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The Walking Dead television universe has told a lot of stories in its 12 years of existence, but telling standalone tales hasn't really been a thing. Sure, some series have sent characters out on solitary side missions. Pure anthology-style episodes, though, have never been a pursued mode of storytelling until now with the debut of the fourth series set in the universe, Tales of The Walking Dead. The premiere episode, "Evie / Joe" premiered Sunday night and featured Olivia Munn and Terry Crews as the eponymous characters. Both apocalypse-savvy, they manage to survive, separately, the first year after the world shuts down. Eventually, things start to break down, and that puts Joe and his modified motorcycle with a sidecar, on the road and directly in Evie's path.
The duo has a bad first impression, then bicker a lot, then save one another's lives and then come to appreciate each another as people. For actor Terry Crews, who's been a huge fan of the whole franchise since The Walking Dead pilot, "Evie / Joe" was his entry point into a world he's been dying (figuratively) to be part of for a decade. Perhaps the best part? He made it out alive! To celebrate, SYFY WIRE got on the phone with Crews to find out what it was like making the episode and if this one story will be enough to sate him.
Since you've been a fan for forever, at any point had you floated to showrunner Scott Gimple that you were open to guest starring, or did your insane schedule make that impossible until now?
What was happening is my agent brought my name to them. And they were like, "Hey, you know, what? Is he interested [now]?" And I was like, "Hell yeah!" I've been a fan since the beginning. I've spent years with these characters and loved them. You gotta understand how much a fan I was. Even when I was doing ADR [for this], I did a walker voice that's going to be in one of the other episodes. So I told them, "You had me at hello, man. When, where, send me the script. Let's go."
Did they pitch you the idea of the episode or the actual script?
They sent me "Evie / Joe" and I went, "Holy cow. I can't wait!" And we went right in. It was 10 hard shoot days. We're doing a movie in 10 days. But, you want it to be hard. It's the apocalypse! I did not want it to be easy. I wanted to feel tired. I wanted to feel hungry. I wanted to feel desperate. And so did Olivia. We got there and it was like we were fighting for our lives. And we depended on each other.
Were you able to shoot the script in order so you could do all of the Joe and Gilligan the dog stuff first to get your character established or did that come later?
We shot Joe and Gilligan first. And I had to get to know him. He's such a beautiful Doberman. Listen, this dog needs an Emmy. He was super young and played old! It would hop around and then they'd say, "Okay, slow" and it would walk like it's 20 years old. It even peed on cue!
There were a lot of man cave collectibles in Joe's shelter. Did you provide anything from your own collection or suggest anything to personalize the space?
I purposely did not do that simply so that I could be a new person. I don't smoke a pipe, but I was like, "Oh, the pipe is perfect." I grew up in Michigan, so I was like Ohio State, perfect. [Laughs.] It all changes the environment.
The thing that I love, though, is that they gave me little touches like when I circle the city of Flint on the map. I went, 'Wow. They really are tying me in," because this is where I'm from. And the fact that Flint, Michigan has been through its own apocalypse with the water and everything else. It's horrifying. But it's only a taste. When I go back to Flint, there's not one place standing that I used to frequent. My high school is razed. The movie theaters, the shopping malls, all gone. It's wild because I remember going over to friends' houses, but now it's a field. There were 10 homes and there's nothing. So the 402 days that Joe experiences and then he comes out looking around, that's how I feel driving around Flint, Michigan.
Shifting to the walker fights in the episode, how was it going from fan to actor in that scenario? Scary or just another day at work?
Well, first of all, you gotta understand, I was really scared. The way they set it up, you really can't see what's out there. You're in a forest and they got the fog kicking in and you hear them. And there's a walker walk when they come from behind the trees. All you think about is what would I do? It's funny because when you put yourself in these scenes, they are real. There is no difference. Your mind doesn't know the difference between I'm acting now as it shifts into survival mode. When I plead with [Evie] to release the cuffs, it didn't take a lot to really get into it because they make sure you're in it. You're in this s*** hard. [Laughs.]
Despite the odds, Joe and Evie are left walking a new path together. Do you hope they tell more of their story or do you prefer their fate is left to our imaginations?
I want to continue the story! They ended this with hope and a wonderful ending. But they've got hell waiting for them. I know The Walking Dead world and these guys are walking into pure hell. They have no clue! Oh, my God, they have no idea how dark things are about to get. And I think the relationship between Joe and Evie will mean so much more because they've established it, and now we've got to put them into darkness.
Do you imagine where they could pop up?
What I do love is the fact that it's so early in the mythology. They can be a part of all these beautiful backstories. They could have even been friends with Glenn. I worked with Steven Yeun on Sorry to Bother You.
Any chance you got to take a souvenir home with you?
The little knife. I didn't take a lot because I plan on coming back. I am literally like, when and where? And you just tell me which series. Is it going to be Maggie and Negan? Is it going to be Rick and Michonne? Like when I found that out at Comic-Con, because they did the greatest job holding on to that information. I saw stuff with Andrew Lincoln and Danai going up on stage and I went, "What?" I'm so invigorated with the fact that that could actually be a possibility!
New episodes of Tales of The Walking Dead premiere on Sunday nights on AMC and AMC+.