Q: This is your first season on the show. Was there a learning curve to get up to speed with The Walking Dead?
A: I was very nervous about joining the show on the first day, but once I got there it’s been a joy ever since. There’s an element about needing to know about the conditions: the heat and the humidity and the snakes and bugs and ticks. You have to have a little bit of an outward bound course before you start filming. Those things are different for me, because normally it’s like, “How do I get to the canteen.” But I do think those crazy brutal conditions add to the show — because the show’s all about that. It isn’t a comfortable place to be and that’s important.
Q: How much of the Governor’s backstory have you sketched out?
A: I feel that the Governor is someone who before the event was a pretty middle-management type guy. He didn’t have the status before, but now he’s walking that tight rope of leadership about what he needs to do as a leader. It’s all relatively new to him.
Q: As a British actor, is there anything you do to prevent lapsing back into your accent on-set?
A: I stay in accent as much as I can. We have a crew of locals, and whenever I go get my coffee or groceries I can hear the accent. So the accent is around me all the time and that’s been an advantage.
Q: Do you ever take the Governor home with you?
A: The Governor would be a pretty tough character to take home — I don’t think my wife would like that. He’s a pretty intense man to play and there is a darkness to him, which can get inside your head sometimes. Thankfully, I have quite a long drive from the location back here to Atlanta, so I often put on a bit of rock music on the way home — the Rolling Stones or whatever — and that tends to get the character out of my head.
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Q: Do you ever have to do the reverse: put on some music to get into your character’s head?
A: On every job that I do, I have some sort of playlist that I use. And that can get me into character in a good way and get me into that mood. Of course different scenes require different moods and different music as well. At the moment I have a band called 16 Horsepower which I really like. Sometimes I throw a bit of jazz in there — John Coltrane and Miles Davis — something like that that can get me into certain moods. The Stones are always good to get me going. I can get into some Chet Baker, Art Pepper type stuff as well.
Q: Do you think you share musical tastes with the Governor?
A: I think the Governor’s got quite an odd taste, but it probably does cross over into mine. I do use classical music quite a bit in my iPod. Sometimes words and lyrics can get into your head, and what you want is just the music, so I use jazz and classical music for that.
Q: Back home in the UK — do your friends and family have a different reaction to the show than fans here?
A: For me it’s very interesting because I have a 17-year-old son. I’ve been working for a long time as an actor and he’s usually quite blasé about whatever I’m doing. If I tell him I’m playing the lead in a Shakespeare play he’s like, “Oh, whatever.” Or if I tell him I just got an award for a TV show in the UK, he’s like, “Oh, yeah, well. ” But when I told him I was doing The Walking Dead he was like, “No, you’re joking dad. That’s fantastic!” It’s made me cool in my son’s eyes.