The Walking Dead celebrates 10 years of TV history on October 31, 2020. In celebration of this historic milestone, we I nterviewed several actors who have participated in the show over the years. These interviews started to be published in early September and run until the end of October, are being launched daily. When we will end with a big surprise that we prepared exclusively and with great affection for the fans.
Our guest today is Benedict Samuel, who played Owen (leader of the Wolves) during seasons 5 and 6. The actor talked to us about the challenges of playing a villain, how happy he was to work with Lennie James (Morgan), about having given life to the Mad Hatter in Gotham series, and a lot more!
Without further ado, check out our exclusive interview with Benedict Samuel:
It’s an honour for us to talk to you in such a special moment for The Walking Dead. It’s not just any show that get to its 10th anniversary. Can you start by telling us how was the audition for the show? How did you hear about the part? Did you know the show beforehand?
Benedict Samuel: It is a great honour indeed to be apart of such an amazing show. The audition for the part was really interesting. They were faux sides meaning they weren’t releasing anything from the actual script or episode but it was an amazing monologue talking about how wolves had almost been hunted into extinction but how they have the ability to survive and thrive living side by the side they very people that hunt them.
We know nothing about Jared’s past, from before the apocalypse or before he founded the Wolves. When you played him, did you come up with some background to help you build up the character? Did the writers tell you something to help with this process?
Benedict Samuel: The background that I came up with was that The W Man or Owen or The Wolf as I liked to call him, was probably leading a very normal life, mundane even and that when the apocalypse hit, he just saw an opportunity to be something else. Just like a serial killer can hold down a normal job, even have a family that he comes home to at night, The Wolf saw a great opportunity and took extreme advantage of it.
The Wolves are a pretty hostile and violent group with strangers, and they don’t hesitate to be brutal to get what they want. As an actor, what was the biggest physical and emotional challenge playing this character presented you?
Benedict Samuel: The physical challenges were choreographing and rehearsing the fight scenes. TWD was shot on film and as an actor I think film is incredibly precious (that’s why I personally use film to shoot my street photography) and that in itself brings with it some stress because you don’t want to get it wrong. Film elevates everything and that can be emotionally draining because you want to meet the occasion.
During his attempt to escape Alexandria, which he almost did, Owen came back to save Denise from a walker. In this moment, what do you think motivated him? Would you say Denise brought back his humanity?
Benedict Samuel: I think The W Man has always maintained his humanity, he just has a different relationship to it. If there is something to be gained, if someone can be used for his ends. He is Machiavellian. So you see in this moment that perhaps Denise is part of his plan perhaps. It is interesting to think about.
If Owen hadn’t been killed by Carol on his way to the infirmary, and with Denise’s support had been accepted in Alexandria, do you think he’d be able to adjust to a place with such different ideals?
Benedict Samuel: The W Man is a chameleon. I think he would adjust, get to learn the place, see how it works so he can figure out how it can be of use to him. For him it would be like a man in jail, learning the routines of the guards, playing by their rules until escape or take over becomes viable.
Morgan tried to rescue Owen from the Wolves’ animal mentality during the time he kept him as a prisoner. Do you think that, at some level, Morgan got what he wanted? And how was it to work with Lennie James developing the characters?
Benedict Samuel: Working with Lennie was an absolute pleasure. He’s such a great actor and I was very excited to work with him, I’ve always loved watching him in other projects and couldn’t believe that I would be working with him.
Looking back at your time on the show, which one would you say was the most fun episode to shoot? What about the most challenging? Why?
Benedict Samuel: I think the episode with the Denise situation where The Wolf gets bitten was most fun to shoot. There were so many moving parts. There was a lot going on emotionally. I love the whole atmosphere of set. Everyone working to a single moment. I think all the episodes that I was in were challenging because there was so much that I had to unpack in The W Man’s thinking. For me it was a great puzzle trying to understand the way he thinks, what he really means, what his intentions are. That’s always a challenge but it is an exciting one.
Do you remember your first day on the set? What about your last one? We’d love if you could share some details of your reception and farewell on the show!
Benedict Samuel: I do remember my first day on set. It was gearing up for the first encounter and fight scene with Morgan around the camp fire. I was being walked to set and there was this extra playing a walker just leaning against a tree (it was the first zombie I had seen in real life) and I was like “Oh my god! Look at that!” and turned to the PA I was with who seemed very unimpressed, he’d obviously been on set for awhile and it was nothin new to him. I was like, “Play it cool Benno.” I was very excited.
My last day on set was a bit of a blur really. We were rushing against the light, we’d been shooting all night and the sun was coming up pretty quickly. It was the scene where Morgan’s character humanely deals the death blow to a now Walker W Man. I had these contact lenses in to give me Walker Eyes but also made it really hard to see, and Lennie was gonna be swinging that stick pretty close to my head and the light was coming up so everything seemed to happen so quickly. We did the scene, did the stunts and then it was “CUT! That’s a wrap on Benedict!” People from TWD who weren’t even in that episode had come to watch my final scene. It had become a tradition of TWD family to support those actors who played important parts but whose time had come to see them out. I felt very much a part of the family.
If Owen had survived longer on the show, with which characters would you like him to interact with? Is there any actor you’d like to have worked with more closely during your time on the show?
Benedict Samuel: Imagine in The W Man and Negan had teamed up?! That would have been a wild ride.
In the episodes “Start to Finish” and “No Way Out”, from the sixth season, Owen tells Denise the sentence “You don’t have to be scared” repeatedly. What was he talking about, specifically?
Benedict Samuel: I think this a key thing to his perspective that The Wolves represent and that he wants to pass on. You don’t HAVE to be scared. Meaning it could be a choice. There is chaos and there s still choice. One doesn’t have to do anything, so if that’s true, then what are you going to do, what are you going to be, how are you going to walk through this world. For The Leader of The Wolves, it is certainly not with fear.
You were able to be walker Owen. How was the process of make-up and special effects for the scene? Did you have fun doing it?
Benedict Samuel: The make up team and special effects make up team on TWD are fucking incredible. Just amazing to watch them work, and invent, and be creative and realistic. The transformations that they are capable of is just stunning. I had a blast.
Talking about a zombie apocalypse… What would Benedict have in his survival kit? Choose 5 indispensable items! Would you be more of a community survivor or a lone wolf?
Benedict Samuel: I think Benedict would be a community survivor. There is power in numbers and community is important. Five things that I would have in my kit: Fire starter. Water filter. First Aid kit. My favourite Book Albert Camus’ The Outsider and a bottle of vino! hahaha
We need to talk about how fantastic you were as Jervis Tetch in Gotham. Can you tell us how was it to be part of this project and playing such an iconic character like The Mad Hatter? Were you a fan of Batman Universe before? And how did you hear about this project? Please, tell us everything!
Benedict Samuel: Thank you very much! Playing Jervis was a lot of fun. I love as an actor coming into a shows universe and causing so much tension and problems for the other characters. It was a lot of fun. And again similarly to TWD I was coming into a big show with a big family. Everyone was really excited to have me and I was very much welcomed into the Batman universe. Funnily enough, these two characters The W Man or The Wolf and Jervis Tetch had such an impact on audiences I guess that one Halloween in LA I was out and about and saw someone dressed as me form the show! He had a W ‘carved’ into his forehead and then I saw another guy dressed at The Mad Hatter! I was like far out this is cool!
We know the pandemic postponed a lot of projects and The Walking Dead fans are still suffering for the season finale. How did it affect you? Were any of your projects postponed? How have you been taking care of yourself?
Benedict Samuel: Yeah, the pandemic has affected so many people. It’s really difficult to wrap one’s head around. For the first time in history maybe we are all in the same boat. That gives you pause. Puts different things into perspective and at it’s best gives you a drive to focus on what really matters. I think everyone is trying to do their best as safely as it can possibly happen. Of course I want to work as an actor and be creative but I want to do that safely. One thing that has really kept me creative is my photography. I’ve been walking around (with a mask on!) taking photos. I got on Instagram for the first time, I’d been waiting to have a good excuse to get on that platform and started to use it solely for my photography. And I started an online gallery for my photography also. I hope you can check it out @benedictsamuel_official and www.benedictsamuelgallery.com It has been a great creative outlet for me.
To wrap it up: here in Brazil we are particularly fond of The Walking Dead and all of its cast and crew, past and present. Brazilian fans are very passionate! Does this love get to you somehow, through conventions or social networks? Can you send a message to your Brazilian fans?
Benedict Samuel: I love the Brazilian fans! They really are passionate and you feel it. Anyone who loves a show and loves what you do and expresses that to you of course makes you feel good. And that love from the fans makes you want to do even better work on the next thing. You want to do something exciting for your fans and I hope i did that with The W Man in TWD. It has been such a great pleasure to answer these questions and relive some of the moments for me so thank you so much for reaching out. Be safe out there everyone. Stay sane, be kind, be patient. Lots of love, Benedict, The Wolf!