Zombies, and Tigers, and Kings, Oh My! An Interview with The Walking Dead’s Carlos Navarro
WARNING! This interview contains minor spoilers for the last two seasons of The Walking Dead!
Carlos Navarro has been in the entertainment industry since he was 17. He’s worked in radio, on commercials, on television, and in movies. His latest role saw him playing Alvaro, a Knight of the Kingdom on The Walking Dead. I sat down with Carlos recently and talked to him about his life, his work, and his positive outlook on life.
I’m here with Carlos Navarro, who some folks might recognize from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Bloodline, and The Walking Dead. Thank you for taking the time to chat today.
Let’s start this interview by hopping in the Wayback Machine. The first time I was introduced to you was on Orlando area radio [Real Radio 104.1]. How old were you when that started?
When I first started in radio, I was 17 years old, right out of high school. Weeks out of high school, I kind of got an internship for Clear Channel as a production intern and then started to kind of like the Monsters [an Orlando-area radio show].
Right. So, was that your first foray into mass media entertainment?
Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.
You weren’t doing commercials when you were four…starting early?
No. Now, I would see those commercials and I thought I couldn’t. There was one attempt to go to a Cop and a Half and then a couple of Barbizon model and acting classes that never came to fruition. But, no, I always was kind of behind the camera really more so at first.
So, you get the radio show at 17. When you were on the show, was radio the direction you were going? Or were you not focused yet?
Not at all. Not at all. It was not the direction I was going. I always wanted to do something in entertainment. I wanted to entertain people. My mom always said that’s what I was going to do. And she’s like, “Forget about college, honey. You’re not going to college.” She goes, “You’re funny. Get out there.” So, I was being courted by just my mom. I didn’t have a direction. She said, “Hey. They’re looking for people that have TV production experience.” I did four years of TV production in high school and I did the morning announcements. She said, “Why don’t you go up there?” So, I go up there [to the radio station] and I said, “Yeah. I’m applying for the position.” And they ask, “Do you have any experience?” I was like, “No.” They’re like, “Do you want to be an intern?” I was like, “Sure.” And I told them that I’d mop the floor…whatever you need me to do. I became a production intern. And then just got on this radio show. And I knew nothing about radio. The only reason I went down to check out Real Radio is because I thought Howard Stern was there (Laughs). I had seen Howard Stern on TV and stuff like that before. But I started listening when I was an intern. I was like, “Oh, s***! Howard Stern’s there! Now I’m going to walk down there, and I’m going to look for him.” So, I go to look for him, and all I see is a bunch of white guys and I realized, “What the hell is this?” And I am like, “I don’t care. Can I stay here and watch?” And they’re like, “Yeah. Sure.”
Yeah. So, it worked out. Then I would get to be an intern. But no, radio definitely was not my love as a kid or anything. I would listen to it and enjoyed it. But it was more so I was like, “Oh. This could be fun.” Yeah. Not a lot of thought put behind it.
As Bob Ross would call that, a happy accident?
A happy accident. Yeah. I totally agree with that.
So, you were on the radio station for how long?
I was on the radio station from 17, and then I got hired when I was 18 up until about 27. That’s when I was fired for the first run. So, about 10 years for the first run.
Yeah, so you mentioned being fired. You’re fired from a radio station and now you’re on The Walking Dead. I mean, clearly, we can’t go through the year by year, but let’s go through a Cliffs Notes version of what happened after you got fired…
Yeah. Oh, man. Well, I got fired right as I was about to get married. And as I was going through that I was on probation, and I was going bankrupt. So, those are the four little pillars of what I was going through at the time. Things weren’t on the up and up then, but it’s weird, I’ve heard it said a million times before, “Usually the worst thing that happens to you is the best thing that happens to you.” Up until that time I didn’t take things for granted, but I didn’t know any different. I didn’t know. I hadn’t had another job. So, it was just my life and it was in excess at that time. I got in trouble. I got a little too big for my britches in certain senses. And they eliminated me. The day I was fired I had an interview with EA Sports to be a producer for them, which was the same day I had my first ever audition for Prison Break. Same day. And thank God I booked them both! (Laughs)
Wow. What a quick turnaround time from bad luck to good luck!
Here’s the thing. It was still like, “Yeah, but we can’t hire you on for another two months.” I was still on probation. I was losing my house. It was a lot of stuff that was going on, but it all had to happen. It was like a cleansing. We moved downtown. We started our photography business, which was a savior at the time. And I started learning all these different things and I really wanted to act. When I first got fired, they told me, “No, no, no, no, no. You’re not an actor. You’re not going to be doing this.” People told me straight up, “The biggest thing you’ll ever do is this radio show.” Straight to my face. That person later apologized and said, “I was wrong.”
So, these were all the things that were playing into it. And then you go, and you audition, and you do a bunch of stuff, and then fast forward to about 2014, and the same people that fired you for being an actor, are now saying, “Oh please, come back! We absolutely won’t mess with your acting!” (Laughs) So it was vindicating.
All right. I hate to simplify it, but I have a question. But can you come up with one sentence to describe how you had such a quick turnaround? I mean, you could have gone to drugs, alcohol, found solace in some bad thing, is there a sentence what one sentence could you say to attribute the turnaround?
“To the top, never stop.” That was our motto.
I mean, you sure as hell didn’t stop! You’re still going strong!
Hell, no. I mean we’re still not stopping! My wife and I, my fiancé at the time, had nothing. It was just me, her, and our dogs. Our friends had left us because it was like a breakup, so we had nobody but a couple of friends. We were selling our stuff on Craigslist, and at some point, we’re just laughing. We’re just like, “Boy.” And I said, “The only way to go from here is to the top, right? We’re literally at the bottom.” (Laughs)
So, our mantra was, “To the top, never stop.” And then that’s when The Secret [a book by Rhonda Byrne] came out. I loved The Secret because I believe the hard work behind it and not just visualizing. All we had was our positivity, it was just our little thing. Then I started putting it on social media. And I would keep telling my wife, “When things are good, when things are better, we’re going to look back on this time and be like, ‘Boy. How much better are they now because all we had was this little saying, “To the top, never stop,” that we would kind of feed each other.'” And it helped grow a little bit, a little win, another win here, another win there. So, now it’s just our mantra that we’re able to pass on to other people.
You’re making me think of a metaphor. If you’re dropped off a building, you can either be a high bounce ball or an egg.
Yep. That’s true.
And you chose to be the high bounce ball. You hit the bottom and bounced right back up instead of splattering at the bottom.
Yeah. Yeah. I very easily could have gone down a bad path. But I had some good people around me, man. And I never let myself get so low mentally. I would try and laugh about things because like I said, at a certain point you’re just kind of like, “All right.” A buddy of mine said this saying. He goes, “You can’t fall out of bed when you’re sleeping on the floor.” (Laughs) That really stuck with me too. So now, when things are much better, you appreciate it that much more. You’re able to see things a little bit clearer. You’re able to stay calmer in situations, when before maybe you would have freaked out.
I like that metaphor about falling out of bed. It was better than my ball and egg metaphor! Anyway, let’s move ahead in your timeline. You’ve done commercials. You’ve done some voice work. You’ve done some television. You’ve done some movies. You did Identity Thief in 2013. Would you say that was your peak at that point?
No doubt. No doubt.
How did that role come along?
Ah, man. It’s perfect because of what we just talked about. When you’re an actor you’re always auditioning. You’re not really an actor; you’re an auditioner, okay? And then like the one percent of the one percent are actors, where they just do it everywhere, right? So, we were down and out, but we had just gotten a place. My wife had just had our baby, six months and we were struggling trying to figure it out and I get this audition for Identity Thief, but I didn’t see who it was. I auditioned for a lot of stuff, so I go and audition. It was like one line, right? It was for a tow truck guy or something like this. So, I did it and forgot about it.
And they call me, “Hey. The director wants to see you. They’re looking for an Indian guy.” And I’m like, “Look man, I’m not driving to Atlanta…first off, I don’t have the money to drive to Atlanta right now for an Indian Guy.” And my agent goes, “No. No. No. They just want you to do a character. They don’t want Indian. They’re looking for a store clerk, but they don’t want Indian. That’s what they were initially looking for. They want you to do that character that you did for this tow truck guy or whatever.” I was like, “All right.” I packed up two sandwiches because I knew I didn’t have money. I had one credit card that I knew had $100 on it, right? And I got in my car, and I just drove down there. I get in and I realized, “Oh, s***. This scene is with Jason Bateman. This is a totally different scene than I had before.” So I’m like, “Oh.” And I’m like, “This is my cousin in Miami; that’s who this guy is.” So, I just started thinking of my cousin.
So, when I sat down in the lobby, I knew I had a little extra luck, because a lot about this is luck, because when the casting director walks in, he says, “Hey, guys. You guys know that this is an Indian, right?” And three or four out of the seven guys that you’re knee to knee with, knowing that this audition could change your life, this role. And two of them are like, “Ah, man. S***.” And I was like, “Ah, good!” It was a little competitive. It is very competitive. So, then I go into the audition room and there’s Seth [Gordon], who directed Horrible Bosses and A Fistful of Quarters. I do my thing and he goes, “Hm. That’s pretty funny.” And I’m like, “All right.” He goes, “Can you do it again, maybe a little more happy?” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s your deal.” After that, I walked out and I got back in my car, and I started driving. You don’t find out about it. It’s not like they go, “You got it.” And so I got a six-hour drive back.
You stew in it.
Oh, yeah. Of course. You’re just going over and over in your head. Maybe I should have done that. Oh, I should have done this. Of course, nowadays, you’ve got so many things that can distract you, different apps and stuff like that.
So, time passes. I forget about it because I was on my way, that Friday, to go work to sell slicers in Sears because I do these things where I sell slicers in front of the store. It was like an infomercial thing, right? And then I get a call. Long story short, she’s like, “You got the part.” I was in line for a Chick-fil-A biscuit, and I was like, “Two biscuits! Two biscuits! Get Gina! We’re putting cheese on it!” And the shoot was just amazing, man. It was.
So, you’re in one scene with Jason Bateman, but it’s a big scene. The craziest part was it was the commercial and it was the trailer. When did you find out about it? Afterwards? Or did they–?
Way after. Okay, the shoot itself was insane, okay, because I didn’t know I was going to go. I thought it was going to be this little thing. They come up to me like, “We’re shooting this for cameras. We want you to improv with Jason Bateman,” because they saw me improv. They ask, “Are you ready?” I’m like, “F*** yeah, I’m ready. Let’s do it.” This is what I’ve been waiting for. I’ve been waiting for this moment. I’ve been training for this moment. I’ve been dreaming of this moment. So, I meet Jason. Whenever I meet anybody that I really, really love, and I’ve been fortunate to work with my favorite actors, I walk up to them immediately. I go, “Hey, man. I’m a big fan of your work,” to get that out of the way. Let’s get that out of the way. If I’m not a huge fan of someone’s, I’m not going to say that because I’m not going to be disingenuous. So anyway, he was very cool. We chatted. The second we get to set, no more bullshitting, no more talking. We’re into the lines. And I remember hearing this in acting class that when you get to a set of a movie, they’re just going to jump in. I remember this from three years ago when I was in a class, and I’m like, “Oh, this class has paid off.”
So, very first scene we do, there’s sixty people…massive production. And there’s all these cameras, and we go through our full scene. And the second they cut, the entire production busts out laughing. And Jason comes up to me, “Keep doing it just like that, man. Keep doing it.” And he was so cool, and we improv’d. It’s one day on the set that you go to Atlanta. They fly you out for a couple of days or whatever.
Fast forward months. I forget about it. I do a short film in that time. I do other stuff. I’m coming up from acting class. It’s 11:30 at night, and I’m being real quiet. And then I get a text saying, “Hey, man. You made the trailer.” Never in a million years was I thinking Identity Thief. I was thinking the trailer to the short film that I did (Laughs). I thought that was cool. I clicked on it and it brought me to Universal.com. And it opens up with me and I almost screamed. I was like, “Oh!”
So, that’s how I found out about it and then I told my wife and that was a huge deal in my own personal life because people hadn’t seen me from radio or hadn’t heard about me in a long time, they’re like, “Oh s***, Carlos is acting.” You know? That is how it was with that…I didn’t even know the movie was coming out and I see the trailer!
So, you said one-day shoot?
Yeah. It was one day shoot.
Was it an actual gas station?
Absolutely. Yeah. A real gas station, right in Atlanta, in the heart of Atlanta. It was not shot in Florida. They were talking about Winter Park and I was living in Winter Park at the time. That was where the movie was based out of, Winter Park. And it was right after Melissa McCarthy’s Oscar nomination, and I got to do the table read with them all, and they had met me just like this and then when we did the table read I started jumping into character and they started dying laughing man. A lot of it was improv and it was just fun. And so yeah, it was a huge deal in my life.
Very good. All right. So, we’ll fast-forward a little bit more, and again, since that movie you’ve been on a roll. The Unbreakable Kindy Schmidt. And then you’ve been on Bloodline, you’ve done some commercial work, some short films but since this is an interview for Geek News Network-, you know I have to ask about The Walking Dead.
You played the part of Alvaro, a resident of The Kingdom…
Yes…a Knight of The Kingdom, please. Do not demote me in the midst of the geeks!
You know it’s funny you say that, when I tried to look and see, I read one web page where it said you were a soldier and I’m like, “That doesn’t seem right.”
No. Knight. Knight. Absolutely knight. We were knighted by The King himself, right by the craft table.
So, during all this, so you’re driving up to Atlanta to do the show; you’re still doing the radio show; you still have a wife, a kid, and the photography business. Before I go any further, how in the world do you have enough hours in the day?
My wife. My wife is an amazing person. We are a very good team and we have worked hard to get to this point to be able to do that. We could not have done The Walking Dead shoot five years before that. We wouldn’t have been in the same place.
And my wife is a great planner. We’re a good team. My daughter is a part of all this. We actually did have to eliminate our photography business because our acting, and YouTube, and voiceover, and radio, and all the other stuff took up more of that but that was the goal. That was eventually the goal.
Sure, sure, sure.
That was quote/unquote, “the job,” that we needed to make to help us get through and I’m very grateful for it and we learned a lot from it. We learned a lot and I still love it but–so I would say having a good team, having good supporters.
So, like with Identity Thief, can you give me a little background how you got the role on The Walking Dead?
Yes. Yeah, it was a five-year process. That same time that I got on Identity Thief, I got my first Walking Dead audition, okay?
You wanted to be Daryl?
Yeah, I went in for Daryl. (Laughs) That would have been nice. No, the show was already about at two years in. I was already a huge fan of it, and if you were to have asked me if there’s any show that you could pick to be a character on, I would have said The Walking Dead. I don’t care if it’s one scene, one line, whatever. It’s my favorite show. I got to get on it, okay? Thank God it came to fruition, but I got my first one at the same time and I clearly said to myself, “Baby, this is it! We got it!” I remember looking over at my daughter who was in her baby seat who was just six months old. We just had gotten the house and rented this house and I did the audition. Heard nothing. Fast forward 15 auditions later, okay?
Wait, 15 auditions total or just for The Walking Dead?
Yes. 15 different characters [on The Walking Dead] that they would keep seeing me for over five years.
You don’t do an audition and they just keep a tape of you on file?
You’re actually auditioning for people?
Every single time. And I’d be watching the show and go, “Oh, there’s the character,” but he’d be totally different to me. There were one or two times where I was like, “Okay, but that guy was really good,” and so it got to the point where I was like, “Look, man. These guys don’t want me. I’m not even going to watch the show anymore, okay?” (Laughs) so I was like, “I’m turning it off.” It became that because I was like, “Are they just f’ing with me?” I’d literally thought, “They’re just putting me up and going, ‘This is not what we want. Now let’s find someone who’s the opposite.'” Then I asked a couple of people and I’d be like, “Dude, are you going for Walking Dead auditions?” All the other actors in town, they’re like, “No, man. I haven’t been at all. I’ve been once.” I’m like, “Well, I mean, I guess–,” but no callback, no nothing. I wouldn’t hear anything. It was like you put your heart and soul into this and then you hear nothing.
And then one day, three years ago, whatever the hell it was, I’m taking my nap after the radio show and I get a call from my agent. She’s like, “Check your messages. Check your messages.” I look and I see an email that says, “The executive producer of The Walking Dead, Scott Gimple, would like to see you for a role.”
Never got that before. That was not how it would normally be a casting. It would be, “We’re looking for this and we want to see Carlos for this,” but–
It’s April 1st. April Fools!
They’re doing it to me again!
Oh, no! I literally like, “Woah,” and I called up. I’m like, “What the f*** is this?” and she’s like, “I don’t know. I’ve never seen that before,” and she booked other people on The Walking Dead already. So, once again, they had me audition for two different parts. One ended up being an ICE officer. So, what they do is this. They’ll send you a script that will be part of the script from the show, but it will be totally different characters and a different world. It’ll be, like I said, an immigration officer–
The two I went for was, one, a captured journalist, and the other was for this ICE officer, and so I played both of them totally different or whatever, and then I ended up later seeing that other part that I went for. The ICE officer was The Kingdom gate officer and that’s what I ended up doing on the show.
And then the journalist ended up being another guy that later on, one of the Saviors killed that I saw because I recognized the dialog. I was like, “Oh,” and he was in it for one episode. One episode. So nothing against him. He did a great job, but anyway, then it went off again. I didn’t hear anything and I’m like, “These jerks are doing it again and then they called me back and they go, “Hey are you good with motorcycles?” It’s like, “Absolutely, I’m fantastic.”
What are you going to say? No?
They say, “Are you really?” And I said, “No, but I’m going to call Harley [Davidson] tomorrow and I’m going to let you know.” So, then I call Harley and I’m setting up their thing and then an hour later, “Hey, no, no, no. Are you good with horses?” I’m like, “I’m really good with horses.” They’re like, “Are you really?” I’m like, “Nope. But I’ll learn it!” (Laughs)
I can ride a horse on a motorcycle, whatever you need.
Exactly. Thankfully, I got a call back later like they want me. And they would only tell me that I had to be in Atlanta tomorrow and two other things: the name of my character rhymes with my name and that I’m athletic and loyal. That’s all I knew. Before I leave, my wife and I are jumping up and down in the kitchen hugging each other because we knew it was recurring. I mean I didn’t know what it meant, but I just know finally I achieved, though I don’t give a s*** if I’m on it for two seconds, but I could say it. And then, right before I left, they sent the script over and I opened it up and I’m like, “I’m a Knight of the Kingdom!” (Laughs)
I look at the script and I see my name is Alvaro for Navarro. I was thinking like Barlos, Tarlos, Farlos. What the hell is my name going to be? And I read the script and I’m like, “I survived. I survived.” So it was a flurry of emotions and I got in the car and went.
So, you were talking about learning about your character, Alvaro. For most characters, except for some like Carol and Rick, you don’t really get much background. Did you start to make up your own biography?
Yeah. Most of us did. Most of us did, unless the backstory is going to somehow going to connect you in the future, then you’re not going to know about it. So, when talking to Scott Gimple and talking to the other actors, we all created our own backstory. My backstory was I was living in Miami, I was in MMA, I did a little MMA training, but I was a mechanic. And that’s how I actually got in this crew was like, “I could fix that car.” And then they saw that I could scrap a little bit and then I became close with The King.
So yeah, in your own backstory…because when you see these people die later you can’t be like, “Well, this is Carl, that I met two months ago. This is Richard, who we actually came from Arizona together, we got to here together so that’s all the things that nobody’s ever going to tell you that as a director. Your director and your writer and all these people are never going tell you, “Hey, by the way, you need to create your own backstory.” No, they don’t tell you s***. They don’t tell you to go work out together because you should be a unit. No, we would just go work out together. We just stuck together as a clique and they would say, “Boy, you Kingdom people are way tighter than some of these other people.” We’re like, “Well, we are. We go to dinner every day together. We stay in the same hotel.” We were our own little clique. And to this day we are still very, very, very close.
Yeah. So yeah, we absolutely did our own backstories.
My next question is mostly for my own curiosity. I don’t know how any of this operates behind the scenes, so I’d like to ask about the cliffhanger episode where Ezekiel and his people got mowed down by the .50-cal…
Sure. Sure, sure, sure.
So, everyone get mowed down and they’re panning across the bodies, and the only Knight you really see that’s dead is Daniel. You don’t see Ezekiel, Jerry, Carol, or you. So, since I knew you from the radio, I was happy you might’ve made it. Then, on the next episode, you’re in it.
And then, boom, the nerdy Jeffrey Dahmer guy shoots you in the back! So, my question is, when you get the scripts, do you get a clump of scripts at once or did you go like, “Hey, I might make it another whole season,” and then, “Ah, s***, I made it five minutes.”?
It’s funny. Nobody, unless you’re a regular, gets the full script. Okay? They don’t have a full script written. Scripts are being written the whole year. They’re writing as they go along. It’s a crazy thing to think about, because I thought, “Well, of course, they’re going to have all the scripts written.” But they only have the story arc. They know where it’s going, but they shift as they go along, right? So, what I would get was my specific scenes for the episode before.
In season seven, my first season, I got two ahead. I knew the story. I’m like, “I know where it’s going. I’m not going to be shocked when The Kingdom finally gets it because, at a certain point, I know The Kingdom gets it.” But we’re not there yet, so every day we go to lunch, and other than Khary who plays King Ezekiel, even him, we would be like, “So, do you think we’re going to get it this next one?” (Laughs) And that’s what we would talk about during lunch. Not in a sad way, but kind of in a joking way.
And then Richard [played by Karl Makinen] and Benjamin [played by Logan Miller] got the call first, and we were out. They hit me up and they’re like, “Man, I just got the call.” I’m like, “Oh f***.” But they explained what happens. Made sense to the story. And then I got the season finale script and I read through. I’m like, “I survive!” (Laughs) My wife and I, we read it page by page, and it was 27 pages. And every page, I knew if I survived this, I’ve got a damn good chance…I mean, they’ve got to finish the story.
And when I flipped to the end, I was like, “Oh my god, I survived this firefight. We actually save the f’ing day!” It was a really cool moment. And then you fast forward to the next season, and then Khary, at that time, was a regular. So he got a lot more scripts. And so the very first day I saw him, and we were already talking, he looked at me and he’s like, “You’re good man. You’re good for at least these two episodes.” He was like, “Because that’s all I got!” And I was like, “All right, good…dick.” Because I would always ask Lennie James, he’s a good buddy of mine who plays Morgan, I would always say, “Hey, Lennie, if you get the script and I die, you’d better call my ass first.” And so what ended up happening was I got the first script and the second script, and I’m seeing the way it’s going, and I’m like, I know where this is going.
Hey, you outlasted Shiva!
Yeah. I knew she was gone. I know she was…because she’s so expensive!
And so anyway, before I got the third script, I was wondering– I hadn’t gotten it yet, and I was asking around, I was like, “You guys got the third script yet?” And they’re like, “No, no, no.” And I’m like, “All right.” And then I get a call. I was back home in Orlando, and I get a call, and I would always see an LA number come through and I’d be like, “F*** that, I’m not clicking that. I’m not!”
It’s like Death…if he doesn’t touch you, you don’t die. So, if you don’t answer the phone you don’t die on the show.
Exactly. Well, that’s what happened with Logan who plays Benjamin, who died in the season before, was his phone got wet. He got a call from Scott Gimple. Well, he was shooting something. His phone gets wet. He can’t repair it for two or three days. He checks it three days later and there’s five messages from Scott Gimple going, “Hey, man, just call me back.”
Then I was back at home and I saw a number came through that said Burbank, and I was, “That’s only TV”, so I let it go to voicemail, and then, if you have an iPhone, it transcribes it, right? So, I hit the voice message and it says, “Hey Carlos, it’s Scott.” I was, “Ohhhhh, damn.” And so I called him back immediately and he goes, ” Whoa, hey, Carlos, you’re calling me back way past mid–“, and I said, “Hey, let’s get this over and done with, buddy.” And he goes, “Carlos, your time as Alvaro is drawing near. As much as I want to keep you”, and he was so nice and so cool. And he goes, “You know what? You have a hero’s out, and you’re going to love the way you go out.” And he was, he was absolutely right, man, I couldn’t have gone out any better way personally.
Absolutely. It wasn’t random, like with a bunch of people dying, like when the prison got overtaken, you lose track of some people…
Yeah, I had a good little moment; it was probably the highlight. I mean, I shouldn’t say the highlight is dying, but at first…look man, they edited me out of a lot of stuff that I did. There were other scenes I was in.
I was going to ask how much they shoot for each scene. Especially battle scenes…how much do they shoot?
There’s a bunch of stuff I was in, but here’s the thing. Nobody’s sitting there with a timer going, “The scene is this long.” I mean, you shoot it. And then at the end, the editor goes, “Hey man, are we going to leave Alvaro in or are we going to leave this moment in a little longer with Darryl?” I get it. Sometimes, I would start off an episode. It would be like me, a full-blown scene, and then you see how they edit it and they’ll say, “Well, damn, that looks better.” So, I thought initially, with my death, I was thinking, “Oh, my God, they reshot the whole thing and I’m not even going to save The King now”, and then, wow, I was! Thank God, because it would have been a little disappointing. I don’t think they would have done that, but luckily it worked out; it worked out fine.
So, based on something you just said about fight scenes, when it comes to filming these big fight scenes, how choreographed are they? Do they have you start on a mark, and there’s a dotted line and you walk 10 feet and then shoot at some things? Or, do they tell you to sort of just advance in a particular direction? You were in two pretty big battle scenes…how does that go down?
It’s all very detailed. For example, in the beginning, in episode two of season eight, when we find one of the Saviors, we kind of get close. And Carol, and me, The King, someone throws a bomb and it explodes. And all these zombies come out, right? So, obviously, we know. Okay? We’re going to be aiming and shooting here. Okay? But then within the next scene when they cut, we’ll come and they go, “Okay, we’re going directly here.” I can do whatever I want in those scenes. I can pretend like I’m shifting out bullets. I’m doing this. But you have to be working towards the same area purely to get in that lens, to get the right shot. So it’s all very, very planned. There’s not a lot of improv during those scenes. There’s not a lot of improv on The Walking Dead, period. If there’s a comma there, you better say that comma. I mean, if there’s an ellipsis, you better do the ellipsis. Okay?
You only paused for two beats. There are clearly three when you see an ellipsis!
That was said.
Are you serious?
That was said to somebody. Yeah, that was said. And I don’t see that a lot in other shows. But because this show is such a huge…it’s the biggest show there is. It’s the comic book. It’s the words. From what I remember, I didn’t see anybody improv ever one word. On Bloodline, any award-winning show, half the s*** was improv! (Laughs) I’d just come from The Walking Dead and shooting Bloodline, so I was talking to Norbert [Leo Butz] who plays Kevin Rayburn on Bloodline. I was like, “Hey, are they pretty tight here?” And he’s like, “No, man, if you want to improv, go for it.” I’m like, “Oh, hell yeah.” That’s one of the things I enjoy. A lot of actors are not. A lot of actors are like, “No, no, no,” say what’s on the script.
Oh, yeah. I mean, I know I watched a documentary on Kevin Smith and Clerks, and he wanted you to read the script the way he wrote it.
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And I get that. It’s a little bit more challenging for me at times, but I respect that.
Okay, at the risk of spoiling it for some folks out there…here’s a big spoiler…Shiva is not a real tiger.
I don’t know about you, if I’m an actor on the show, and I’m watching a guy in a blue outfit jump on people, I’m having a hard time holding it together. How hard was it? Or was it just kind of after a while you’re just like, “Yup, guy in a blue suit.”?
Bro, it’s all silly. It’s all silly. We’re dressed in BMX gear, running around. It’s all silly. It’s all make believe. It’s all fun. So that’s just another part. Now, there were times that they had this amazing robotic with a hydraulic system with a face that moved.
Oh, yeah. Greg [Nicotero] built it himself. And I would sit there and marvel at it. I mean, it was full-blown size and it would roar. But it was for long shots. The only time we ever saw the blue guy was when they were chasing scenes, right? And a lot of that time they were just shooting that on their own. We wouldn’t even be there.
A couple times when Shiva, in season eight, ate a couple guys, they had to get reaction shots, but at that point man, if you’re thinking about the guy in the blue suit, then you’re failing as an actor.
Yeah, I guess if you started thinking too deeply, then you’re like, “Well, I’m supposed to be a knight and I’m wearing BMX gear. Why haven’t we found a way to make actual metal armor?”
It’s all silly at the end of the day. It’s all make believe. You got to fully commit. And then at the same time, you got to believe what it is like, “Holy shit. We’re The King’s Knights!”
I’ll never forget Khary, the second or third day, and we had all just gotten to know each other. And Khary’s in his regalia as King Ezekiel. And I’m looking at him like, “Look at you, dude.” I was like, “Do you know you’re going to be an icon?” I was like, “Do you know you’re going to be like forever?” And he’s like, “I know. Look at us. We’re the f’ing Kingdom, man. Look at us.” It was just one of those moments where you’re like, “Yeah.” So, we would fight for each other. We would straight up fight for each other if we needed to, you know?
That’s awesome. I guess when you look at it, I ask about a guy in a blue suit playing a tiger, but of the 50 deaths or 80 deaths or whatever, a majority of the people watching, me included, probably got the most emotional over the CGI tiger because they really did a great job of making people believe in, and care about, a tiger.
It was heartbreaking for me and I knew that she was fake. And credit to Khary, and Cooper, and Melissa who did a great performance. And when you’re looking at them, you’re feeling it. But, yeah, credit to the show and the writers.
I think a lot of times, The Walking Dead gets critiqued so hard because of their success and their longevity. But man, they’re making a mini-movie every week. Never in the history of TV did we have expectations for a show that’s been on for eight seasons now to maintain, and then on top of that, you separate the audience with streaming, with computers, with Twitter. I mean, it’s crazy how much blood, sweat, and tears are put into the show. And then at the same time, I’ll read…and it’s not the majority. It’s not even a quarter of the stuff that I read. And then you read and you get a different perspective on art. I know I, myself, have become less of a critic to things I don’t know as much about. Because I go, “I don’t know the deal behind that, man. I’m just going to enjoy it.” Or I try not to put that out there because I’ll read, “These people don’t care about the show.” These are people that spend 20 hours a day…I’m telling you. They wake up, they’re there. They go to sleep, they’re there. Andrew Lincoln, Norman…they’re blood, sweat, and tears on the show and they deserve it because they’re excellent human beings, not just actors.
So, based on that, I have a question. You’ve got a guy like Cooper Andrews who seems very much like his character Jerry. Then you have a guy like Josh McDermitt who’s really nothing like his character Eugene. Who did you work with that’s the most opposite on the show and real life?
That’s a good question. Let’s see here. Well, Khary is very big just like The King. Then, you got–
And you can’t say, “Morgan,” because he’s not from England and Lennie is.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, and Lennie is a cut-up as well, but he is a little reserved. Until you kind of crack him open a little bit, he’s chill so he’s a little like Morgan, and so not a maniacal kind of crazy sort of guy. (Laughs)
Let’s see here. Andrew is a sweetheart of a man, but he’s very caring. Rick is a caring guy. Norman is so different because he’s a super sweet and on the show…
You hardly get three words out of him on the show…
So maybe with that. And look, I’m not acting like Norman and I were best friends, by any stretch, but I would say Norman. That’s a big stretch. Yeah.
I mean, again, at the risk of more spoilers, when Carl died, Daryl basically said, “We got this,” and nodded. Done.
Exactly. “I’ll take care of everything. See you on the flipside.” (Laughs) I was like, “Damn, man.”
Here’s a random question. How do you think you’d fare in the zombie apocalypse? My wife discuss this sometimes. We figure it would be pretty cool, instead of bunkering up in an old steel mill, to go bunkering up in a Disney World hotel. We do live in Florida.
Sure. Sure. Yes. Yes. I’ve thought about this a lot. The first place I would raid is a Walgreens for pain meds, for allergies, and asthma medicines because that’s my number one thing because out in these fields–and it wouldn’t be the zombies, it will be my damn allergies that will kill me, okay? (Laughs) I’m an asthmatic. So those fields and those hot ass parking lots, staring at those zombies, the only thing that I can think was, “My God. I might have to kill somebody over my damn nasal meds!” So, I might be a Savior just because of the nasal meds, okay? That’s number one.
Number two, I’ve learned to use my hands a little bit as far as working on things. I’m a pretty decent fighter. I’ve boxed. So, I can handle myself, but I think I could survive just by communicating and trying to be somebody that’s going to lighten up the situation.
I feel I could do that, but I wouldn’t try to take the lead, I sure as s*** would not be a Rick!
So, probably one of the more generic questions I have, what’s the most fun about being on The Walking Dead and the hardest part about being on The Walking Dead?
The most fun about being on the Walking Dead is that you’re a part of TV history. I was part of that 100th episode of The Walking Dead. That’s something no one can ever take that away from you. Plain and simple. I got to be on my favorite show that’s all I could have ever asked for. That in itself is surreal to even say out loud.
The worst part about The Walking Dead is the expectations in different senses. Hey man, why weren’t you on there more? Hey man, what’s the next thing? That in itself is a byproduct of being on The Walking Dead, not necessarily a negative thing, but at times you want to be like, “Well, shit man, I would have been there the whole thing if you would have killed me off!”
If I could write the show, Alvaro would have had a lot of things different in each episode, right? But that’s not the case and a lot of it is trying not to get frustrated at people who are asking you things because they really care about you but then they go, “Well, why did you die so soon? Why did you not talk enough?” Or things I had no say in. So, it’s things like that. But the majority, the best things are just being a part of that history, man. I’ve got a hat with the hundredth episode thing that they gave out that I will forever keep as this moment in time and so it’s 99% positive and the one little percent negative. I’ll take that all day long.
The crazy thing is that, if I could have picked, other than being a lead character, like a Rick or whatever, if I could have picked a side character to any of the communities, I would have picked The Kingdom. You know what I’m saying? Like we were the tightest clique, we were the only good ones through and through, we never really switched a side other than when we were defending ourselves. And I’m a fan of the show, so I get their place in history.
And you don’t have to be one of the junkyard people in a stinky junkyard.
You know, I love them to death and they were so sweet. Sabrina [Gennarino, who played Scavenger Tamiel] and a lot of the people…we all kind of came in at the same time, but we never saw them. They’d be shooting their stuff and then one day at the hotel we all met together and it was the funniest thing because I was sitting there waiting for my Kingdom crew to come. We were going to go to dinner and I look around and all of the Saviors are right at my table. I’m call my guys and I’m like, “Guys, you need to come down here, it’s just me and a bunch of Saviors!” (Laughs) And that’s when I met Pollyanna [McIntosh, who plays Jadis] and Sabrina and they’re sweethearts and they’re the best.
That’s the thing man, I asked Lennie James one day, are there any assholes on The Walking Dead? And he goes, “There were, but they don’t stick long enough around, mate.” He basically said that they fire you if you’re a dick! (Laughs)
All right, I do have one more Walking Dead question. Very simple question. Are you bummed you didn’t get to come back as a zombie?
Yeah, I would have been pissed if I would have been a zombie, to be honest. I thought that was cool how they did Daniel where he came back and he was going after Ezekiel, but if they were to do it just because you get killed…you die and that was the last shot that you do and you get the whole crew and go back and get dressed up as a zombie, I don’t think I’d like it.
If I had to do it for a character where I play a cool part where I have to get in makeup, and I’ve done it before for Kimmy Schmidt, Bloodline, different things. Totally cool, no problem. But man, I don’t want to be out there as a zombie after I just died, you know?
Right, I was wondering, would have been worth it to get one more episode?
No. And then they got a shot of me walking off, like for me if they would have said it, sure.
What if they had Jerry cut you in half with an axe?
If that would have been the case, I totally think Jerry and Alavaro could have had a little moment. That would have been amazing. But for me just to kind of wander out there…no. But, right now, I’m still alive in The Walking Dead as a zombie!
All right, Walking Dead questions, done! Let’s shift gears a little bit. I’ve heard you say on the radio show that one of your big dreams is working with Steven Spielberg. So, now we’re going to use your creativity. He calls you up tomorrow and he’s like, “Carlos, I’m going to do a movie. But I want you to pick the genre.” So, you’re working with Steven Spielberg. Are you doing sci-fi? You’re doing action-adventure? What would you like with Steven?
Man, that’s a good question. You would think, “All right. Well, you’ve got to go sci-fi with Spielberg,” right? But then it’s like, “Well, that’s what he’s always done.” And sure. Would I love to be a part of a big sci-fi? I don’t know. I would feel like, “Okay. If I could choose anything, hey, why don’t you go down a Scorsese route? Why don’t you do your own Goodfellas, your own Donnie Brasco and let me be a part of that?” Because I feel like with sci-fi these days you sometimes have to go old school, and I don’t have an old-school look, a Stranger Things look. I’ve never auditioned for Stranger Things. It’s weird. I’m sure that could break if you find the right characters or whatever. But I would want to play an iconic character. That’s one of my goals. I don’t care if it’s a lead. I just want to play a character like, I’ll say, Pennywise, just because when I saw that guy I was like, “He’ll always be able to say he played Pennywise.” You know?
I want to have little moments like that where I could say that was stuff that I’ve done. But one of my goals is to play a Tony Soprano, someone that everybody knows. I don’t care if I get typecast. I don’t care if for the rest of my life that’s the only one. I’ll be cool with that. And I know that’s maybe– be careful what you wish for! (Laughs)
I was going to say, do you want to be Jethro Bodine?
Sure. I’ll take it. If it pays me really, really well!
It’s hysterical you say that because there are guys like George Wendt from Cheers, God forbid you call him Norm. But then when you see Jon Heder, who played Napoleon Dynamite, he’ll Napolean Dynamite it until he’s blue in the face. And so yeah, you’re right.
It’s an individual thing. It’s a personality thing, I think. I think you got to be cool with it. People do that to me with radio stuff. They’d be like, “Hey, do you mind doing this character?” And I just go right into it. But that’s just me, so I could get it if that’s not your personality type and you’re like, “Well, I’m an actor and this is separate.”
So, would you even accept iconic if it were the “Whassup?” guy? Is that iconic enough?
Well, I would’ve done the “Whassup!?” commercial in a second! Yeah, sure. Those guys became millionaires! (Laughs) For me, I would obviously want to lean more maybe towards TV and film iconic, but you never know. You never freaking know. You never know what’s going to be that thing…
Like Flo [from the Progressive Insurance commercials]?
Yeah. Exactly. She’s a millionaire. And she will forever be known as one of the most well-known spokespeople and most know commercials ever, so.
Absolutely. All right. So now, based on what you said, I’m going to give you your choice. Of the following, which would you like to have the most? Your own nationally-syndicated radio show; a superhero movie trilogy where you’re a third-tier character like John C. Reilly in Guardians of the Galaxy, but you have a big scene or two; a recurring role on a television show for five years…you’re in like 20 of 100 episodes; or a starring role in a Netflix or Amazon Prime show that maybe only goes for like 10 episodes?
Interesting. Boy, well, I’d take them all, first off, number one. (Laughs) But you mentioned John C. Reilly. He’s one of my acting idols, okay? That’s one of my all-time favorites. And, to me, that’s a guy who’s done dramatic work. He’s done character stuff, then he was in Kong: Skull Island, and he provided this great relief in that. He can always go dramatic. So, I would choose John C. Reilly.
But in Guardians of the Galaxy, people barely even remember him. But he’s in it, and he does have some funny comedy scenes in that movie….
I guess I just lean towards that, and I don’t know why. I mean, I would also like to get a good shot at doing a lead, obviously. If it was the last thing I was ever going to do, I’d probably choose whatever worked more. (Laughs)
If it was like I got to work 100 days, period, as opposed to working five days, I would choose the 100 days because all those scenarios you listed to me, I’m cool with.
Right. Yeah. It’s funny. I don’t know if you ever watched Modern Family.
Totally. It’s one of my favorite shows, yeah.
Okay. Adam Devine, who played Andy the “Manny,” I mean he was in maybe 15, 20 episodes…
Yeah. And he crushed it.
And, to me, he was the show while he was on it. That’s the kind of role when I said 20 episodes of a show…
Yeah. And when you explain it like that, I’d go with that because he was a scene stealer, too, and that’s what I’ve kind of aimed at doing. That’s why, right now, I’m trying to create my own stuff. I’m trying to create my own videos. I’m trying to control what I can control, and really leaning more towards comedy because it’s funny. I do play these tougher roles, but I always try to lean more towards comedy, and doing silly stuff, and entertaining people. So I’m kind of focusing more on that, you know?
Do you have any projects coming up you can talk about?
Yeah. Yeah. I have two big video games that I’m in mo-cap and I’m doing the voices for. No names for now.
Okay. No names.
Two video games that I, myself, haven’t been fully told exactly what it is. There are some parts right now that I’m still waiting to hear back on. What I’ve realized now having an LA agent, an Atlanta agent, a Florida agent, a convention agent, a publicist, is that you make your own way, man. You make your own way. Same thing you’re doing sitting here right now interviewing me, and you make your own way with your writing, and that’s why, like I said, some of the biggest stars in the world are coming from social media now. When I sat with the LA agent, the first thing on the sheet of paper was how many followers do you have? How many Instagram people do you have? And, luckily, I do okay. But I’ve really just been focusing on that because I can control it. I can create it. I can push it out, and then they can see, “Oh, this guy can be funny, This guy can do songs. This guy can do bits.” And so I’m really focusing on trying to create really awesome stuff right now and growing it. “To the top,” videos. To the top, never stop!
So, one part of being on The Walking Dead is you become a part of the…and sometimes I hate calling them comic-book conventions because they’re really pop-culture conventions nowadays…but have you had any funny interactions at conventions? I’ve been to probably 10 or 12 now and I know sometimes just watching things go down, there are definitely some funny interactions between fans and guests.
Yeah. There was a massive dude in drag, and he was beautiful! (Laughs) Oh my God. He looked like this goddess. He was seven feet tall, and I had to run him down and be like, “I’ve got to take a picture with you,” because he came in and it was like all these people dressed up, and all of a sudden, this woman walks in. And she stood out to me because she was gigantic, and I love big people. I love gigantic people. I have this fascination. I love tall people. I feel like I have affinity for them. So, that was pretty funny.
Other than that, it’s a bunch of people who have this one day to go out and let their nerd out and let their geek out. I used to go to the conventions, and I used to collect Mad Magazine, and baseball cards, and everything. So, I know where it’s at. So, to me, it’s more about meeting people. I love getting to meet people. And I know if you live in certain states…I did one in Virginia, you know? You never see anything, production-wise, go on in Virginia. You’re in Florida. Yeah. You got the theme parks, you got this, you got that. Georgia, obviously, it’s all over the place. But most places never get to meet anybody that was in anything that they enjoyed. I like being a little piece of that.
Are you doing the Walker Stalker Con in Orlando?
Yep. Yep. August 11th and 12th.
People can look that up on walkerstalkercon.com. Next question, very quick. You’re at a convention. Which of your Walking Dead comrades you want sitting next to you?
Khary, Cooper, and Lennie.
In this day and age, there are more places to get yourself seen, which is a good thing. But on the flip side, there are more people out there to see. That’s what you’re trying to do, get yourself seen. What advice to people who might be frustrated or trying to get themselves out there? Any concrete advice?
Yeah. Control what you can control, and stop being frustrated about the uncontrollable. The majority of this business is stuff you can’t control. Do they like you? Do you remind them of their cousin that stole money from them? You’re just two inches too short. There’s all these things that are uncontrollable, and you’re trying to be seen. Well, control what you can control, and that’s yourself. Whether that’s, “Well, I’m an actor. I’ve got to get seen. But I also like comedy. Let me do some stand-up. I’m an actor but I also like to write. Well, let me write something.” So, control what you can control, and then do the things that you’re good at, and then try and get acknowledged by that way. It’ll only help your acting, and then it’ll feed that creative force that you need in your life.
All right. Excellent. So, folks can hear you on Real Radio 104.1 on iHeartRadio. If they live in the Florida area, they can hear you on 104.1 in Orlando. Your motto on the show we’ve mentioned a couple of times: “To the top. Never stop.” It’s you’re mantra. Keeps you positive. One, two, three things in your life you try to do to stay positive?
Every day, I wake up and I say, “Today’s going to be a great day.” That’s the very first thing I do. I am continually listening to motivational messages and videos on YouTube. YouTube is your best friend, okay? What do I mean by that? On the way to work, I don’t just pop in the news and start listening to the news. On the way to work, I’m listening to inspirational speakers. I’m listening to the best minds of the world: Les Brown, Tony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuk. You literally have these people telling you every single morning that you can have it right there, and that’s what I listen on the way to work. One other thing you need is to have a place to let out your aggression or artistic side of yourself. We just talked about it. Your artistic side, you need to have a place for that. But there’s also aggression in the human body, and I have a heavy bag in the house, and I work out hard.
That makes total sense. And now, since you’ve taken the time to talk with me today, plug away, Carlos. Where can people find you? Whatcha’ got?
You know what? Easiest thing is to find me at ToTheTopCarlos. Instagram, Twitter, and just find me there. Everything else is funneled through there. You can find me on Facebook, but I’m really trying to have a lot of people click on my stuff, and get a big laugh, and enjoy themselves. And so, yeah, find me on there.
Monsters.fm. Another good place. Yep. Yep.
All right. And, well, thank you very much for taking the time. I appreciate it.
That was awesome. A lot of fun, man. Thanks!