Monday, August 3, 2015

#JennAtSDCC: Roundtable Interviews (Cast of 'Zoo')

Press room interview, featuring James Wolk (Jackson Oz) & Nora Arnezeder (Chloe Tousignant)

Thursday at Comic-Con (yes, it's August and I'm still talking about Comic-Con. Deal with it!) was such a whirlwind day spent with CBS. It was honestly a blast though, and kudos to the network for being so good to deal with, having friendly staff, and providing us with some great material. I hope to be able to be in their press room again next year because everything seemed to be very well-organized.

I've already posted a few interviews with stars and EPs of the returning hit series Scorpion and the new fall series Limitless. This interview is with James Wolk and Nora Arnezeder of CBS's summer hit horror-drama series Zoo, based on the novel by James Patterson. James and Nora were utter delights to sit down and converse with. We learned more about the series' trajectory, what initially drew both to the show, and had some fun when James and Nora swapped animal stories with us. Enjoy!

JENN: How are you guys?!

JAMES WOLK: Doin’ good. Good!

JENN: Good!

REBECCA: Okay, so how much do you actually work with the animals? Are they there most of the time when you’re supposed to be interacting with them? Or is this CG?

NORA ARNEZEDER: A lot of CG because we really respect animals, you know? And we don’t want to take advantage of them.

JW: Yeah, and even in the shots where we are working with the animals, some of them we are in proximity to the animals. Others, they’ll shoot us and then turn around and shoot the animals and then put it together. And it looks like we were right there.

NA: Yeah.

JW: Because, you know… safety is important. [laughter] Making a TV show is important, safety is more important.

REBECCA: So are you going to be globe-trotting the whole season?

NA & JW: Yeah.

JW [to NA]: Where do we go? We go… Brazil –

NA:  – Paris, Brazil –

JW: – Japan –

NA: Uh… yeah, Japan. Slovenia –

JW: Slovenia, yeah. We’re all over.

REBECCA: So did you read the book, did you read the source material before you started the show? Or did you think that was even necessary?

NA: Oh, yeah, of course it was necessary.


NA: I wanted to know about the story and… the show is kind of different, you know? And I’m happy because James Patterson is a fan of the show, which was really important for us. To make him happy.


JW: Yeah.

NA: Not to make him disappointed.


JW: Yeah. Yeah.

REBECCA: So when you got the first script and you found out that… all of these animals would be attacking, did you automatically say: “Yeah, that’s for me”?

NA: I love being attacked by animals!


JW: I think it was like… you know, it’s James Patterson [and he’s] doing something that’s coming to TV. And it’s these producers like, [Jeff] Pinkner and [Josh] Appelbaum, [Scott Rosenberg], and [AndrĂ©] Nemec and their body of work behind them. And what they’ve done with big concepts and made them really palatable… it all seemed to just feel right. And the script was great. It was interesting and different than a lot of things that are on TV right now.

REBECCA: Are we going to learn a lot more about your [character’s] relationship with [his] dad throughout the whole first season?

JW: Oh yeah. … I think it’s a really cool element as you start to figure out what was happening there. And it’s enough to keep you thirsty for more. [Asking questions like] why?

TIFFANY: And it’s great that your [character’s] parents are played by Ken Olin and Bess Armstrong.

JW: They’re great. Two great actors and they’re awesome. … All of our guest stars, or are recurring or what have you were so talented. We were really lucky. I mean, the girl that came down and played [to NA] your [character’s] sister, your [character’s] boss in France… we just had a great slew of actors come down and play different roles in the show.

REBECCA: Going into this, did you have any animals in particular you were hoping NOT to work with?

NA: Ants. But I had no problem.

JW: … ‘cause they decided that wouldn’t be the scariest animal?


NA: I talked to the producer and I was like: “Hey, listen, I need to talk to you. What if we put ants in one of the episodes? Like, ants are so scary and he was looking at me like: “… And what? Do this?” [NA pretends to flick something off her shoulder] 


JW: I was there for that! That is a true story.

REBECCA: And you?

JW: I’m… not that comfortable around squirrels, to be completely honest with you. And I’ve gotten better at it, but I’m just glad we haven’t been that close to squirrels. Because squirrels… they could easily be like: “Hey, James, you don’t mind being in a scene with a squirrel, right?” As opposed to a leopard, you’re like: “No! I’m not gonna be in a scene with a leopard!” And you’re out. They understand. But a SQUIRREL… how do you explain like, “I don’t want to be by a squirrel.” And thank God we haven’t. I think, again, that they talked about it in the writers’ room and probably said: “Squirrels? No. Ants? Eh, not that scary.”

REBECCA: Were you attacked by a squirrel as a child?

JW: A squirrel fell on me when I was on a camping trip.

ALL: No!

JW: And it ran all up and down my body. And it didn’t do anything, but ever since then I’ve been a little like… [flinches, wary] around squirrels.

REBECCA: That’s bizarre!

JW: Yeah.

TIFFANY: Can you tease what’s coming up next for your characters and also… how long it’s gonna be until your characters meet back up?

JW: Um… [looks at NA] next week is a good –

NA: Mystery, mystery, mystery!

JW: Let’s just say, in episode three, you’ll start to see some people come back into each other’s lives.

NA: Yeah


ROWELL: [to NA] Can you talk more about that skunk story that you told in the panel?

NA: Oh yeah! Yesterday –

ROWELL: – This was yesterday!?

NA: Yeah!

ROWELL: Oh my God.

NA: [laughter] I was visiting a friend and uh, then there was an animal like that [imitates skunk eyes] looking at me with a tail going up like that! And I thought: “oh my God!” And I didn’t know it was a skunk. My boyfriend told me: “Watch out, watch out! Run, run run! It’s a skunk!” And I was like: “What?!” He was almost gonna spray his… product.


JW: Product? [more laughter] The skunk product almost was sprayed all over you. Gotta watch out for that skunk product.

[more laughter]

JENN: So, James, I loved you in your other CBS show The Crazy Ones. And I would say Zoo is a pretty big departure from the character you played –

JW: Yeah.

JENN: So what are some of the things you’ve really enjoyed about transitioning into sort of this horror-drama?

JW: You know, I love comedy, but I also really love drama. I love playing characters that … are very human. I like playing characters that an audience member can relate to. And this has been a joy, to board a project so completely different from my last one. … Because… one of the exciting things of being an actor is variety. So it’s wonderful to play Jackson Oz in that way.


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