Interview | 26 Aug 2022
After 11 years on air, the AMC series The Walking Dead has come to an end. And, while I must admit to giving out somewhere in Season 8, when Rick lost his son and took all of his love and rage into battle against Negan, I am curious to see how the journey continues in AMC’s spinoff, Tales of the Walking Dead.
Of course, I’ve heard about the controversy surrounding the final seasons of TWD. Apparently, some were upset with the level of wokeness that seeped into the series while others understood a diverse group of people would exist in the face of the zombie apocalypse. As I missed the final seasons I can’t speak to that. But I will say, as with all things, it isn’t What is being expressed but How we choose to deliver the message. Are we watching a strong production exploring interesting subject matter or obvious pontification from a weak cast and crew?
If I were writing, we’d have lesbian zombies sexing it up to Type O Negative’s “Bloody Kisses”. But, that’s me; and probably an indication as to why I’m writing for The Metropolitan rather than the 70x Emmy Award Winning show.
Anyway, actor Kersti Bryan appears in the pilot episode of Tales of the Walking Dead in a role integral to a storyline that promises to be filled with blood and gore. But, will TWD present deeper themes that challenge our preconceived notions of what it means to be alive?
Let’s ask Kersti.
Kersti Bryan: Kersti … it rhymes with thirsty.
Anthony Brancaleone: As a kid, I was Tony. It rhymes with bologna and macaroni, so I think you got the better deal. I know our readers would like to hear a bit about the weather but why don’t we get right to it – what can you tell us about your character in Tales of the Walking Dead?
KB: Sandra is my character and she’s a “prepper’. She meets Joe, played by Terry Crews, who is also a prepper, and they met online through her handle USHLDBSCRD (you should be scared). When the zombie apocalypse actually happens Joe wants to find Sandra. These characters are finally able to meet and we think everything is wonderful, and then of course it goes sideways.
AB: Tell us on whom you based your character and how you went about preparing for the role.
KB: I think fans will be very surprised because the design team came to me and said she’s original – Mommie Dearest meets Whatever Happened to Baby Jane meets The Joker.
AB: Who’s Joker did you research?
KB: I had never seen Heith Ledger’s Joker but his performance is so astonishing. He’s got this fragility, just wanting to connect. So that’s something I used for Sandra, who was a very normal gal but is now in extraordinary circumstances. I looked at Faye Dunaway. Mommie Dearest. Very scary film. Watched a little of…what is that film? Silence of the Lambs – because my character is killing people. I ate a lot of cookies to get through it.
AB: What cookies work best?
KB: Something with chocolate. I’m really quite sensitive and have a hard time with scary stuff. Did a lot of research about Preppers, bunkers, etc to help me better understand. I think the one thing about this character is to always be prepared. But the interesting thing is they weren’t prepared for loneliness and what loneliness does to us.
AB: I don’t know how I feel about the use of the term “Walking Dead”- it’s kind of derogatory. Certainly, “Walkers” is not appropriate.
KB: (laughs) There’s a number of terms they use from “Toe Taggers” to…the real fun is watching the show to see how many ways they’ve named them and how the characters call them out.
“We do dumb things out of fear”
AB: Now, that you are an expert Prepper, what are the first three things we should do in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse?
KB: I think we need to secure our physical safety, number one. Number two, get access to water. We can live up to a month without food but we can’t go past seven days without water. And, um, number three – wow, I’m taking this really seriously. You need a food source of some kind to wait it out. If you have those three things you will buy some time and be able to solve the other problems later. Probably, good advice for most things is to stay calm. We do dumb things out of fear. Make good choices.
AB: Is it fair to be angry with Zombies? It’s not their fault they have turned. Instead of killing them, what would you suggest we do with the Zombie problem?
KB: Oh boy, instead of killing them? You could harness the zombie energy in some way, but then we go back to whether that’s a moral or ethical thing to do. You could put them somewhere, corral them. I don’t know, those are some deep ethical questions. Should we kill zombies or harness their energy? The better choice for that, I think, is to make sure they no longer suffer.
AB: And, what do you mean by “they”?
AB: The show is filled with resourceful characters – shouldn’t someone in camp reform the approach to working with Zombies? Maybe, through education or a work force program? If you were in charge, Thirsty, how would you handle that?
KB: Then we’re going back into like, do we have consent? It’s a very complicated query, because we want to heal the Walkers, but if you could harness the skill set of the Walker to your benefit…I don’t know how I’d organize that? The real problem is consent; the moral issue. Can the Walker give consent.
AB: And, again, we’re using the term “Walker”.
AB: Are you familiar with the 1960s band, The Zombies, who had big hits like, ‘She’s not There’, ‘Tell Her No’, and ‘Time of the Season’?
AB: Out of respect for “The Walkers” shouldn’t the band be forced to change its name?
KB: (laughing) Out of respect for the Walkers should they change their name? (laughing) I don’t think so. They’re the OGs in all of this. Maybe, we should respect the band – didn’t they come first?
AB: Fair enough. Moving forward, I think it was Season 6 in The Walking Dead when Rick and his crew lead thousands of Zombies out of the quarry; a plan that ended in disaster – what was that all about?
KB: I can’t speak to that. I’m not that familiar with the season. There’s REAL fans out there, Anthony. I don’t want to, uh…
AB: During the Zombie Apocalypse you enter a safe house fully stocked with all the accoutrement to make any kind of Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich you desire – in as much detail as possible will you describe how you would produce yours?
KB: Absolutely. We will have it toasted. There is a gluten free oat-bread called Outside the BreadBox – which, is from a bakery in Colorado – that is very good. A natural, crunchy, peanut butter, with a little bit of salt, no sugar. And, then, like, a black berry jam. Cut into triangles. This is my favorite snack so this is a very good question. And, I would have a decaf coffee, warm, with a splash of oat milk in it.
AB: That sounds good. Speaking of sandwiches, what are your three favorite sandwiches and where can they be found?
KB: Um, we just described One, which is a Peanut Butter and Jelly, 100%, so no question about that. Another is a New York Egg Sandwich, with bacon, egg, cheese and, this is how you order it: “I’ll have a bacon, egg, and cheese, on a roll, with salt, pepper, and ketchup, toasted”.
AB: I was with you until the ketchup. I have friends, and even my brother, who admits to dipping pizza in ketchup. I don’t get it. I’m not a snob about it. I use ketchup on French fries. But pizza? An egg sandwich?
KB: Immediately, when you said dipping, I knew I would go for a Rachel. There’s a great Jewish deli in New York called BEN’s Delicatessen. It’s in the 30s. The Garment District, maybe? It’s on a beautiful rye, with Russian dressing, I think, and some coleslaw.
AB: Is it real Russian dressing or is it Catalina French?
KB: (laughing) uhh…
AB: Or, is it A Thousand Islands?
KB: You know, it might be A Thousand Island.
Metropolitan Fact Check: The menu on Ben’s website identifies the dressing on the Rachel as Russian. However, a call to the Manhattan location revealed – through a source that will remain nameless – that the dressing used on that day was A Thousand Islands.
As a child, I thought A Thousand Islands dressing came from Polynesia, or something. But, later discovered it originates in the Thousand Islands region, located along the upper St. Lawrence River, between Ontario, Canada and New York State.
Given the option, I wonder if most “Walkers” prefer Russian or A Thousand Island dressing on humans?
AB: I understand you made a 10 minute short film called Egg Party, which has been making noise on the festival circuit – what can you tell us about your purpose for making the film?
KB: It’s a 10 minute comic short that is kind of a whimsical film about fertility. A group of women who gather about a not so sober egg decorating party. And, you get a portrait of each character through the meeting, who have all come together to be with their friend who has had a miscarriage. It’s a film about several things but I discovered it’s really a film about choice.
AB: What were some of the more exciting parts of making the picture?
KB: The most fun was being together with my friends making a movie. That was the best. I would do that forever.
AB: And, what were some of the struggles involved in realizing your vision?
KB: Challenges were mostly about money. We were union and wanted to pay a living wage. And, then we were faced with the pandemic. So we had that going on. We really, by the grace of something, got through our shoot. As director, I felt very responsible and was calling everybody making sure we were ok.
AB: What is more important, a signature lipstick or a Roth IRA?
KB: A Roth IRA. What is this? (laughs). Um, I want everyone to be planning for their future. Why did you ask me that?
AB: It’s a reference to a line in your movie.
KR: Oh! Oh, yes! I was wondering if that was something we wrote. I should know what’s in our own movie. You max that IRA out if you can. And, do it while you’re wearing your lipstick!
AB: Your press agent says you were educated at Interlochen Arts Academy – I assume that is the one in northern Michigan?
KR: Yes, I’m closely tied to Michigan. My parents both graduated from East Lansing High School and I did go to Interlochen. I loved it.
AB: Tell us a bit about your favorite locations in Michigan.
KR: Mackinac Island, gotta eat the fudge. Anything cherry related, you can’t go wrong.
AB: Have you been to the Cherry Bowl Drive-In?
KR: You know, I didn’t have a car so I barely left campus. But, there was the Melody Freeze that had a really good ice cream sandwich. It was soft serve and they would smash it on a cookie, it was goood.
AB: If the zombie apocalypse occurred while you were in northern Michigan where would you make camp?
KR: Oh boy, I don’t know.
AB: What if you could choose three persons to join your camp; who would they be?
KR: Oh no, I have such a big family this is a disastrous question.
AB: I know. It’s tough.
KR: I’m bringing my uncle Andy because he has lived off the grid, he’s created generators, and has a sense of what it means to live as we were used to… oh, it’s tough…I don’t wanna…
AB: I understand.
KR: I just…
AB: A few years ago, when we had our first son, our extended family was at the zoo and one of them was, regularly, pulling up the rear. It hurt, but for their own good I had to announce that if this was the zombie apocalypse they might not make it.
KR: (laughs) Yeah, it’s haaard!
AB: That person is still angry with me.
AB: Your Agent describes you as a “budding starlet” – what does that mean?
KR: I didn’t even know they said that. I’m very grateful they did, though. Very grateful. Thank you.
AB: And, finally, what is a Carnegie Mellon?
KR: A Carnegie Mellon?
AB: Is it a squash, or something?
KR: Carnegie Mellon is where I went to school. It is in Pittsburgh PA and is one of the oldest drama schools in the nation. It’s known for business, computer science, and engineering but it’s also known for art, architecture, and drama.
AB: I see.
AB: What does Carnegie Mellon look for in a student?
KR: It’s a very intense program. They are looking for very driven, disciplined, gifted artists.
AB: I’m guessing you did pretty well.
KR: Not bad.
AB: George Romero is an alumnus, I believe. The director of Night of the Living Dead. Interesting zombie connection. I wonder if there are any lessons you have learned from Carnegie Mellon that would be most helpful to us in our fight against the Walking Dead?
KR: Discipline. Teamwork. Good collaboration. And, improvisation. Best idea in the room wins. Be willing to kill your darlings.
AB: That, and the cellar may or may not be the safest place…