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 Erik Jensen, who played Dr. Steven Edwards during season 5. The actor told us about his character’s musical tastes, about working with Emily Kinney (Beth), about Steven’s choices, about his works in the theater and much more!
Without further ado, check out our exclusive interview with Erik Jensen:
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?
Erik Jensen: Thanks again for having me, it’s an honor to be here. I first heard about the Walking Dead when it was a comic book. I knew a lot about the comic books and I auditioned for the show right when it started, I think I auditioned for 3 or 4 different parts, I don’t remember which ones, but I definitely remember auditioning to play Eugene, which was really cool. Then one day they auditioned me to play a character that was disguised, it wasn’t a doctor yet, but I ended up playing this doctor who knew a lot about records and loved music, if you look over here you will see that I’m a big geek music too. Doing the show was an opportunity for me and to expose Junior Kimbrough to the world, which is the person that I was playing when I meet Beth.
Steven didn’t agree to Dawn’s authoritarianism, although he didn’t try to face her. He believed life inside the Hospital made more sense than life outside of it. Do you think that, deep down, he hoped to become the leader and make the Grady Memorial Hospital a better place to live in? How do you see the character’s attitude?
Erik Jensen: I don’t think that Steven has the qualities to be a leader, you need to think fast to be a leader, stick to your word, I don’t see tricking people as an effect and essential part of leadership, so no, I don’t think that Steven was lobbying to be a leader, he was trying to stay safe and be with his records is the safest thing that he could possibly imagine and he was willing to do whatever to maintain that way of life.
We know nothing about Steven’s past before the apocalypse. When you played him, did you come up with some backstory or it wasn’t as important? Did the writers tell you anything about her to help you?
Erik Jensen: I had a lovely conversation with Scott Gimple when he called me to congratulate me in getting the part, we talked about music and I had an important question for him about what music I was listening to and it was Junior Kimbrough, who I’ve become I huge fan of, an incredible blues musician. You can hear a piece of his record in the scene I have with Beth in my office. So, no, mostly I had conversations with Scott Gimple and me, the directors and the cinematographers all built together on set.
Your character developed a friendship with Beth when she got to the Hospital. She helped him with the patients and kept him company. We know Beth was a strong person, but still very naïve and sweet. How would you define Steven’s feelings for Beth? How was it to work with Emily Kinney on the development of the characters?
Erik Jensen: Well, Emily Kinney, as you know, is a wonderful musician. We spent most of our time in the green room, talking about music and about what she likes in music, bands that I like, I wrote down bands that she likes, we talked about our guitars… so we built a relationship in that way. I have a daughter, so I looked at her as a dad-daughter kind of thing from Steven’s perspective, which makes what Steven did more awful, but that’s how I looked at her and I really like Emily, she’s a good person.
Steven was the only doctor in the Hospital, and he purposely instructed Beth to give the wrong medication to Trevitt – a stable patient and also a doctor – causing his death. We know he did it out of fear of not being useful to Dawn anymore and end up being expelled or killed. Did Steven take advantage of Beth’s naivety not to raise any suspicion about his real reasons?
Erik Jensen: Being the only doctor at the hospital and instruct Beth to give the wrong medication to the patient, it was a terrible thing to do and I think the trick of the character was to make you trust him in the early episode so that when he did something like that later on, you wouldn’t expect. That was what we tried to do, me, the directors and the cinematographers all as a team…I hope that answers your question.
After Beth’s death, Rick offers to take in anyone who would like to join his group, but Steven chooses to stay. Why do you think he did it?
Erik Jensen: I think Steven is scared of what exists in the outside world, something about trying to stay safe in his little corner. I think he says in the show “people like us don’t make it out there” and I think he really believed that, I don’t think anything could take him out of that hospital.
We would love to see more of the hospital survivor’s stories and how Steven would move on after Dawn’s death, but unfortunately Greg Nicotero confirmed they all died. How do you think the community would be like today, if you could choose?
Erik Jensen: Well, that would be nice, but let me answer this way… I had an opportunity todo The Walking Dead, to work with the best people in the business, you don’t get in that show as a p.a. or a.d. or a chef or as an extra… If you are fortunate enough to do a few episodes like me… You don’t get a chance to do that show unless you are the best at that particularly thing, you know? I just loved working with that crew. I got inspired actually, after playing Steven, I got inspired by the positivity that I felt on set, I’ve never felt anything like that before. I got so inspired by how Scott Gimple directs, he was the showrunner at the time, that I decided it was time for me to go out there and direct. So my wife and I we directed an independent movie with the budge under 1 million dollars, we also did a play about Lester Bangs, I played Lester Bangs and she directed. The attention I got from The Walking Dead got me on shows like Mr. Robot, and now I’m doing “For Life” you know? The show expects a certain kind of professionalism, expects you to rise to the occasion and it was an honor to just try to do that in The Walking Dead. This is one of the best shows in TV, I was a fan before I was on it… So there you go!
How do you think Steven died, or how would you like him to die?
Erik Jensen: How do I think Steven died? I think he died because he had to go back and listen to one more record.
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!
Erik Jensen: If I remember my last day on set? Yes, I remember, I was really nervous, but you know, sometimes acting is basically walking, moving, standing, talking, so I was trying to do that and I wasn’t nervous anymore. I had wonderful people there like Tyler James Williams, Emily Kinney, Scot Gimple was around… Some other nice people were there, some producers. Everybody was nice, it was like joining a very functional family.
If I remember my last day on set saying goodbye… It was a sad day because I think that was the day that Beth died, Emily Kinney’s character. It was hard to be around that, it’s hard when a show says goodbye to a character. On the upside of that, I got to see an old friend that day, I’ve been friends with Chad Coleman for many years, he was in something that I wrote called “The Exonerated” many years ago, so I did get to see old friends… But we’re always running into each other, you know? Actors never die, they just fade away.
If Steven had survived longer on the show, with which characters would you like himto interact with? Is there any actor you’d like to have worked with more closely during your time on the show?
Erik Jensen: Any opportunity to work with somebody like… I’m going to list the people that I love on the show: Chad Coleman, even though he wasn’t on the show when my character was alive, I think. Larry Gilliard, Andrew obviously, Norman… I mean, pick somebody. Melissa, I got to work with her a little bit, I pushed her in a wheel chair. But other than that I also got to work with an hero of director of mine, a guy named Ernest Dickerson, I mean, I couldn’t be happier from the experience, it was great.
You’ve been in many other shows, playing different kinds of characters. If you could choose one of them to be a survivor on The Walking Dead – either on the good side or the bad side – which character would you choose and why?
Erik Jensen: I’ve been in other shows playing different kind of characters, if I could choose one of them to be a survivor on The Walking Dead… I would totally choose the character that I played on Mr. Robot, the bald guy with the talk show, except I don’t think he would survive more than one episode, but I would love to see that character on The Walking Dead.
Right now you’re playing Dez O’Reilly in For Life. How has it been to work on this project? I know you can’t give spoilers (and we don’t want you to), but what can we expect for the second season and for your character in particular?
Erik Jensen: I’m doing a new show now called “For Life” on ABC, I’m very proud of it, I’m working with The Walking Dead level actors, a guy named Nicholas Pinnock, who is a genius actor, theater actor, film actor, who has become a good friend of mine. I found myself involve with another show where it feels more like family than going to work. Right now is hard, we’re going through a hard time, because we have to film during quarantine and there’s all these new rules about Covid and stuff like that, but we’re following the orders and everybody is safe and well, we want that to continue. We got excited things coming up on the show, the acting is amazing, I get to work with people like Tim Busfield and some amazing directors as well, I fell very lucky to be on “For Life” on ABC, I hope you guys tune in!
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?
Erik Jensen: Talking about the pandemic and postponed projects… My wife and I are also writers, directors and producers and we have a play called “Coal Country” that we created with singer and songwriter Steve Earle, who is also an actor. It’s about an explosion that happened in the United States about a decade ago, 29 men were killed and we decided to make a play with music about it, so we interviewed survivors of the explosion and their family members, we went with Steve and he made the music, we adapted the words and made this play. It just opened and the families came to see it, they approved and they felt seen and then the pandemic hit and the show that we were employing 7 of our friends with, suddenly shot down and I was out of a job. But you know, we didn’t let that get to us, we decided to make another show about what was happening to us, in order to understand it, so we ended up writing another show called “The Line”, where we interviewed front line doctors in New York, talking about their experiences in march when the worst of the pandemic hit. We wrote it and Aimee Mann did the song, I got to work with one of my music heroes, two of them in one year… But, you know, all in an effort to understand Covid and to honor our first representatives. The play went live online couple months ago and fifty thousand people turned in to see it, which is not a big deal for television, but it is a big deal for theater, would have taken a good part of the year to fit that many people in a theater. So that’s what happened, some projects got cancelled, a lot of my friends are out of job right now, I’m very lucky to be doing “For Life”, the new show that I’m on, and there are some interests of other shows to do some more stuff. So we will just keep going and hopefully there will be a vaccine soon and we could all get back to work and not be having such a hard time.
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?
Erik Jensen: Here’s what I know about The Walking Dead fans in Brazil: they are some of the most passionate fans in the universe. A lot of Brazilians fans embrace me and I don’t really know why, but I’ve learned a lot about your wonderful country and about the people in Brazil, I’m especially interested about the music, being a music geek that I am, so I intend to know more about that as the years go on. I just want everybody who is a fan of The Walking Dead to be safe, I pray for you to be safe and healthy during this difficult time. I hope to see you all in person again soon, I hope there is a vaccine for all of us soon so we can get on with our lives together in a peaceful world. Peace! Take care and thanks for having me.
REDES SOCIAIS DO ERIK:
– Twitter: @erikjensen123