Lew Temple, most recognized as Axel from The Walking Dead, is an actor with the ability to sink into his roles and become a completely different person, stamping his own mark on all the characters he portrays. With a variety of work under his belt, he shows no sign of slowing down and continues to be one of the most prolific character actors in the business. Recently, he sat down with Nicole to discuss The Lone Ranger, Axel’s untimely demise, his upcoming projects, his thoughts on the hero’s journey and becoming a well-known name in Hollywood.
This is part two of a two part interview. Click here for part one.
MV: On the subject of the dead and the undead, I understand you did another zombie picture, is that correct? Zombex?
Lew: I did! I have Zombex. It’s coming out soon, I’m told. My dear friend, Jesse Dayton, is a musician. We’ve written a lot of music together. He put together a conspiracy theory zombie story which is essentially is the idea that the whole debacle that was around the New Orleans Superdome was the result of a pharmaceutical drug test market sanctioned by the United States government through a rogue pharmaceutical company.
This was a post-traumatic stress drug to help people get over some of the things they were suffering. And it goes rogue and causes people to become flesh-eating cannibals or zombies, sort of speak. In this story, I am a libertarian DJ and he uncovers this. He’s troubled by it and he decides to do something about it and he goes on the road. He makes it his mission to find the antidote. So it goes from this conspiracy theory to kind of a road movie à la Zombieland and it has some lovely people: Malcolm McDowell, Sid Haig, John Doe from the band X, Tom Araya from Slayer and a dear friend and fine actor named David Christopher. I’m excited for it! I think it will blow your mind.
MV: I saw the trailer and I’m very much interested in this. And this was in Louisiana, is that right?
Lew: We filmed it in Louisiana and New Orleans and East Texas. Very strange area out in East Texas and then finally made our way into Austin, Texas where we finished it up. It had a lot of interesting elements and I’m excited to see it. I truly am. I put forth a great character and I hope that it lands. I’m quite sure it will.
MV: I think it will. It seems like the South is attracting all the dead people. What’s going on with that, do you think?
Lew: I feel like there’s something about the vibrance in the air. I feel like there’s something about the heat and humidity that promotes the idea of the dead. Maybe it’s the voodoo in the air from Louisiana, I don’t know. I just returned from Louisiana. I’d been down there for five weeks on a movie called Wicked Blood. Which I know from the title sounds like a genre picture but at the end of the day, it’s an action thriller. A suspense thriller along the lines of Breaking Bad meets Sopranos meets Donnie Brasco. It’s about a family that’s connected in Southern Mafia crystal meth distribution and they’re infiltrated by a DEA agent looking to take them down.
It’s just a young girl wanting to save what little family she has left in the form of an uncle played by me who is not only the cook who makes some great product but also likes to sample his a bit as well. So he’s not able to get out of his way and she enlists a plan that she hopes will work in the form of a chess game. And so there’s a lot great corners and angles to it. It was directed by Mark Young and stars Abigail Breslin, Alexa Vega, Sean Bean from Game of Thrones. This guy named James Purefoy that’s doing the show, The Following, right now and Jake Busey from Frighteners – I love him in Frighteners – and myself. So I’m real excited about that. We just put that together. I think we’ve really got the chance to be a really great movie.
MV: It sounds like it. I’m pretty much just excited for everything you’re going to be in. Lew Temple can do no wrong at this point.
Lew: [laughs] Yay! I just saw the rough cut of a movie I did this past holiday after I got done with The Walking Dead and got home. I cleaned up, believe it or not. Shaved and kept a little used car salesman mustache and cut my hair and played a military recruiter in a small town military recruiting office in Northern California up around Sacramento. This was a movie called A Fighting Season and it’s about recruiting and some of the atrocities that go on in our recruiting offices. I did this with a young man named Clayne Crawford whom I sincerely adore. He’s in this show, Rectify, that is just fantastic and he plays a soldier who’s back from having been shook in an IED explosion where he lost all his battalion. So he’s back from Afghanistan and he’s trying to be re-assimilated through the system and they’ve put him into this recruiting office and he sees the abusive authority that go on. And a bit of that psychologically is worse than what he was experiencing. This is a little bit of The Hurt Locker meets Training Day. I saw the rough last night and I’m just blown away. This was directed by Oden Roberts so I’m really excited for it. I just think it’s so subtle and heartfelt and there’s some things that so aggressively terse and abrasive that the two of them mix in this great gumbo. Of course, being from Louisiana, everything is a great gumbo for me. So that’s one I’m looking forward to.
MV: You should because it sounds like another good one. You’re into very dark story-lines. I’ve noticed a lot of psychological work and thrillers.
Lew: I like to mix up a lot of diversity and then I have to slip out and do something fun and comedic just to keep it all balanced. I love the idea that I get to play an 1870’s highway patrolmen in The Lone Ranger and then play a used car salesman jerk in a The Company of Men type piece in A Fighting Season and then play a crazy crystal meth addict that can’t get out of his way and he’s just good-natured with a lot of empathy in Wicked Blood. And then play an uncertain character in something like Zombex.
MV: You truly are a chameleon. It’s amazing, honestly.
Lew: Oh, thank you. It’s all in the mustache.
MV: It is! That mustache seems to give you some crazy power.
Lew: I mustache ask you a question but I’ll shave it for later. I think that’s gonna be my new T-shirt. Axel’s mustache has more followers [on Twitter] than I do. And I love whoever offers the insight because they also have things like, “Jeez, you know if I hop up on Carl’s lip, do you think I’ll have a chance with Beth?”
MV: [laughs] I saw that one! I was gonna ask you about it.
Lew: Yeah, whomever is attending to that is doing a fantastic, lovely job.
MV: It’s become it’s own character.
Lew: It is, yeah! Now, I see that it’s starting to become a brand. If I may use the buzzword of the two-thousands then I am branding.
MV: You are. But the most important part is that you’re getting so much work. After The Walking Dead, I fully expected to see you everywhere. And according to IMDb, I am going to see you literally everywhere.
Lew: Yeah, I’ve had some good opportunities and I’d love to still maintain that. You know, yes, there were a lot of opportunity for me to go and work and there continues to be. I like to work. I like to stay busy because I think work begets work. I always tell people that. And regardless, I think if you go out looking for work or you’re out working where it might not be in the vocation you prefer as opposed to sitting around beat up by it. And [you] just go out and get busy getting busy then I think the world serves you. I heard one the other day I’m in love with: you don’t have to get ready if you’re already. And so, I like that. I feel like if you set yourself up as such then it’s on. And, secondary, I like to work right where I can explore some characters and continue to build so that’s part of getting me ready for Paul Tom Anderson’s next piece or David Fincher’s next piece. You know, those are the targets.
MV: Speaking of such prestigious names, you’ve actually worked with a lot of well-known and well-loved faces. We’re talking about Chris Pine, Denzel Washington, Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus and Jon Bernthal. Now you’ve got Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. You know, you’ve become a pretty recognizable and respected name. How does that feel to know you’ve gotten up there?
Lew: Well, it validates you a little bit. I would be lying if I said I’ve gone from student films in garage theater to being able to work at the top level. What’s great is, one of the things that happened after The Walking Dead is that this year I went in for all the big movies. I went for Transformers 4. I went for Dawn of Planet of the Apes. I went for this thing [called] Transcendence which is gonna be great with Johnny. You know, I went for The Judge with Robert Downey Jr.. I went in for all the biggest movies of this summer. Am I working in any of them? No. No, I’m not, that’s the truth. But I’ve also been sitting in those rooms and I look around and my contemporaries are a pretty high caliber group of guys.
When I see that I’m reading opposite Clifton Collins Jr. or Cillian Murphy or whomever that may be at that level, I say, “yay!” That’s the arena I wanna be in. So I’m blessed with that. I feel good that those directors want to meet me and see me and consider me for that opportunity and hopefully continue to do so. So I just keep doing my thing and continue to do good work and be gracious with my work. And take my experience and put it into play. I work with a lot of young actors and that’s always inspiring. Because they are fresh and they are not beat up and they show up with fresh and new ideas with zeal. And I’m like, wow, I used to think like that! That’s good, I’m gonna think like that again. Except that’s dumb. That’s dumb thinking because you haven’t had enough experience to be smart but I’m gonna use my experience and now I’m a superhero! But it’s fun. It’s always fun. As long as I can continue to get good work, then it’s worth it.
MV: You are awesome. I think that wraps us up. It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you, Lew.
Lew: And you as well, Nicole!
The Lone Ranger is out July 3rd in theaters everywhere. Remember to keep up with Lew on Twitter and Facebook and you can stay up to date on his projects on IMDb as well. Don’t forget to check out his favorite fan-made account, Axel’s Stache, too!
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