Interview & article by Allie, The Dead Connection LLC
If the zombie apocalypse really happened where would you want to rebuild civilization? Would you choose a community like Alexandria, the Hilltop or the Kingdom or would you want to be a Savior? Personally, I would vote for the Kingdom! It’s beautiful, well protected, they seem to have an endless supply of fresh fruit (and cobbler), not to mention the super cool king with a pet tiger! Who wouldn’t want to live there?!
I recently chatted with Karl Makinen for an exclusive interview for The Dead Connection. Mr. Makinen portrays ‘Richard’, King Ezekiel’s head of security at the Kingdom. I had the chance to ask him about his character, what it’s like working on The Walking Dead, his restaurant and the upcoming revival of 1990’s TV series Twin Peaks. Enjoy!
Allie: Hey Karl! Thanks so much for chatting with me today! I hope you are doing well.
Carl: Hi Allie, you’re welcome! I’m in my car on the side of the road right now; I just flew in from Montana and I’m sitting in a pretty big storm for LA standards at the moment.
Since we are on the subject of weather, what was it like for you working in the Georgia heat in your kingdom attire?
Well, I’m originally from New York but I’ve been living out in LA for almost 30 years now, so when I landed [in Atlanta] and felt the humidity it totally brought me back to New York. The humidity and wearing the wardrobe, with the vest on, it was hot but it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t have it as bad as some people- like Khary [Payton], who plays King Ezekiel. He was REALLY hot. His costume has the long coat, the pants, the boots and the wig so he got pretty hot. Because he is the king, he actually had a special vest that pumped cold water through it so in between takes they run the cold water through the vest to help keep him cooled off. I would imagine Tom Payne was pretty warm as well! I think I got lucky the time I was there, it wasn’t, for the most part, brutal. I know between one of the episodes we were filming it was 100 degrees with 100% humidity and that’s just unbearable. The crew is amazing and they do everything possible to help cool you down, they have a van with air conditioning to help you out, etc.
Speaking of the King and the Kingdom, the set is amazing!
It is! You can’t tell from reading the script with the way they describe the Kingdom. To walk on these sets that they do with The Walking Dead is incredible. You always think that it’s going to be like a movie set, it’s going to be a facade but I mean, it’s real! It’s like an operational Kingdom! There’s no fake facades, the garden is real and they were repurposing anything that was grown. The food from the garden went to a food bank; they had hot peppers, cucumbers and eggplants- it was incredible. The theater we filmed in the last episode (Rock in the Road), that was a real theater. It was pretty exciting and helped with the acting, to be on a real set with real buildings. They nailed, it’s so cool!
Do you follow The Walking Dead comics & the TV show?
I started looking at comic when I got the part, I didn’t follow them beforehand. Yeah, I watch the show though! I only get to see my dialogue with my scenes, so I watch the episodes just as intently as everyone else because I don’t know what’s going to happen.
Are we going to get a backstory on Richard?
I think true to Walking Dead fashion, I think everybody’s backstory eventually comes through, so I’m pretty sure that will happen. You can tell that Richard is pretty driven to go up against the Saviors. There’s definitely something deep inside of him that has that drive to take them down. I think you can almost put yourself in any kind of story and going through the apocalypse, your character coming out, tells the backstory as well.
I am really interested in finding out how Richard got to be where he is in the story. He seems like he is the eyes and the ears of the Kingdom.
I hoping that Richard’s backstory comes through as much as King Ezekiel’s did. In the episode two (The Well) where we were introduced the Kingdom, King Ezekiel is talking to Carol in the garden he starts out speaking in his “king” voice and slowly starts speaking in his real voice, I just thought that was an amazing transition of someone’s character coming in this show. Khary just killed it, he did an amazing job on that episode.
The whole cast does an amazing job on the show. You are bringing this story to life in vivid detail and we, the fans, are all so invested in these characters. That’s a credit to each of the actors on this show.
I’ve watched all the seasons; I love the cast, the acting is amazing and the writings fantastic. I watched the last episode, ‘Rock in the Road’, where we finally got reintroduced to the original cast again. I remember when where shooting that scene, where they arrive at the Kingdom they told me to go up the hill. As I walked up the hill, the original cast was there in wardrobe and I was so amazed! It took me out of the moment, because I was so excited. All of them are really good, hardworking actors. Andy Lincoln is so good, extremely professional. He’s on board with everything, all the time. Everyone is so excited about everything and committed, there’s nothing like it.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Greg Nicotero at Walker Stalker con last year and he said the same things- no one complains about anything, they are all happy to be on the set.
Nicotero is so good, he directed that episode (Rock in the Road). That walker clothesline scene was just amazing! I was in Montana at the time, watching with my in-laws and they don’t really watch the show but when they saw that scene they were like “oh my god! That’s incredible!” And to think, that scene only took two days to film. That was like an epic movie scene that would take a month to film.
Do you have plans to join the convention circuit?
I think my manager has been talking to people about it so I’m pretty sure I will be at some point. I’m really excited about it. I got to work with Lennie James [who plays Morgan] and he is such a good person. He has another great part and is a great character on The Walking Dead. He was telling me how amazing the conventions are and how dedicated & loyal to the show the fans are. He said ‘You go there [to the conventions] and you meet the fans and it just takes you to another level as an actor. You may think you’re just an actor saying lines, but when you meet people who are so engaged in the story, it lifts you up and it makes you want to be better’. I’m excited about going eventually.
Tell me about your restaurant, The Local Peasant.
I’ve been in the restaurant business and an actor as well so when I’m not acting, I’m at the restaurant. I’ve worked at many restaurants including one on Sunset Boulevard called Mirabelle for seventeen years. I did a little bit of everything there. I really learned about the business there, and I love hospitality business. I had two friends from New York and we had always talked about opening a place. We wanted to open a gastropub because craft beer and cocktails were just starting to happen, this was like seven years ago, now we have two locations. It’s pretty exciting that the restaurant has been so successful. I’m blessed to be able to have success in my restaurant and to be on a great show like The Walking Dead.
Did you get a chance to go to Nic & Norman’s in Senoia GA while you were filming TWD?
Yeah, I did and it was great and it’s a nice little town too. I didn’t really know what to expect so me, Khary and Logan Miller (who plays Benjamin from the Kingdom), went this past summer. I don’t know how, but a girl at the table next to us recognized Khary and said “are you guys part of the Kingdom?” and we’re not supposed to say anything because we where still filming so we’re like “um, no” and she said “yeah you are and I’m taking a picture!” It was so funny!
Can you tell me anything about Twin Peaks?
Only that I’m really excited about it! I can’t really tell you what episode I’m in or what my role is but I got to work with David Lynch and the show starts May 21st.
I would like to say how much I appreciate Mr. Makinen taking the time to speak with me, I can’t wait to see him more on The Walking Dead and on Twin Peaks!