Exclusive Z Nation Interview: Keith Allan Talks Murphy’s Journey, The Gruesome Scene You Will Never See and More

Z Nation Episode 4 Full Metal Zombie (2)

Keith Allan is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders on Syfy’s Z Nation…well, his character Murphy is anyway. Allan himself couldn’t be having more fun taking on the multifaceted role of white collar criminal/humanity’s last chance for survival on the blood-splattered, adrenaline fueled zombie drama. TV Equals recently chatted with Allan about what is ahead for Murphy as the character’s transformation continues, the epic gross out moment that did not make it to the screen and more.

Read the full interview below and then catch an all new Z Nation tonight, Friday, October 31st at 10PM ET on Syfy.

TV Equals: Congratulations on the season two renewal. How did you react to the news?

Keith Allan: As an actor you are always excited that you have work. Well, in my case I am. It is always nice to know that you have a job coming up, but also I was really glad because I am really proud of this series. I think what we have going on with this series is really good and I’m a TV snob, so I’m a tough critic myself and I’m really enjoying the show. I’m enjoying the whole tone and I think we are doing almost everything right for the genre and the style that they are shooting for.

TV Equals: What can you tell us about what is ahead for Murphy?

Keith Allan: Well, let’s see…what I can tell you without giving too much away is that Murphy is going through some changes. That is sort of very early on, like in episode one where you see he pulls his tooth out of his head. Then in episode five he loses his hair and his skin is looking worse, so he’s obviously going through some big transformations physically. I think it’s really interesting what they’re doing with my character because it leaves the audience guessing with him. Is he going to become a zombie? Is he going to die from this vaccine?

I think the other thing, aside from physically that is happening to him, is that he is starting to feel empathy for these zombies. He is starting to sense humanity in them, which I think in this part of the game most of the other survivors have written them all off as brainless monsters and Murphy did also, but now the more that he is changing and transforming, he is seeing them in a whole new light. That brings out a whole different tone to his character and his personality.

TV Equals: How do you see Murphy?

Keith Allan: I see him as the victim. He was in prison at the very top of the year for a white collar crime so he wasn’t a violent criminal, he was just scamming and trying to make some money. He didn’t really sign up for any of this. The fact that he is now a human experiment I think he has plenty of reasons to be pissed off.

His whole life has been stolen from him and he was a prisoner before the apocalypse started and now he is a prisoner after the apocalypse. He’s been told what to do and where to go for a long time and I think he is over it. At this point in the show he is starting to get more of his confidence and feel more powerful. We are starting to see he has more of an effect on these zombies. They don’t want to attack him, they are more docile around him. So it is the first time he has felt in control of anything and felt powerful at all.

TV Equals: Is it hard to play a character who is fighting against their zombie nature? That is something that feels unique to Z Nation.

Keith Allan: I think it is unique also. I’ve never seen it in a zombie show or movie, so I think it is really interesting to strike that balance and see what the hybrid looks like.

I wouldn’t say it is hard to play. I would say for me it is fascinating because with a character like this there are no rules because it is fiction for one thing and it has never been done before. I can kind of play around with that idea as much as I want. I find it fascinating to go into his mindset and go wow, how would this affect me as a person if I thought I was becoming something other than a human. I think part of him is terrified. He doesn’t know what is going to happen to him. I think there are discoveries happening to him all along the line, not just physically, but emotionally that catch him off guard. I don’t think it was something he was prepared for, to feel for these other zombies. He’s also growing attached to the people he is traveling with. He is becoming friendlier with them and that gives him something I don’t think he has had in a long time. In the apocalypse it is a dog eat dog world, and I don’t think he has had that kind of closeness for awhile.

TV Equals: It seems like Z Nation is becoming more and more adept at balancing the fun action sequences with the more emotional, survivalist aspects as it goes along. Do you see the series taking a more serious bent or continuing to balance the fun with darker aspects?

Keith Allan: I really think it is going to continue to have fun with it because I think that is what really sets us apart from other zombie shows. People are able to have a good laugh at it. It’s not all so serious. For my money, that is what I want from a horror show. I want the guts, I want the head explosions, I want to be scared and grossed out and I want to laugh once in awhile.

On top of it, what we are doing right with Z Nation is that we have some really nice dramatic moments. I think it is a nice balance. My sense is that the show’s creators Karl Schaefer and Craig Engler are really striking that tone really nicely and I think they will stick with it.

TV Equals: Z Nation is the third zombie production you have been a part of. Is there something particular that draws you to the genre or is it just coincidence?

Keith Allan: Well, it’s a bit of a coincidence. I was working with The Asylum and they needed a zombie movie, and so they approached me about it. I had never written a zombie movie before, but I was certainly a fan of the genre and I love sci-fi and horror. I hearken back to the old drive-in days. That was my Saturday night with my friends. I would drive out to the drive-in with my friends and see a double horror feature. You would be scared and laugh your ass off and that was what was fun about it.

So I was really excited to have the opportunity to write a screenplay. I worked with my writing partner Delondra Williams. Part of what I loved was is that the genre has been around so long, I was like how do I mix this up and make it not like every other zombie movie around, so I started to delve into my own ideas of where the zombie virus comes from and how does it affect people. In that sense, I started to become more invested in the genre because I was working in it. I just loved it and I had such a fun time. You have to figure out interesting ways for people to die because they can’t all die the same way.

TV Equals: Has anything from the series grossed you out?

Keith Allan: Yes, of course. There were a couple of things that grossed me out. I think it was in episode two when we had the female zombie stuck up in the wheel well of the car. That was disgusting. That was a real woman. They stuck her up in there and she was a real trooper. It was a wonderful makeup job they did and she was in there for a good 45 minutes getting that shot– it was disgusting, but it looks great. It was one of those payoff moments.

Oh and I got to do– this didn’t gross me out, but it grossed many other people out. In the scene where Murphy is in the bathroom and I shaved my head, I had actually gone hiking earlier in the year down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and my two big toenails turned black. I told the producers my toenail is going to come off at some point while we are filming and we have to get it on camera. So while we were filming that scene where Murphy’s hair is falling out it was just time for it to come off. I told makeup let’s put a little fresh blood in there, I’m pulling off my toenail. Some of the people on the crew did not know that was my real toenail until we were shooting it and they were watching it on the monitor and just almost throwing up. I was pulling off my own toenail and part of it was still attached so I was yanking it and twisting it. Unfortunately, they did not use the shot. I cannot imagine why. That is something people would Tweet about.

TV Equals: If Murphy wasn’t busy trying to save the world, what do you think he would be for Halloween?

Keith Allan: You know, I think he would be a superhero. Probably like Batman. I mean that’s my sense. He started off as such a squirrelly, weaselly man and I think he has always aspired to be something bigger and better and more badass, but he’s just not. I think it would be his fantasy to be in one of those awesome padded Batman costumes with the chest and nipples.

Z Nation - Murphy and 10K

Follow me on Twitter @sljbowman