I spoke with Keith Allan about Z Nation. Keith plays Murphy. It was so much fun speaking with him about the show, his commercial fitting in perfectly, his new look, that nauseating toenail photo on twitter (@KeithAllanactor), his new project, and so much more. Do not miss an all-new episode of Z Nation tonight on Syfy.
Lena: I don’t approve of that toenail photo. You should only be allowed to post Bambi photos on your twitter feed. [Laughing]
Keith Allan: [Laughing] There was a shot of me pulling off my actual toenail in that scene and they didn’t use it, so I had to post it. I felt like I was getting ripped off. [Laughing]
Lena: It was too gross for them?
Keith Allan: I guess so. How can that be too gross for the show? I mean have you seen the heads exploding and the intestines getting pulled out? I would have thought that pulling off my toenail would have been a piece of cake but apparently not. That was my actual toenail that I pulled out because I had gone hiking at the Grand Canyon about three or four months before that and my toenails turned black from just hiking down for so long. I knew it was going to come off eventually so I told the producers, “Hey, this is going to come off and we have to get this on film.” It just happened to coincide with the scene of me in the bathroom when my hair was falling out. Several people on the set, when they learned that it was my actual toenail, they were just like (insert your barf noise here). [Laughing]
Lena: It’s too far; the toenail takes it too far. [Laughing]
Keith Allan: Yeah, I know. What can you say? [Laughing]
Lena: Murphy is falling apart and I think he’s going to need more than Nexium.
Keith Allan: Yeah, right? Murphy is having some issues. They started showing some of that early on—in the first episode I pull a tooth out of my head. This whole, the vaccine and the virus, are certainly taking a toll on my character. He’s definitely changing and I think that terrifies him. He doesn’t know what to expect now. This is sort of a new thing for him. He’s been living with the vaccine and the virus for a couple of years now but it’s just now that he’s really starting to notice a sift in him and it’s happening really quickly. It’s freaking him out a bit.
Lena: How awesome is it that they air your Nexium commercial during Z Nation?
Keith Allan: I love it. It’s kind of like what Murphy is like before the apocalypse. He had a wife and kids on the beach running around roasting hot dogs, you know, he had a good life. [Laughing] I think it’s pretty great and I doubt that it’s by accident that Nexium is airing it during Z Nation. I get paid either way so it makes me doubly happy. I’m working twice as hard during that hour of television.
Lena: If they did a special Nexium commercial for Murphy what would it be like?
Keith Allan: I think it would show him getting very upset because he’s about to get attacked by zombies and he’s having a little bit of acid reflux. And then probably taking Nexium and then able to battle the zombies with confidence, now that his stomach is settled, he can really go at it and survive the apocalypse. Go Nexium!
Lena: Perfect! What do you think of his new look?
Keith Allan: I love it. I’ve, quite frankly, always wanted to shave my head but I always thought that I would wait until someone paid me to do it, so I really had a reason to shave my head. I always thought that it was going to look a little weird because I thought that I was probably going to have some flat, misshaped, pointy head, or something like that, but as it turns out I don’t. I have a pretty good head. [Laughing] I love it. I think it’s great. I love that I’m getting to alter my look so dramatically from episode to episode. My look has changed quite a bit and that has to do with make makeup artist Corinne Foster, her and Synapse FX are in charge of all of my looks and all of the zombies, special effects makeup, hair, and all that jazz. I’ve worked with her quite closely. I think it’s exciting, for me as an actor, to start off looking one way—looking quite horrible to begin with—and then a couple of episodes later looking a whole different kind of horrible. [Laughing] I think it’s thrilling.
Lena: They do an amazing job with the makeup on the series.
Keith Allan: My makeup will take anywhere from one to four hours. The body scars are laid on individually and hand painted and then my whole body has to be painted to match the skin. It’s quite intensive but I think it’s really paying off. Corinne is great and is really meticulous about her work. She puts a lot of detail in her work. I respect and appreciate that.
Lena: I love how Murphy refers to himself as mankind’s hope. [We know he is, but I just think it’s hilarious that he refers to himself in that manner.]
Keith Allan: Well, at this point he’s all they got because the apocalypse isn’t getting any better. Everyone is already infected with the virus so once you die you’re a zombie and if you get bit, you’re a zombie. The odds are against humanity surviving this apocalypse. He really is humanity’s best hope at this point because he’s the only one that has survived the zombie bite and hasn’t turned into a zombie.
Lena: He does have some great lines.
Keith Allan: I have to give the credit to the writers. That’s what I love about this character. He is humanity’s last hope and he is over it. He is not having a good time. He doesn’t want to be there. He misses his old life, just like everyone else. It is sort of his defense mechanism—his sense of humor. It’s very cutting and biting and unkind many times but he’s also pragmatic. He’s the guy who is not sentimental. He’s just like kill the baby because we’ve got to go.
Lena: I was with him regarding the baby because you just knew that wasn’t going to turn out well.
Keith Allan: Exactly! If they did listen to me everyone would have walked away from that fine.
Lena: I know! We lost Harold Perrineau’s character in the first episode. I was disappointed about that.
Keith Allan: He didn’t listen to me. [Laughing]
Lena: Murphy is a jerk but you have to feel a little bad for him.
Keith Allan: Absolutely you do. He’s been through a lot. He had a life just like everyone else before the apocalypse. We haven’t even gotten into what he’s lost. On top of that he was also incarcerated. He was a prisoner while the apocalypse broke out and then he’s experimented on against his will and now he’s their prisoner. He is a bit of a pawn in this game. As much as he is humanity’s best hope, they don’t treat him very well. The team is not very nice to him. We are becoming friendlier as we go along.
Lena: If he ends up dying, how would you like to see him go?
Keith Allan: If he had to go, I would love to see him take out a whole hoard of zombies. I would love to see him go out fighting, something that is not really in his nature but to see the animal unleashed. I would like to see him go ballistic.
Lena: Do you think Syfy is going to do a zombie tornado film?
Keith Allan: I don’t know. I hope not. I feel like we’ve done it already. The thing that I like about the show is that we do have some really funny bits and some tongue-in-cheek stuff, but the one thing that I do like is that it doesn’t get too campy. It doesn’t get too ridiculous like Sharknado. I think we are a different animal than that. I love the balance that our show is striking with the humor and the drama and the horror and the story.
Lena: As a viewer, what would you like to see thrown at them next? Do you have any exciting scenarios in mind?
Keith Allan: I keep on telling the writers that we need to put in a musical number. I think that we have a scene where Doc (Russell Hodgkinson) and Murphy come across some magic mushrooms, or something like that, and we have the fantasy dream sequence where we get to do a musical number with the zombies. That I think would be thrilling.
Lena: What is it like working with the cast?
Keith Allan: It’s been a lot of fun. Everyone is really there to make the show good. I love that work ethic; it’s not self-serving. On top of that, they are really fun people. We just laugh our asses off. We shoot an episode in six days and that’s really quick for a show with special effects. We work really hard and still have time for a laugh in between.
Lena: The preview for the next episode talks about it being the end of the line for someone. That’s not good. Who do you believe is too important to die?
Keith Allan: I’m humanity’s best hope. What are they going to do without me? I keep on telling the writers that all the time—I’m too important to die. Let me buy you a drink. [Laughing]
Lena: Thoughts on how the rest of the season plays out?
Keith Allan: I think it’s really exciting. I think they are doing some things that I haven’t seen in the zombie genre. I think they’ve taken some nice twists on it. I think the audience is really going to dig it.
Lena: Are you looking forward to seeing some Murphys on Halloween?
Keith Allan: I would love it. I’ve got a couple of young fans, like eight-years-old, you know friends of friends. “Oh my kid, he loves your character.” First of all I’m like, “You let your kid watch that show?” However, the kids are really into it and want to know why Murphy was hugging the zombie in the last episode. They want to know reasoning behind it and that just thrills me. It does remind me of me when I was a kid. I loved movies and television and I was always really into it. I was really into the story. It was really cool to have these really young fans who are just really into my character. I was surprised and really happy about that. I would be happy to see some Murphy Halloween outfits.
Lena: What other projects are you working on?
Keith Allan: I’m currently working on finishing up a trailer for a movie that I want to produce. It’s a ticket from a play that I did in Los Angles a couple of years ago called Hearts Like Fists. It’s like a graphic novel dark comedy about these three nurses who are nurses by day and crime fighters by night and they are hunting down the evil Doctor X. Doctor X is going around killing lovers in their sleep by injecting their hearts. The city is on alert because they are being terrorized by Doctor X. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of cool fighting—it’s supervillains and crime fighters. That’s what I’m working on now. I shot the first opening seven minutes of the movie and Alex Yellen, who is our DP on Z Nation, shot it with me and is working with me on it. I’m looking forward to getting that done so I can start shopping that around and asking people for money so I can get it produced. I’m really looking forward to making that happen because it’s going to be a lot of fun and a nice departure from what I’m doing right now.
Z Nation airs Friday nights at 10/9c on Syfy.