Day of the Dead: Bloodline isn't a sequel, or is it a remake. It is more of a "reimagining" of George Romero's cult classic, Day of the Dead. Much like the original, Bloodline focuses on a world overrun with zombies, and the few human survivors hiding out in military compounds across the country. While on a run for medical supplies, former med student Zoe (played by Sophie Skelton) discovers a creepy former patient, Max, who is a sentient zombie -- much like Bub from original Day of the Dead. Zoe has her issues with Max: When he was alive, he attempted to rape her. But now that he is a semi-zombie, Zoe thinks his blood may hold the secret to a cure.
We spoke with actress Sophie Skelton about playing Zoe, getting George Romero's blessing, and her favorite type of zombies. We also managed to get a few details on the fourth season of Outlander.
Tell me a little bit about the role. How did you get it?
Interestingly enough, I actually got the role because I was helping someone else self-tape for a different role in the film. He said I should try to get an audition. So I did, I contacted my agent and managed to get a really last-minute audition. The part had already been cast, but that fell through because of dates. So I did the audition, heard back a few days later, and flew out to Bulgaria to film. So it was all pretty quick, actually.
Did your friend get the role he auditioned for?
No. But he helped me. We're still friends!
What was it about the role that made you want to audition for it?
I think, given that it's a remake of a cult classic ... Romero really was the godfather of zombie movies. It was really great to be able to be a part of that franchise, especially now that [zombies] are so popular, in terms of The Walking Dead and things like that. In terms of a franchise, I just thought it would be really great to be part of. It's always fun trying to do a remake. In terms of Zoe as a character, it's a really good, interesting character to play because we see her five years prior to the apocalypse, when she is quite naïve and quite young, and really just stumbling through life. Then she had this really harrowing event happen to her, when she gets attacked by Max. Then we jump to five years later, where Zoe is a bit more of a badass. She's really come into her own. It was great to play an age span, and such a character range in one person.
Did you enjoy playing a badass?
Yes! It was really great. They were also filming The Hitman's Bodyguard at the same time, at the same studio. One day we went on to that set, and it was such a nice atmosphere because there were guns blazing and so much action. It was great to feed off that. It was really fun to play the action part of Zoe.
Do you consider this a remake of Day of the Dead? A reboot? A reimagination?
I suppose reimagination is a better word, because the storyline is different. Obviously it is based on the original. Max's character is very much based on Bub [the semi-sentient zombie in the original Day of the Dead]. A lot of the characters are loosely based on the originals. We did branch out a lot from it as well, not just making it pure action, but also putting a psychological twist on it with the Zoe character. There is this horrible attack from Max, then he comes back to "haunt" her. So it's "haunting" as it is action-packed and jump-scary as well.
Were you familiar with the original Day of the Dead before you started on this project?
Yeah. I'd seen it a while ago. But then I did revisit it when I was auditioning for the role and working on it. I wanted to make sure we gave a nod to the original. I know there have been remakes in between, but people really do love the original, and it did become such a popular, cult film. I wanted to make sure we kept the loyalty to that, for the fans as well.
Was George Romero, director of the original Day of the Dead, involved at all?
He wasn't on set or anything, but he was very involved in the beginning, I think. It's his baby, I suppose. It was one of his originals, one of his first [zombie films]. Because it is the last one to come out before he died, it's nice to be able to do it and hopefully make him proud. I know he wanted to make another zombie film before he died, but he was saying that things like The Walking Dead prohibited that. Which is quite sad, really. The genre that he gave birth to has been taken over and starts hindering things. Since this will be the first one to come out since his death, hopefully it will make him proud.
Can you elaborate on why Romero was prohibited from making more zombie films?
He didn't say, but I think it's just that television has become such a popular thing now. People like to binge-watch and really invest in a series. I think The Walking Dead became so popular that it almost didn't really feel like his genre anymore. Maybe people wouldn't invest in going to see the movie when they're so invested in The Walking Dead. But who knows. Hopefully this one will be good for people and they will enjoy watching it as much as The Walking Dead.
Are you a fan of the zombie subgenre?
I am, yeah. Things like World War Z. I think it's great.
Do you have a preference: slow zombies or fast zombies?
I think Romero would roll in his grave if I said I prefer fast zombies! I know he prefers slow ones. I think it's difficult now, because you see so many films where everything has such fast action, and jump scares. ... It's more to do with pace, as opposed to a suspense beforehand, if that makes sense. So I think, in a way, they do have to be a little quicker because I think people nowadays, because they have been fed zombies so much, they need something different, to really stand out and scare them now. People are almost a bit used to it now, I think!
The zombies in Bloodline were fast zombies.
Yeah. But then Max isn't, which I suppose is good. He is supposed to stand out as the really, really creepy one. So yes, the zombies run, which Romero would say they shouldn't. I think it is nice to have that contrast between the two. Max is slow, which heightens his creepiness in comparison to the faster zombies. I think it works well in that respect.
I think that Bloodline may be the first time a rape is prevented by a zombie.
Yeah, I think so!
Can you talk a little bit about shooting that scene? There were a lot of elements that went into that scene.
Yeah. It starts out with Max as a stalker, and he has clearly been stalking Zoe for a long time. But there is also that juxtaposition of Zoe needing Max for a different reason. He feels like he needs Zoe but she needs him for a different reason, because his blood is so rare. So she does have to keep this "relationship" with him, and see him a lot. I think when they are in the morgue at that point, she is just trying to calm him down and make sure he doesn't do anything stupid. She's just trying to keep the peace with him, because she knows she will need him later. So there was that first element of the scene, which was almost like trying to tame a dog. Then, there is the element where there is a little more action. He is pushing her to the ground, then she really realizes what he is trying to do. I think what's good about the scene is that Zoe doesn't freeze and the rape doesn't happen. I know a lot of women in rape situations do seize up, but Zoe does fight back, which I suppose is a little flash to the Zoe we see five years later. Then, obviously, you have her breaking down in that part of the scene, but then later she sees that huge zombie attack, so there is almost a sense of relief, combined with a sense of fear. It was a really interesting scene to do, and Johnathon [Schaech] was great with it. I mean, I had a lot of bruises - we were on a very hard floor - but aside from that, it was great to do!
Did you do all your own stunts?
Yeah. I do bruise like a peach, but I like doing them. There was only one that I didn't: when we were driving the hummers. I can't remember if Zoe actually drives in the film, but originally, Zoe was driving in that scene. I actually haven't driven in a really long time, so to be in this big, proper Army hummer, on a hill.... The crew was messing with me. They would call action and I was in the driver seat and I just kind of froze. "I can't. I can't start the scene driving in." They all started laughing and they told me I had a double and that we were going to start from later on in the scene. So that one I didn't do.
What was your favorite scene to film?
I think all the stuff with Lily [a child in the compound who is deathly ill] was nice, because you had a really soft side of Zoe, but in a very different way to the soft Zoe we see at the beginning. At the beginning, it is weakness, whereas later on, it is just quite motherly. But I do love doing all the action stuff. A lot of the night shoots were great to do. A lot of running around, being in some of the quad-cars was really fun, driving really fast in those. And the ones with Max. There's a really great scene where Max is tied up in the med room and Zoe is sort of manipulating him to take his blood without him knowing. She's almost pretending to seduce him, then takes the blood and shows it to him. That was a nice moment because that's almost a tiny bit of revenge that Zoe can get in that moment, and that triumphant feeling that she managed to manipulate him to get what she needed, is a really nice flip from earlier.
Is there anything you might be able to preview for us in Outlander season four?
They haven't written all the scripts yet, so I can't even be in trouble for giving anything away! But from the book, we do know that we see Brianna go back in time, which will be brilliant, to get to work with everyone. We see Brianna go through a lot of harrowing events, and how she deals with them. We see a lot more of Brianna and Roger and their relationship developing. There will be a lot more action for Brianna in season four, which will be great. Some horse riding, maybe some guns, who knows. Maybe some hunting.
It's all about the American revolution, so hopefully you guys will like it this year, because the history has come back to America. I think people loved that it was in Scotland, but now it might feel like it's coming home to you, you get a mix. You get Scotland and America this season.
Day of the Dead: Bloodline is in select theaters and on digital services January 5th. Outlander returns to Starz for its fourth season in 2018.