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Sarah Wayne Callies is in a new movie with several legendary actors, and one day, she’d love to meet them.
The actress, best known for roles on shows such as Prison Break and The Walking Dead and in films such as 2014’s Into the Storm, can currently be seen in Black November, which focuses on Nigerian rebels kidnapping a U.S. oil exec and demanding that his company stop destroying their land. The film, also starring Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger and Anne Heche, comes out Friday in theaters and on VOD and iTunes.
Callies spoke to The Hollywood Reporter to explain how the film changed over the course of reshoots, why she doesn’t mind when The Walking Dead fans cuss at her and the disclaimer she gave Josh Holloway before their recent love scene, which came 10 years after their first such scene together.
Black November has an amazing cast. What was it like to work with them?
I don’t know because I didn’t work with them. [Laughs.] So here’s the story of this movie from my perspective. It’s 2010, maybe 2009. Prison Break is over; Walking Dead has not yet begun. I hadn’t even heard of it at the point at which I got involved with this movie. So [writer-director] Jeta [Amata] comes to me and says, “This is what I’m doing — I want you to come to Nigeria.” So I went to Nigeria. … I shot my part of the movie and learned a tremendous amount and had a great time.
Then Walking Dead happened, and then a couple years into it, I heard from Jeta again. He said, “We’re going to do some reshoots,” and he gave me the dates. I was like, “I’m sorry — I’m stuck on the zombie thing.” But the zombie thing did pretty well. And then he calls me again, and he goes, “So here’s who we got for the reshoots,” and he starts reading this list of names off. And I was like, “Are you f—ing kidding me? I’m in a movie with Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger?” I haven’t even met them, but it’s pretty cool company to be in.
Had the script changed dramatically from when you filmed your scenes?
I think the world changed dramatically from what we worked on initially. And I know that Jeta was really influenced by what went on with the Arab Spring. I think the movie was more focused on Nigeria when we shot it, and with these reshoots, what Jeta did — and I think did really well — was put the events in the film in a broader political context.
You mentioned “the zombie thing.” Your character, Lori, was definitely a polarizing character on The Walking Dead. What kind of comments from fans would you get while you were on the show?
I learned that people have what is either the temerity or the lack of good manners or both to walk up to a complete stranger in the middle of the day and go, “I f—ing hate you.” [Laughs.] And I was like, “Who raised you? First of all, introduce yourself, mother-f—er. I’m Sarah. It’s nice to meet you. And I respect your opinion — completely. I respect your opinion.”
This is kind of perverse, but I was actually proud of it in a way. Coming off of Prison Break, I’d played a character that was really kind of beloved when it came to the fans and seen as a real good person and an angel in some ways. I loved that, and it was amazing, but I thought it seemed like a trap as an actor. If you always play characters that fans really love, it seems like you run the risk of starting to make decisions with the characters you play so that fans will love you. So I was actively looking for a character that would not be a sort of uncontested good. And I got one! [Laughs.] Mission accomplished. But I loved her. I think Lori is a powerhouse and a hero, but that’s just my opinion.
How do you feel now about The Walking Dead when you look back on it?
Tremendous, tremendous [experience]. Walking Dead started as such a humble show because we didn’t think anybody was watching, and we’re all really brave when we don’t think anybody is watching. Everybody was just taking these huge risks, which was thrilling to be a part of — absolutely thrilling.
Do you still watch The Walking Dead?
I never watched the show, actually. I’d watch scenes here and there, primarily of other people’s work, but I don’t get a whole lot of watching myself, and if anything, it’s not really good for my head.
You recently filmed a USA pilot produced by Carlton Cuse. How did that go?
[Filming the pilot] was really cool — got to work with Josh Holloway again. [Laughs.] We did a love scene maybe 10 years ago in one of our first films together ever [called Whisper]. We had a love scene in the pilot we just shot too. I came to him right before we started shooting it, and I was like, “I got to tell you, man, I [hadn’t yet had] kids when we did this love-scene thing before, so I don’t know if you’re expecting a six-pack, but you might want to dial down your expectations.” And he just started laughing. He’s like, “You know, I’m in my 40s now, and I don’t have a six-pack either.” But we had a ball — I think it’s a really brilliant script.
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