Walking Dead star breathes life back into his career
After his early years in Hollywood were spent running around in the background of big-budget movies with a machine gun and little dialogue, now — almost 20 years later — is a good time to be Cliff Curtis.
The New Zealand actor has recently racked up two dream film roles: bipolar Kiwi chess master Genesis Potini in The Dark Horse and Jesus in the resurrection drama Risen.
The former he considers “my best work”; the latter was a “lifelong wish” since his days as an altar boy.
Curtis’s TV series Fear the Walking Dead, then, is the cherry on top: “It’s an incredible amount of fun.”
Set in Los Angeles at the outbreak of the zombie apocalypse, Fear the Walking Dead is a prequel to the hugely successful The Walking Dead. As the little sister of a beloved series, Fear faced much cynicism when it premiered last year.
“The first season was all: What are these guys doing? The first show is this, the first show is that … Who are these guys?” Curtis recalls.
“There were a lot of comparisons. But now the second season, I don’t think that’s going to happen.
“It’s a real page-turner, totally different from the first. We’re our own show and I don’t think we need to be compared to anything else. I’m very, very excited by what we’re doing.”
Season one was more slowburning dysfunctional family drama than action/horror, but closed with Curtis’s character Travis Manawa finally getting blood on his hands.
Curtis says that was Travis “crossing a line” and he’d like to see him get even more “bad ass” from here on.
He’s still got a while to go, with Fear shooting through until June.
When Curtis confirms Switched On is calling from Australia, he practically yells, “I’m working with Alycia on the show” — referring to young Sydney actor Alycia DebnamCarey, who plays the daughter of Travis’s girlfriend. Because it used to be such a rarity, he still gets excited at having another Australasian on set.
“I remember when I first came over to Hollywood, my manager was the manager of Nicole Kidman, Simon Baker and Naomi Watts,” he says.
“I was the Kiwi — there weren’t a lot of Kiwis in town.
“But now they’re everywhere. You can’t go to a cafe without bumping into a Kiwi or an Aussie.”
FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, FX, MONDAY 1.30PM AND 8.30PM