Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday's Tales of the Walking Dead series premiere, "Evie/Joe." On Tales of the Walking Dead, Terry Crews plays Joe, a chronically online recluse who prepared for the apocalypse years before it happened. IRL, real life in the crisis-stricken Flint, Michigan, prepped the former football player and Brooklyn Nine-Nine star to tackle the Walking Dead Universe. "It transferred to me in playing Joe and realizing this new world is one thing that he was always getting ready for," Crews says of his role in "Evie/Joe," the August 14 series premiere of the episodic Walking Dead anthology series.
"You've got to understand, I was worried. You have to know because I'm a fan too. I am the biggest fan," Crews tells ComicBook about The Walking Dead, AMC's flagship zombie drama approaching the end of its eleventh and final season. "And the last thing you want to be is the guy who ruined the franchise."
During the new show's first San Diego Comic-Con panel in July, Crews told the convention crowd that Duane Jones, the leading man of George A. Romero's influential 1968 zombie movie Night of the Living Dead, was the first time a young Crews "ever saw a Black hero who was literally running the show." In a full-circle moment, Crews stars in the first of six original one-hour standalone episodes set within the walker apocalypse.
"Listen, you got to know, this is a dream. This world is as big as Marvel. It's as big as any other world," Crews says. "And I am a big-time horror, sci-fi fan, and especially of this show."
Scott M. Gimple, Chief Content Officer of AMC's TWD Universe, developed the anthology spinoff executive produced by Walking Dead veteran director Michael E. Satrazemis and Tales showrunner Channing Powell. When Crews' agent submitted the Everybody Hates Chris and White Chicks star to the Tales crew for consideration, mutual interest led to a "flurry" of phone calls on both sides.
"I get a call from my agent like, 'There's interest from The Walking Dead.' I was like, 'Are you kidding me? I got to talk to them, let's make it happen,'" Crews recalls. "And they saw how willing and how much of a fan I was, and my God, it literally didn't take but a few different bounce backs of calls and the whole thing. And man, it was on, and I was in this new anthology. And I found out they're doing this whole series. It's all standalone episodes. It's beautiful. And when I read the script, I was like, 'I am in 100%.'"
More Twilight Zone than American Horror Story, the six-episode first season recruited Walking Dead newcomers like Anthony Edwards, Parker Posey, Jillian Bell, Danny Ramirez, Jessie T. Usher, and Olivia Munn, who plays free spirit hippie Evie opposite Crews' lonely prepper Joe. Ron Underwood, whose credits include City Slickers and episodes of Fear the Walking Dead, directed the two-hander reuniting Crews with Munn, a friend he worked with on Newsroom and Lip Sync Battle.
"We've known each other for years," Crews says of Munn, his partner for a shoot that was "like doing a movie in ten days."
"We've been friends for years ... We talk a lot. There were times when I called her for advice, she called me, and we always see each other. And she is just the coolest person," Crews says. "Once I got the role, I didn't know who Evie was going to be. And then I get a text from [Munn] and she's like, 'You're going to be Joe, right?' And I went, 'What? Are you Evie?' And I flipped out on text. ... She said, 'I had my baby. Now it's time to kill some zombies.' And let me tell you, we came in ready. We were ready, ready, ready to work together again."
In "Evie/Joe," the two strangers set off on a motorcycle road trip across Ohio and Michigan so Joe can IRL meet IM pen pal "USHLDBSCRD" (pronounced "You Should Be Scared"), a prepper he once connected with online. 402 days into the apocalypse, Evie helps Joe realize there's more to life than just preparing to live when she tells him: "You were so busy trying to survive the end of the world, yours never got started."
While Joe may be the first Walking Dead character to be catfished in the zombie apocalypse — after 13 months underground, a paranoid and delusional Sandra/USHLDBSCRD (guest star Kersti Bryan) lures victims into her bunker so she can kill them before they can steal her supplies — the episode ends on somewhat of a hopeful note for Evie and Joe.
But as Crews points out, "In the Walking Dead world, hope doesn't last long."
"I love the way they ended this thing, very hopeful, but I feel there are very, very dark times headed for both of them," Crews says. "I think it is funny because Evie was right in this episode. But I think, in any future iterations that we may do, that Joe's [pessimism] is going to be right. Even being catfished with Sandra and the whole thing, they just begun to experience betrayal. It's only a little more than 400 days into the apocalypse. And I think there's some really dark times ahead."
Should those dark times occur on-screen in a second season of Tales or beyond, Crews is "willing to do anything that these writers create, because they do such a good job."
As the Walking Dead Universe expands with three upcoming spinoffs focused on Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), could Joe return?
"Absolutely. Absolutely," Crews says. "When you're talking about Maggie and Negan having a spinoff, you're talking about Daryl's show, and then with Rick and Michonne coming back, there are three different worlds that I could enter."
Crews adds: "It's a big world, and I think that the actual flagship series is still very, very small, and we can expand this to a whole other thing."
Until then, Joe's Walking Dead tale is a personal one for Crews, who has opened up about the importance of mental health and therapy after being "reclusive" for the first 40 years of his life.
"I realized I hadn't done therapy because in my community, therapy was looked at as quackery. But once I finally went, I started to understand what made me tick and what went wrong," Crews says. "Coming from Flint, Michigan, it was a different culture. I mean, it was a great city ... and then [the] auto industry ended, and then the crack epidemic hit, and, oh my God, people were dying left and right. And I was literally Joe, as a high schooler. I remember feeling like, 'I have to get out of here before my city falls apart.'"
"Evie/Joe" was filmed in Georgia but takes place in parts of Ohio and Michigan, including Flint, which evoked memories of Crews' childhood.
"I'll be honest right now, [when] I go back to Flint, every place I remembered and places we used to go from my high school to movie theaters to anything. It's all fields now. It's all gone," Crews says. "It's truly Walking Dead. I mean, to be to honest, Flint, Michigan still does not have clean water to drink. And it's America. This is the United States. And you're like, 'Wow. There's lead in the water, even as I speak right now.' And you go, 'What a shell of a town that used to be so great.'"
In preparing for Joe's episode of Tales of TWD, Crews says, "It transferred to me in playing Joe and realizing this new world is one thing that he was always getting ready for. And here it is."0comments