Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption (2011), directed by Ryan Thompson, takes place years after the initial outbreak in Zombie Apocalypse with FREE comic book (Special Edition), with an entirely different set of characters. Governments of the world attempted to use nuclear weapons to fight the millions of undead, which had no effect, and screwed over the remaining survivors even more. Not surprisingly, the survivors form different groups and fight over what little resources are left.
The main character, Johnny Knox, falls in with a group led by a drug-addicted psycho named Rome. Knox has trouble following Rome’s orders, and is sentenced to death. His brother takes him out to the desert, rather than watch Knox be burned at the stake. Knox is nearly killed by some zombies, when he is rescued by another group of survivors. They are led by a guy named Moses, played by none other than Hollywood B-movie legend Fred “The Hammer” Williamson. When Rome finds out that Moses and his fellow survivors are harboring Knox, he orders his raiders to completely wipe out the camp, including the women and children.
There is no lack of action in this movie, and the special effects are better than what you often find in a SyFy weekend movie. The dialogue was pretty entertaining as well, with some great lines, and a talented cast that did not disappoint. As a matter of fact, ZA:R recently won “Best Movie Made in Michigan” at this year’s Motor City Nightmares.
I sat down with actor Johnny Gel, who played the role of Johnny Knox, to find out more about his role in the making of this new independent zombie film…
Q. Did you ever see the first Zombie Apocalypse movie? Were you looking forward to working with the director, Ryan Thompson?
A. No, I’ve never seen the first ZA. I met Ryan on another film that was shot in Flint, MI. I was an actor and he was the DP. I noticed that he knew what he was doing. He was better than anyone I’ve ever seen. So I was very excited to work with him.
Q. How exactly did you land the lead role in Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption?
A. Few months after the movie, Ryan and I bumped into each other on the internet. He told me about his Anthology of Terror series and asked me to star in an episode called “Survive the night” written by Matt O’Day. I was basically the only actor in the episode. The story takes place in the future during a war. My character seeks shelter in an abandoned building that turns out to be haunted.
It turned out really good. It was a big success. Ryan was so thrilled with my performance that he offered me the lead role in ZAR before there was even a script.
Q. What are your thoughts on your character, Johnny Knox?
A. Knox is the coolest character. He is a guy who was in the military and is stuck in a world were zombies out number humans 10,000 to 1. The only thing he cares about is surviving. No matter what it takes. He uses his training along with his wit and charm to get by. He’s a leader.
Q. Did you know you would be working with Fred Williamson? What was he like onset?
A. Ryan talked about how he really wanted Fred to play Moses. He met Fred Williamson at the comic con. They exchanged info and it kind of went from there. We were all excited about it. On set he was great. Just the coolest guy. Very funny and he told great stories. He treated everyone with respect and he was a good mentor. I’m a huge sports fan so I have to admit, I was in awe when he showed me his superbowl ring.
Q. ZA:R is action packed, with no stunt doubles, and your character gets punched in the face quite a bit. Did you find the movie physically challenging in anyway? Did you have to do any special training to prepare for your role?
A. It was extremely challenging. I threw my body around like there’s no tomorrow. I lost count of all the injuries I’ve had. It kind of became a joke after a while. Like “hey Johnny, can you jump off this bridge” I’m just like “sure”. It was well worth it. I’m athletic and I enjoy doing stunts. I trained with Li Xing. Fight training, weapon training, you name it.
Q. You had a few scenes with two child survivors, Deanna and Josh, played by Angelina Nikollaj and Gideon Hawke Raphael. How did you feel about acting with children in a horror movie?
A. I loved working with them. They were so good. Angelina is my best friend’s daughter. I was so confident in her talents that I asked Ryan to cast her and I would be fully responsible. She did not disappoint. She was great. Gideon was great. They became friends and for as young as they were, they took direction very well.
Q. One of my favorite Johnny Knox lines was when he asked Robert, played by Joseph Scott Anthony, “Did I fuck your mother in another life?” Do you have any favorite lines or scenes?
A. That’s a great line written by Matt O’Day. There were so many great lines it’s hard to pick. One of my favorites was when I fought a zombie in the desert. I grabbed a shot gun and tried to shoot him. I said “Bye bye bitch!” The shot gun was empty and I looked at it and said “figures”.
Q. How realistic do you think ZA:R was? Could you see something like it happening in our future?
A. I don’t know. Anything is possible. Who knows what’s out there.
Q. Who would you pick to be on your survival team?
A. Definitely Fred Williamson.
Q. Do you have any plans to work on future zombie films, or horror in general? What are your plans?
A. Definitely if the right project comes along. I’ve always wanted to pull a Woody Allen or Ed Burns and Write, Director and star in my own film. That’s what I’m currently working on. Stay tuned.
Q. Do you have favorite zombie movies? Favorite zombie books?
A. It’s hard to just pick one. I love ‘em all.
Q. If fans want to find out more about you, where should they look?
A. Anyone can find me on Facebook. My email address is also on there.