Day of the Dead: Bloodline debuts today, providing a sort of "reimagining" of George Romero's iconic film. And along the way, it gives fans a one-of-a-kind zombie performance from Johnathon Schaech.
The film follows Zoe (Sophie Skelton), a former medical student who tends to human survivors in a military bunker. During a supply run, Zoe discovers that her former stalker, Max (played by Schaech), has now become a sentient zombie. While the pair have a pretty dark history, Zoe is determined to find out if Max's blood is the key to saving the human race.
Schaech is no stranger to the world of beloved characters and properties, previously bringing to life Jonah Hex on The CW's Legends of Tomorrow. He recently sat down with ComicBook.com to chat about transforming into a zombie, carrying on the legacy of George Romero, and what time period he'd like to transport Jonah Hex to.
ComicBook.com: What drew you to this role?
Johnathon Schaech: Well, I was really interested in monsters. I love The Incredible Hulk, even King Kong, the character Bub in the previous Day of the Dead. Those creatures intrigued me, because they're trying to get past their physical difference, between how they look on the outside and what they feel on the inside. That's always been intriguing to me.
Did you feel any sort of pressure in being in this iconic franchise, and being the main zombie of this particular installment?
Yeah, I did. I'm a little bit of a geek with all of the comic book stuff, and all the mainstream horror. Even Jonah Hex on Legends, you know. I looked at it almost like, "Oh my god! I get to start playing monsters! I get to play this guy, and if I do this guy, blah blah blah, they'll give me another great monster to play. Am I going to be Ron Perlman, you know?" So yeah, I did feel an incredible amount of pressure.
Were there any particular portrayals of zombies that sort of inspired your performance?
I loved Gary Oldman's Dracula, the romantic longing that he had. And Boris Karloff's Frankenstein, which is lost, wanting to be able to express his insides, even though he's scary on the outside. And then, I Am Legend, Dash Mihok playing this Alpha, racing, frenzied creature, and they were basically zombies. So I kept seeing that this character is caught, he's somewhere between those.
What was your favorite thing about playing a zombie?
That I wasn't a full rotter. I was a half rotter, who is basically trying to make up for the sins of his past.
How did it feel having Day of the Dead: Bloodline be the first one in the franchise since George Romero passed away?
I got to work with George Romero, me and my dear friend Richard Chizmar wrote a screenplay that he was going to direct. So I got to be part of his world a little bit, even though we didn't get to make the movie, unfortunately.
But I think he wants [the legacy of Day of the Dead] to continue on. And look at the different relevance, from the things that were going on of a political nature, and stuff like that. So I feel like we're capturing a little bit of the national touch, with men really having to face up to their negative masculine ways, and really identifying more with their qualities of care and love.
How did the prosthetics of Day of the Dead: Bloodline compare to the ones you used for Jonah Hex on Legends of Tomorrow?
You know, I think that I got this role because of playing Jonah Hex. I think that someone saw that I had that scar on my face and said, "Well, he could be the character in Day of the Dead!"
The first time that we did Jonah Hex, it took three and a half hours. This movie, I had to do my arms, my hands, everything, and we had prosthetics. We're talking an extra hour in the makeup chair.
How did that level of prosthetics affect your performance?
Yeah, I really had to study more about what I was doing with the prosthetics and the makeup for Max, because I didn't know how it was coming across. If I just sat still and just talked to you regularly as Max, it would come across fairly odd, because he's got something that's driving him, he's not all human. So I had to take out the qualities where it was easy to just humanize him. That's why I trained really hard to get more muscle on me, so that I would look more like the Hulk. So that when I tried to get it across, I had to play in the mirror a great deal more with Max than I did with Jonah Hex.
This season of Legends is dealing with a lot of anachronisms, where they're sort of plucking things out of history and throwing them into another time period. So if Jonah Hex was being thrown into another time period, where would you want him to go?
Right now. I want him to come right now, dealing with all of the Confederate soldier statues everywhere. You know, he was a character in a really Confederate time, he was in the Confederate army, before he realized they were fighting for slavery. And he was a slave when he was raised, so he couldn't have anything to do with it. So he actually surrendered to the Union army. I think that says a lot for what's going on today.
What stories would you like to tell with Jonah Hex, if you're able to return to Legends and do another episode?
Well, I think Jonah has a lot to say about a lot of things that we're dealing with. He's a very masculine man, but he's been through enough to understand a lot of what goes on inside. So anything in history, like what we're dealing with today with our racism problems. God, the crisis that's going on in Hollywood, he wouldn't know how to deal with that. He wouldn't know how to deal with all of the issues of white supremacists, you know. He was raised by Apache Indians, he could be at the front lines of them taking Indian land. I mean, he could really be in every political situation that we're dealing with in today's culture.
I [also] want to see him go back to Sgt. Rock in World War II, that's what I would want.
How do you think Jonah Hex would do in a Day of the Dead situation?
Well, he's a great shot. He would be taking them all out, easily. He wouldn't be phased too much by any of it.
I'm just picturing him with zombie pets, sort of making his way through the apocalypse.0comments
You know, that's a great idea. We should make that movie.
Day of the Dead: Bloodline is available in theaters, VOD, and Digital HD today.