Neil took a few moments out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions we had about Battle: Los Angeles, The Walking Dead and his upcoming projects. His stock is certainly on the rise and he's not shy about thanking and interacting with the fans of his work.
I have to ask this upfront, especially since video games is part of our coverage at TheHDRoom. How on earth did you end up providing "player chatter" for EA's Madden NFL 10? Did the chatter come off a script or were you allowed to improvise? That sounds like a fun gig!
Neil: Well first off, thank you so much for the interview . I love your site and am honored by your interest in this crazy realm I've been working in lately... that is the one of Horror and Sci-fi! I'm a HUGE, capital HUGE gamer, and always wanted to do voiceover work on a game or be in one period. I flew to Orlando,FL to film an independent horror movie called Scarezone (awesome). While filming that movie, I was randomly sent an audition from my agent at the time for voiceover work, which I had never done, at Tiburon studios in Orlando, FL. I was hired a couple days later. So for two days myself and like 12 other guys read from a very large script alternating 4 man teams outdoors. LOVED it. Dream come true.
Tell us a little about your character in Battle: Los Angeles and how you became attached to the role.
I play Richard "Motown" Guerrero, a sharp-shooting, shit-talking "Son of Bitch." Irony is that he's the best shot in the platoon, much more like a sniper but he carries the SAW M249 which is more high volume instead of one well placed shot :) It's heavy as hell too! But that's the character; he always bites off a little more than he can chew but somehow gets it done.
My manager pushed and pushed to get me a meeting with Debra Zane (love her) for the role. She agreed, saw me in the morning, then brought me back in for the director Jonathan Liebesman later that afternoon. As soon as I walked in the room and that awesome South African accent came out of his mouth, I knew i wanted to work with this man. He wasn't about the "BS" ya know, very straightforward. I auditioned and we had few laughs, and they offered me the role a few days later. One of the best days of my life.
Did you have to work with primarily CGI aliens or were practical costumes used to interact with on-set?
At times there were very tall stunt men running around in costume for reference, but most of the time it was good ole pretend :)
Neil Blomkamp's District 9 was released theatrically while you guys were filming Battle: Los Angeles and comparisons are being drawn between the two gritty alien-themed films. Did you see it at that time and get an idea of what Battle: Los Angeles might look like post-effects? If so, what did you think of District 9?
I saw District 9 just before I flew to shoot "Battle" and was very impressed. The budget was not that big and many of the actors weren't particularly "mainstream" and it was AWESOME. The ships and aliens looked plausible, ya know? Very impressive. The only similarity to the effects in our film is that you will leave the theater thinking this could really happen because the aliens look soooooo real.
One of the fears with Battle: Los Angeles is that we've seen most of the "money" shots in the trailers. What can you tell us about the action spread over the entire film? Is there still much more to see?
What you've seen in the trailer is so just the tip of the iceberg. This movie goes very fast, at a real pace. One day in the life of Marines, fighting a war against and unknown foreign threat, without warning. There was so much footage shot that the movie could be three or four hours and all of it's awesome. The action is very much like Platoon or Black Hawk Down. Jonathan had us train very hard to walk, talk, and respond like Marines so the action would come off fluid. I think you and the people are gonna be very happy with what we've done.
Without giving anything away, does Battlefield: Los Angeles set itself up for a sequel or potential franchise?
Doesn't everything have a sequel these days?
Where you able to channel anything from your role in Fast & Furious for Battle: Los Angeles?
My character in Battle: Los Angeles loved baseball, a baseball fanatic. The actor who played my best friend in Fast and Furious, Wilmer Calderon, also a great friend in real life, is a baseball fanatic, so I played homage to his love :)
You had a memorable cameo in AMC's The Walking Dead as the tough-on-the-outside, kind-on-the-inside Guillermo. I see you listed on IMDB as appearing in the season two premiere later this year. Can you confirm or debunk that you'll be returning to the popular zombie show?
I truly love playing Guillermo, leader of the Vatos. I have to thank AMC and Frank Darabount for giving me the opportunity. I can neither confirm nor deny anything about the show at this time though besides that the new season is shaping up to be AMAZING! From what I've heard, of course.
Were you a fan of The Walking Dead comic prior to joining the show and did you reference it after coming on board?
Didn't know about the series beforehand but became a big fan once I got the job. Love the comic. Robert Kirkman has a way with horror, doesn't he?
Besides *potentially* The Walking Dead, do you have other projects on tap?
Besides that, I will be appearing on Harry's Law on NBC Feb. 14th. Gonna be a great episode; got to do some great work with and amazing actor, Aml Ameen, British chap, great guy. Also, Cory Hardrict (who also stars in Battle: LA) and I are looking at a very promising buddy cop comedy in the vein of Bad Boys. Other than that, I am gonna hit up some of these comic conventions and meet with all the wonderful people who keep my family fed :)
Did Neil just confirm he's returning to The Walking Dead? If he's seen the script already and won't offer a denial I'd say the odds are favorable.
Many thanks to Neil for conducting this interview with us. For more on Battle: Los Angeles be sure to check out the first clip and full trailer with alternate footage. Remember, AMC's The Walking Dead arrives on Blu-ray March 8.