TAMPA — “The Walking Dead” character Carl Grimes battled zombies for eight seasons. On Monday evening, Chandler Riggs, who played Grimes in the series, was in a far different type of cinematic fight.
Playing the bad guy in the movie “HACKED: A Double Entendre of Rage Fueled Karma,” he knelt, trembling, as two teenage brothers threatened to decapitate him with a Tampa Bay Lightning-themed battle ax while their parents drank beer from Big Storm Brewing Co. and smoked stogies from J.C. Newman Cigar Co., all against the backdrop of the Jose Gasparilla II pirate ship docked off the shore of Bayshore Boulevard in downtown Tampa.
It was a scene that screamed Tampa Bay in a movie that will scream Tampa Bay.
“This movie is written to take place in Tampa Bay,” said Shane Brady, the movie’s producer, writer and director, who also plays the father of the family hunting Riggs’ character.
Filming also occurs at Clearwater’s Pier 60 and Dunedin’s Honeymoon Island. Downtown Tampa is thoroughly shown off during a scene that sees a body wrapped in a trash bag dragged through the streets on e-bikes piloted by actors dressed in shirts promoting Underoath, a Tampa band.
“Don’t worry, the body is a prop, everyone,” producer Emily Zercher laughingly yelled to onlookers during the film shoot on Monday night. “Apparently using a real one is against the law.”
Brady believes that Tampa Bay’s spirit is embodied in the plot of his cartoonishly violent, part-biopic movie about a middle-class family seeking revenge upon a man who conned them out of $20,000.
“This is real America,” said Brady, 36, who was raised in Palm Harbor and now lives in Texas. “This is a place where hardworking and good people live.”
It’s also a place, he said, where the underdogs, like the family in his movie, overcome the odds to win.
“Dave Andreychuk was almost done with his career, but the city of Tampa believed in him, and he came here and won the Stanley Cup,” said Brady, who, during that 2004 title run, was a season ticket holder known as the “We Believe Kid” for passing out homemade “We Believe” signs to fans throughout the arena. “This is where Tom Brady came and won a Super Bowl when others thought he was done. Tampa Bay is the place that gives you a shot, and sometimes that’s all that you need. This is a place where naysayers can become yay-sayers.”
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This is the second movie that Brady and Zercher are making here. In 2021, they filmed “Breathing Happy” about a recovering drug addict trying to achieve one year of sobriety alone on Christmas as past demons tempt him to relapse.
During the final week of production on that movie, the couple was tricked into sending $20,000 meant for a home purchase to someone posing as their title company. They wrote a script based on the experience and what they would do if they came face to face with the con man.
“We of course wanted to film here again,” Brady said. “And we want to show off as much of it as we can to show people how great a place it is.”
Their plan already seems to be working.
On Monday, the actors, who arrived the day before, were excited to explore the area in their downtime.
Riggs, 24, hoped to learn more about the Gasparilla parade.
“It sounds exciting,” he said. “I’ll have to get back for one.”