes it scary.
FTF: So the scariness comes as much from the people as it does from the situation?
FTF: What was it like working with Andrew Lincoln?
EB: Oh, terrible! No, I’m kidding, what was great about working with Andy is that he worked his butt off. He’s practically in every single scene, and they’re dramatic, emotional scenes, and he was working all the time. But that never stopped him from being a part of the group, and he didn’t sequester himself off by being the star of the show. You would say that’s how people should act but you’d be amazed by how some people need to have isolation for their roles. Andy was always a part of the group and he always made us laugh so much. I sat next to him when we flew to Comic Con. I didn’t have that many scenes with him, and everyone was telling me how great he was, so I really wanted to have a conversation with him. We sat next to each other on the plane and I don’t think I stopped laughing the whole flight. He’s just the best. On top of that he’s pretty easy on the eye. He’s quite dreamy! In America our big introduction to him was Love Actually, so everybody thinks of him as the cute guy from that.
FTF: So that made it big over there as well?
EB: I love that film, I don’t know anyone who does not love that film in America.
FTF: How do you feel about how your character left the show?
EB: Well I was sad to go. It wasn’t just that the show was going to be big, but that the material was great and on a personal level I truly love every person in that cast. It was hard to say goodbye but I have to say Amy’s role in the comic book series is much smaller than in TV series, so I was just really happy that they expanded my character to the extent that they did, plus I got to do really cool things as an actor. I had a big death scene, and then I got to come back as a zombie, which was really cool!
FTF: You’ve acted a lot in the horror genre with The Walking Dead, Final Destination 5, and also Frozen. Do you like those roles, and do you see them as offering good parts for women?
EB: I’ve been really lucky in that all the roles that I’ve been able to be a part of and have been really challenging as an actress. Each character that I’ve played brings something else to the table, and what I love about horror as a genre is there are so many branches of it. There are your character dramas, psychological horror, slasher films, zombie apocalypses, supernatural elements. There are so many avenues you can go down, so there is a lot of opportunity. I’ve been very lucky to be part of the genre, but I would love to play a lot of different types of characters in lots of different genres. But it’s been a wonderful community.
FTF: What can you reveal about Final Destination 5?
EB: Well part of the element of seeing Final Destination is seeing how everyone dies and how gruesome it is, so I can’t tell you any of that! But I can say that with this one they’re really trying to get back to the truth of why people really liked the franchise. I think that the fans will be really happy. The characters are more developed, the writing is really good and the director Steven Quale helped James Cameron come up with the 3D technology for Avatar, so the 3D element o this movie is going to be really amazing. I can say that the first death scene is on a suspension bridge, so there s a lot of creative outlets for really interesting and horrifying deaths!
FTF: How long do you last?
EB: I’m basically the love interest to the guy who has the premonitions, So I’m in there until the bitter end!
FTF: What about the pilot you shot for NBC?
EB: It’s a different type of thing for me. It’s a Civil War western, which is such a dramatic period of our history. To be able to portray something very American like that as an American actress is great. It has to be picked up, and hopefully they will love it as much as we all did. I play the repressed preachers wife, and so I got to wear the corsets and all the stuff. It was fun! It could mean a big move and a big change in my life.
FTF: Would you have to leave LA?
EB: We shot in New Mexico, so it would mean moving down there. It would be a big move, but working on that type of project would be really fun.
FTF: Why do you think The Walking Dead has been as popular as it has, has it just come at the right time with other horror series such as True Blood coming back into fashion?
EB: Zombies, vampires and werewolves are all very ‘hot’, but that’s a trend. What I think will always be fascinating to individuals is the human psyche and what we do in really extreme situations. Everyone’s a little bit fascinated by death, because it’s just such an unknown to us, and whether or not you’re afraid of death, it is very safe to watch it in the context of a TV show. We’re interested in people like us trying to survive this extreme condition, and I think people get fascinated by it because they start to wonder what they would do. But they do it through this reflection of entertainment. I always found Nazi Germany really interesting, because you can’t really understand how a whole group of people can have their minds all on something that terrifying. The whole zombie and vampire craze explore that because they’re very symbolic of human nature going awry, and I think that’s always going to be something that people are very interested in exploring.
The Walking Dead is out on Blu-Ray and DVD on May 16th