Saturday, April 21, 2018
TV and Media

Two 'Walking Dead' actors to hit Tampa Bay Comic Con

By Eric Deggans

Times TV/Media Critic

As half of the youngest, best-looking couple on AMC's hit zombie drama The Walking Dead, Lauren Cohan has become the green-eyed queen of every geek's fantasy.

Indeed, as her gutsy Maggie Greene prepares to marry geeky sidekick-turned-passionate survivor Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), they are living most fanboys' post-apocalyptic dream, where even the most awkward guy has a shot at the pretty girl at the end of the world.

"I know that on the page, Glenn's character is supposed to be a dorky guy, but other than the fact that he's Asian, I don't really understand what makes him geeky to anyone," Cohan said. "Maybe the part of it that's the 'dream come true' is that Glenn was the really shy one where Maggie was concerned. But he's good looking and so is Steven; (Maggie) always saw him that way. It always made a lot of sense to me."

The topic of geeks comes up often in our discussion, not long before last Sunday's blockbuster third season finale for the show. To be precise, we talked right after the episode where hardcase Merle Dixon sacrificed himself to try taking out the show's villain, the Governor, but before the whirlwind finale in which Andrea died, shooting herself in the head after getting bitten by a friend who had died and returned as a zombie.

Cohan appears Sunday at Tampa Bay Comic Con with fellow cast member Emily Kinney (Beth Greene), signing autographs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Kinney also will appear Saturday.) Which means a lot of face time with the fanboys who cut their teeth on Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead graphic novels and helped turn the TV show into a magnet for the highly sought after 18- to 49-year-old viewer.

"I always end up doing sci-fi; I guess I really like the brains of it," said Cohan, who has also had roles on the CW series Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries. "I like the people that are devoted enough to put in the time to read the comic. I'm a geek myself; I grew up watching Star Trek, I don't do drugs. … They're my people."

That bit seems hard to believe. Born in New Jersey but raised in England, the 31-year-old leggy beauty has a beguiling British lilt to her voice, which surprises if you've spent much time watching her play tomboyishly tough Southern gal Maggie on The Walking Dead.

British actors pop up in the most unusual places on Walking Dead; star Andrew Lincoln is a London-born actor from British film and TV projects like Love, Actually and the BBC drama This Life. Bad guy the Governor is played by another Brit, David Morrissey, star of classic English TV series State of Play and Blackpool.

Tell Cohan that casting such actors in American projects allows producers to present U.S. audiences with super-experienced stars they have never seen before, and she gasps like it's an idea she has never heard before.

"It's always a fantasy for Brits to play Southern … maybe it's Tennessee Williams, or maybe it's that it's so foreign to us," she said, noting that playing American is a bit easier for her than for Lincoln and Morrissey, who are "through and through Englishmen."

"There's something old-fashioned about the South; it calls to your spirit," Cohan said by cellphone from a coffeehouse in Atlanta not far from where the show films. "I love the pace and the sense of priorities. It makes me feel like a lady."

You expect death to be a major theme in a show centered on zombies, but The Walking Dead takes that idea to new extremes — killing off major characters in ways both exhilarating and daunting for longtime fans.

Which raises an important question for Cohan: Has she ever worried about getting that fateful call?

"Maggie and Glenn will never die," she said, laughing. "Obviously, you hope to never get the call, but that's part of the honor of being on the show. These deaths always further the story and it's always going to propel big arcs for the characters. It really has an unprecedented effect on people and that doesn't come without some kind of cost. It just shows you, there are no rules."

Indeed, thanks to their love of The Walking Dead, the geeks of the world have rewritten the rules for series television, making an unlikely hit of a cable TV show featuring gruesome zombie deaths and a bleak, world-ending vision.

Nothing speaks louder than ratings in series television, and The Walking Dead has earned numbers among viewers 18 to 49 that surpass any rival show on cable TV or broadcast (Sunday's season finale drew 12.4 million viewers, with 8.1 million viewers 18 to 49, more than network hits like CBS's The Big Bang Theory and Fox's American Idol). Even its live, after-show analysis program, dubbed Talking Dead (Cohan calls it "the hug after the show that everyone needs"), scores ratings other broadcast shows would be happy to have, 5.2 million viewers on Sunday.

In an interesting way, the geeks have inherited the future of television, giving us all a show that will encourage the TV powers that be to break more rules — hopefully in ways that benefit the audience most of all.

"If The Walking Dead can do everything, then no one has any excuse," Cohan said. "I'm waiting for every other show to have its own after-show."

Comments
Tampa Theatre is showing ‘Reefer Madness’ tonight on 420 Day

Tampa Theatre is showing ‘Reefer Madness’ tonight on 420 Day

The campy gem known as Reefer Madness is screening at 10:30 p.m. tonight at the history Tampa Theatre, a perfect bit of programming on 420 Day. Today's day is 4/20 and it has beeen adopted in some circles as Weed Day because of the numeral code used ...
Published: 04/20/18
Watch this weekend: ‘Westworld,’ ”The 100,’ ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Watch this weekend: ‘Westworld,’ ”The 100,’ ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Back online: WestworldIt's crazy to think that the first season of Westworld premiered more than a year ago. But the hype surrounding this modern sci-fi series hasn't let up since. In the first season we explored the high-tech theme park of Westworld...
Published: 04/20/18
Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

SPRING HILL Joe Lemieux sat on the cream sofa near several relics from another era in his life, out of place in this retiree’s pastel-tinged living room and brought into the morning light specifically for this occasion. There was a beaded nec...
Published: 04/19/18
Eva Longoria’s American ‘Gran Hotel’ adaptation in Miami: What we know so far

Eva Longoria’s American ‘Gran Hotel’ adaptation in Miami: What we know so far

I forever sing the praises of Gran Hotel, the gasp-inducing Spanish drama that is hands-down the most addicting show I have ever binged. It's been remade in Italy, Mexico (as El hotel de los secretos) and Egypt (as Grand Hotel but on Netflix as Secre...
Published: 04/19/18
Bring yourself back online: ‘Westworld’ returns with a vengeance and even more head-spinning narratives

Bring yourself back online: ‘Westworld’ returns with a vengeance and even more head-spinning narratives

The violent delights and violent ends have returned.Westworld premieres a second season Sunday on HBO, and this time the artificial intelligence "hosts" are in charge of the high-tech theme park.If you thought the first season was brutal, you're in f...
Published: 04/18/18
‘Night Court’ star Harry Anderson, 65, found dead in home

‘Night Court’ star Harry Anderson, 65, found dead in home

Harry Anderson, the actor best known for playing an off-the-wall judge working the night shift of a Manhattan court room in the television comedy series Night Court, was found dead in his North Carolina home Monday. Mr. Anderson was 65. A statement f...
Published: 04/16/18
Video: Meteorologist goes on epic on-air rant during another cold forecast

Video: Meteorologist goes on epic on-air rant during another cold forecast

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The winter that won’t end has taken its toll on a TV meteorologist in western Michigan.Garry Frank of WXMI-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, went on a rant to colleagues because they weren’t excited about his forecast.Video of the r...
Published: 04/16/18
Blockbuster stores are still open, and soon to receive a special gift from John Oliver

Blockbuster stores are still open, and soon to receive a special gift from John Oliver

Blockbuster is still open in Alaska, and about to receive some interesting movie memorabilia from "Last Week Tonight" and John Oliver.
Published: 04/16/18

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosMonster Energy Cup: Food City 500 (resumption, 296 laps left)1 p.m.FoxBaseballRangers at Rays7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMCardinals at Cubs7 p.m.ESPNAstros at Mariners10 p.m.MLBCollege softballMississippi State at Mississippi7 p.m.SECN.C. State at ...
Published: 04/15/18
St. Petersburg's Movies in the Park lineup announced

St. Petersburg's Movies in the Park lineup announced

Want to see a free movie in North Straub Park?
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/16/18