Daniel Sharman is a name who many genre fans will be hugely familiar with for his appearances in the likes of Immortals, Teen Wolf, and The Collection, and now he’s making waves in AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead. Having debuted as Troy Otto in The Walking Dead spinoff series' third season, Sharman and his character are set to have a huge a role to play when Fear the Walking Dead returns to screens this October, and we were lucky enough to catch up with the actor ahead of the show’s mid-season return.
STARBURST: Having played a Greek god, a witch on a vampire show, and a werewolf, what convinced you to try and take on zombies next?
Daniel Sharman: Well I really liked the idea of this character, I liked the idea that within this genre the most fearful part of it is always human beings and human beings’ volatility. And I loved the idea of playing a character within something that is so dangerous and high stakes. The scariest thing is playing a character who is scarier than the circumstance. I always think that’s an interesting topic to explore.
Is the supernatural something that’s interested you personally?
No, not really. It’s funny, it’s almost like I did this deliberately, but it’s more that these are the only jobs they’ve given me. I can’t say I collectively selected these, they’re just the only ones I could get really.
The role of Troy has been arguably one of the most interesting this season; he’s almost like a lit fuse, you just don’t know when he’s going to blow. How did you approach playing a role like that, and when you started, how much did you know about where you’d end up mid-season?
I didn’t know anything. I personally, I had the first script and I talked to them, I wanted him to be a full character. As extreme as that first scene and that first episode is, by the end of it I wanted people to believe he was a real person and believe that there was something about Troy that people could empathise with. I think that was important to me. I’m very lucky that the writers then wrote something that I think is really detailed and interesting. I think that’s such a gift, and I had no idea, I still don’t know really, what they have planned for him, but I know that I think they’re doing a great service to a character and I think they’re writing something very interesting. And that’s always a pleasure to go to work and do.
As an actor, it’s not uncommon to create your own mental backstory to help in your portrayal. Is that something that you did with Troy, and if so how did it line up with the revelations of his childhood that come through throughout the episodes?
Like I said, I was very adamant that I wanted to make him a real person. So that first script, I wanted to build somebody that there would be a reason for any of this stuff. Really bizarrely, a lot of them actually ended up being part of the script. Certain elements were different, and then obviously I adapted that backstory to fit that world, but there are elements that are very similar. I think for me the most important thing is that he’s had a very isolated existence. I actually thought that this is somebody that would probably not have been schooled or had a very limited education. When it come out that actually he was taken out of school… they’re just really smart writers, they’ve got a really great sense of building something, of building a person. Then, after that point, you can make your own observations, make your own backstory. After a certain period, you get this kind of meeting of both your ideas and their ideas, and that’s what’s great about the next half of the season; you really feel like you can fly a little bit because you’ve kind of met each other in that way. The actors and the writers have met together this way creatively, and then you get to explore and make more things, surprise people.
Do you feel like the maternal bond between Troy and Madison tempered his more sociopathic tendencies?
Well yeah. I think what’s important is he’s never had somebody who he admired in his life. He’s had a very tempestuous upbringing, so when somebody like Madison walks in to your life he recognises a huge amount of things he admires in her. And I think he admires her ambition but there’s a lot of confusion there; Troy feeling things for the first time. So yes, I think it tempers thing. I think he’s just a wonderful observer, a big observer, so he can see things in her that I don’t think other people see as well. Then it tempers certain behaviours because for the first time he sees someone that he can emulate or respect, and therefore it’s that winning of approval that becomes a big part of him learning, his learning process.
Having been cast as the heartthrob previously, was it refreshing to play a character who’s a little rougher around the edges?
It’s always a bit of a relief not to play something that has to be liked or doesn’t have to be a certain way. I think that’s always such a relief because your hair doesn’t have to look a certain way; you can rock up to set more like how you are in real life. You don’t have to observe any of the stereotypes. You can just go and make things, you don’t have to be a certain way. That’s quite refreshing, it’s quite a lovely thing. You don’t feel the pressure of having to be attractive in some way or attracted to another character, and so you live in this state of carefree, as an actor and as the character, where you’re not observing or having to be attractive in some way.
If the zombie apocalypse happened tomorrow, what are the first three things you’d grab from your apartment before you left?
Everyone goes for survival things, but I just think I would go for a great three days and then I would do myself in. I wouldn’t really want to survive for very long. I’d probably take a load of alcohol and get absolutely smashed up for a few days, then find something I could my myself in with. Everyone looks for survival things but I’m looking for a great three days then I’m out of there.
Fear the Walking Dead returns Sunday 10th September in the US and Monday 11th at 9pm on AMC UK, on BT TV.
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