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Dennis Haysbert and Jesse Metcalfe Talk DEAD RISING: WATCHTOWER at WonderCon

In between wandering from booth to booth, hitting panels, and seeing special sneak peeks during out time at WonderCon, we got the chance to sit down and talk to not one but TWO actors from the recently released film Dead Rising: Watchtower. That’s right, if you’ve already read the title, you know we’re talking about Jesse Metcalfe and Dennis Haysbert who play Chase Carter and General Lyons, respectively.

Before we dive into all of the questions, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the film’s plot so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Dead Rising: Watchtower is an action horror zombie film adaptation of Capcom’s hit Dead Rising video game franchise. In short, it’s about a group of people–led by Metcalfe’s character Chase Carter–who are trapped behind government–led by Dennis Haysbert’s General Lyons– enforced quarantine lines in the middle of a zombie outbreak. For more on the particulars, as well as what we thought of it, feel free to check out Scott Weinberg’s full review.

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Despite both having been involved in action films/television before, the zombie genre was a step in a different direction for both actors. Naturally we wanted to know what it was that made them say yes to the project.

After asking Dennis what it was that drew him to the film, he shared, “Well I knew it was an incredibly huge game and I said you know, I need to be a part of this. So, when they asked you know, I was interested. I said absolutely. It was guilt free killing of zombies.” He also expressed his long time interest in the zombie genre, “I’m a big Walking Dead fan and  zombies from way back when. Way back to Night of the Living Dead. It was the first one. The granddaddy of them all.”

Jesse noted that one of the reasons he tackled the project was because it was so different. “I love the zombie genre, and I wanted to be out here at the cons. I’d never gotten the opportunity to come to Comic-Con or WonderCon and I would see a lot of my peers having a blast out here and I wanted to be a part of that.”

So, what we’ve gathered here is that both actors are interested in the undead genre that really seems to have been picking up speed over the last couple of years.

When we discussed the resurgence of the genre, Dennis remarked, “I don’t even know where the genesis was of this kind of thing because it’s almost kind of scary. Generally I look at things that come out in movies like, wait a minute, are they preparing us for something that they think is going to actually happen? Or, is this something they just dreamed up?'” You never know Dennis, you never know.

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As for further work in the genre, Jesse noted, “You don’t want to overdo it in any genre. It’s not like ‘you know what? I only do zombie movies.’ That would be pretty limiting for a career as an actor. But, I really learned a lot by doing this project. I learned a lot about the genre and why I think it’s stood the test of time. Why it has been so wildly popular. I learned about the game Dead Rising by playing it, and watching gameplay. I did my research and I’m proud of what we created. I really think we made a live action movie based on a popular video game that the gamers out there could be proud of.”

After I asked Dennis whether he’d want to dive further into the zombie genre and be a guest on a show like The Walking Dead, he gushed, “I’d love that. I love the arc on The Walking Dead.” As for the horror genre as a whole, he stated, “I would love to do more horror. I would also love to do superhero films and sci fi. Sci-fi is actually my favorite. You know, just to watch it and be a part of.”

Who doesn’t love a good superhero film? If he had to pick a superhero to play, he decided, “I would probably be John Stewart (The Green Lantern), or Martian Manhunter. That’d be pretty cool.” Good choices, Dennis! When I asked if he’d ever be a villain, he said, “I would be a villain. I would love to do Apocalypse. I don’t know who they’re going to get to play Apocalypse. I think I’d be perfect as Apocalypse–the oldest of the mutants.”

In terms of video game to film adaptations, that is something Jesse said he’d be interested in. “I love action movies. I’ve been called a lot in my career a very physical actor. When a role is physically demanding to a certain extent for me, it really pulls me into the world. It really pulls me into the character. I think maybe that means I’m suited for action movies. There’s a lot of action movies based on video games or comics.” He could pull off Nathan Drake, don’t you think?

Now, the question we’ve all been waiting for. If a real life zombie apocalypse were to happen, we’d be in good hands with Dennis. After remarking that he had a lot of ideas about how he’d fend the undead off, we asked him what his game plan and weapon of choice would be. “My weapon of choice would probably be an M60,” he laughed, “provided I had the bullets for it. But, other than that I’d probably take something akin to a double-sided lightsaber, but it would probably be something more like a double ended spear.”

Of course, if you’re familiar with the Dead Rising game series, you’ll recall the ability to make the ultimate zombie killing device by combining weapons. One of the weapons that gets a special appearance in the film is the hammer/saw combo. Check it out below:


When I asked Dennis what weapons he’d combine, he responded, “I’d do something simple. The one thing about having a chainsaw is that it runs out of fuel. It’s just like bullets. So I want something simple, light and sharp. Or, you know, a hammer and a spike.” It is definitely always a good idea to have a blunt force and/or sharp object at your disposal during an apocalypse.

Jesse replied, “I feel like ultimate zombie weapon where you’d be the most safe would be a tank or something. But then you’d run out of gas. I think the key to surviving a zombie outbreak is being able to adapt, and that’s kind of what building combo weapons is about in the game. You have to use what’s available to you to build weapons and survive. So, it’s really about being able to adapt. It’s not that one perfect weapon. Because like in the game, that one perfect weapon lasts so long. When it breaks, it’s not effective anymore and you’ve got to find something else.”

Speaking of the video game, both actors have played it.

Dennis explained that he is “getting the hang of it but that it was exceedingly difficult.” He continued, “I don’t like dying in my games but, I’ve been dying a lot so I have to get my skills up.” He revealed later on that he is more of a fan of sports games featuring soccer in particular.

Considering he has played several military characters in the past, it was easy for Dennis to find inspiration in his past work. “I had the military thing pretty much locked.


To prepare for the film both phsyically and mentally, Jesse said, “You know what, it was a lot of fun. It was really a collaborative effort. The producers were the people I went to to get every detail about the game. I obviously didn’t complete all of the games. So, I needed to gather as much information as I could. Since it was a new character, I had the latitude to develop a new character. I wasn’t limited by what was already established in the game. The only perameters was that he models himself after Frank West. His arc in the movie, you know, I got to fill that in. He kind of goes from this ambitious selfish coward to a hero. Someone who really finds his humanity through the course of the film. That was  lot of fun for me. With every role I play, I try to bring a lot of myself.”

Life on set can be difficult, but also humorous. When I asked Jesse if he had any funny behind the scenes stories, he recalled, “The fact that I did 99% of my own stunts in the film, people asked if I got hurt a lot. There were a lot of bumps, cuts, scrapes, bruises. My legs literally from my ankles to my hips were a solid bruise.” Owch, that sounds intense. But, he reveals, “The worst injury I got the entire shoot was when I tried to pop a wheelie on a PA’s bicycle to impress Megan Ory and I fell flat on my tail bone and bruised my tail bone. My ass and my tail bone hurt the entire shoot, and it wasn’t even a stunt I was trying to do for the movie,” he laughed. “I was just trying to be cool. Lesson learned, don’t try to impress girls between takes while shooting a movie.” Sound advice Jesse.

While Dennis doesn’t really have any funny stories from the set because he was filming Backstrom at the same time, he remarked, “I had very little time to learn the dialogue. I love that kind of pressure. Just before you’re about to shoot they’re setting up the lights and I learn the monologue. Sometimes that’s very interesting because really have no time to try to put anything extra. You just put what you need and see if it comes across.” His favorite moment in the film was [spoiler] “when they were about to do the fire bomb and also when the audience finds out that I have another agenda.”[/spoiler]

That’s it for our short interview with Jesse and Dennis. For more on the film, don’t forget to check out our review.

Dead Rising: Watchtower is available (for free!) via Crackle.

Editor’s note: Nerdist Industries is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks.

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