Actor Derek Johns joins us on Close-Up Culture to chat about his role in We Are Zombies. The film is set in a city breeding non-cannibal zombies who are considered “living-impaired.” The offbeat comedic plot follows three slackers looking to earn some easy money who must fight an evil mega-corporation to save their kidnapped grand-mother.
What drew you to the story of We are Zombies?
It’s a pretty fresh take on what a world would look like after a zombie outbreak, they’re not violent, they’re not trying to eat our brains, they’re just chugging along through life like the rest of us, granted just a bit slower, and with a lot more groaning.
Can you tell us about Freddy and your experience playing him?
Freddy is a fun character, he’s obsessed with wrestling, he loves to eat, and he’s a little dumb, but he means well. He loves his friends, and will do just about anything to help them out. I had a blast playing Freddy. As someone who didn’t grow up watching wrestling, I had to do a lot of research to learn the ins and outs of what someone who aspires to become a wrestler would have to know, I came up with a persona for his wrestling alter-ego “The Wild Gringo”, and we had a fantastic fight choreographer, and stunt guys that showed me a few wicked wrestling moves.
What can audiences expect from the film?
Lots of blood. Just loads and loads of it. Lots of laughs too. It’s a comedy, although there are zombies in the film, you’ll find yourself laughing a lot more often than you will being frightened.
We Are Zombies is directed by an up-and-coming Canadian filmmaking trio. Can you tell us about your collaboration with this team?
RKSS is awesome, I am glad to have had the great fortune of getting to work with them. RKSS is François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell. If you haven’t seen Turbo-Kid yet, go see it! I can’t say enough good things about how they work, and the quality of the work they do. They are a joy to work with, they love to have fun, they would remind us of that all the time. Yoann told us at the beginning of the shoot “Yes, we have a job to do, but if we’re having fun while we make the movie, it’ll make the movie better”. They are “actor’s directors”. They know how to work with actors to get the best possible product out of them.
You also star in the film, The Sacrifice Game.What can you tell us about that project?
I actually booked The Sacrifice Game while working on We Are Zombies. I got a self-tape request from my agent for a character named Grant. They were looking for a “Fit, Military type”, I called my agent right away and said, “uhhh, are you sure you sent this to the right person”? He told me they had pivoted and were looking for a Vincent D’Onofrio type. And what do you know, I booked it, and then within a week of shooting We Are Zombies, I went straight into shooting The Sacrifice Game. It was a pretty busy summer for me. About the film, The Sacrifice Game is a horror film set in the 70’s. A couple of girls are stuck at their boarding school for the holidays, when a group of killers show up, who have plans to delve into some occult activity at the school. I don’t know how much more I should say than that. It’s going to be coming out on Shudder at some point soon, so if you can’t catch the premiere at Fantasia, then you can watch it from the comfort of your own couch at some point!
What are your hopes and plans for the future?
I just want to keep working while I can. Keep making awesome movies, with talented people. TV shows are good too. Oh, and buy a house. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to buy a house. But I suppose it isn’t exactly shooting for the stars to want to own property. So I’ll put it on my Vision Board too, why not?
Title photo by Jeremy Cabrera