Interview with Vincent Martella, aka Patrick from The Walking Dead

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RIP Patrick. He only lasted two episodes into The Walking Dead’s new season, but it was quite a run. He was a bookish, pleasant addition to the gang at first, but he soon caught a deadly strain of pig flu, died alone in the shower, and rose as a zombie to feast on his former friends. He met his end (again) in last night’s episode—Daryl shot him in the head with a crossbow—but even though his story arc was brief, it was nevertheless memorable.

Vincent Martella is a Rochester, NY native, and before he played Patrick, he was best known for his role as Greg Wuliger on Everybody Hates Chris, and for voicing the character of Phineas Flynn on Disney’s Phineas and Ferb. Paste is in the midst of Walking Dead fever (the non-fatal kind, we hope), and I was thrilled to chat with one of our favorite supporting characters the day after he ate his last entrail.

I see that you just celebrated your 21st birthday, so happy birthday.
Martell: Oh yeah, thank you, yeah my birthday was last week. It’s really weird that I’m 21. It’s funny because it’s kind of been a huge week and a half for me career-wise. I’ve been focusing on that, so my birthday just kind of fell in the middle of it.

How did you the opportunity to play Patrick on The Walking Dead come about?
Well, I’ve been a huge fan of The Walking Dead since it premiered. It’s one of the shows that I continually watch every single week, and they ended up sending me some audition material. They wanted to see how I was going to go about doing this character, playing Patrick, and luckily I had a lot of the same ideas they had. So they ended up bringing me out to Georgia to do a couple episodes, and once I got there they presented me with scripts. They keep everything pretty close to the chest on the set, for obvious reasons. They don’t want anybody to really spoil anything, so once I got there they gave me the full rundown of everything that was going to happen and what this was going to mean to the other people in the prison and how it was going to be a catalyst for a lot that’s going on this season.

At what point did you realize that Vincent would die and become a zombie?
That was actually a really cool realization for me of finding out that was something I got to do. Because everyone on set was telling me how lucky I was, and I felt this way immediately too, that I get to do all the things that people want to on a show like The Walking Dead. I get to establish a character, I have a couple scenes with the main cast, then I get to have a really cool death. And then I get to be a walker and eat people, and have a second really cool death.

It seems like it would be a blast to play a zombie. Was it as fun as it looks?
It was fun. It was definitely a blast, also very stressful for me in a way, because I wanted to get it right. I wanted it to look authentic and real and as good as it always looks on The Walking Dead, so I definitely wanted to make sure that I did the part justice.

As far as I can tell, this is the first time you’ve died on screen and the first time you’ve killed someone. How was that?
Yeah, these were big firsts for me. Great first experience dying, I have to say. (Laughs) It wasn’t as bad as I thought my death would be.

Was that the hardest part? Doing the death scene?
No, that actually was not the most difficult. I think the most difficult was making sure when I was eating another person that it looked authentic. (Laughs)

How do you go about that? Becuase it looked good! It looked totally authentic.
I appreciate that. They have an awesome team on The Walking Dead. Greg Nicotero [executive producer and special effects makeup designer] is obviously a master of horror and I was lucky that he was directing me in one of the episodes that we did. And the entire AMC makeup team gave me lessons on exactly how I needed to go about playing the walker to make sure it looked real.

And when eating someone, it couldn’t look like a human would look when they’re eating a meal. It can’t look like you have a predetermined plan how you’re going to go about eating these organs. It has to look like an animal feeding on its prey and it has to look like you’re mindlessly, aimlessly eating, because that’s what you’d do. You want to devour your prey. So it had to look animalistic instead of human.

So you couldn’t put a napkin in your shirt or anything like that.
Yeah I mean, I tried. They wouldn’t even give me silverware.

How long did it take you to film? How long you were on set for?
It was about three weeks total, for everything that needed to be done. It was a nice long period of time to be in Georgia shooting with everybody and I had an awesome time.

Your characters that came over from the prison came into a tight-knit group, and it seems like in real life it might be the case too because the cast members that have been there the whole time might be equally close. Did it feel like you were entering an exclusive club? Were they welcoming?

No, everyone was NOT welcoming. (Laughs) I’m kidding. Everyone was awesome, everyone was so cool. Going to a show like this where everyone is so experienced playing their characters and everyone is a really talented actor, you want to come in and you want to bring your “A” game. And every single actor I worked with made that process really, really easy. Everyone was really generous when working on scenes, and it was just great to be on a set of such a high-caliber show where everyone was so professional and so much fun. And everyone was able to laugh in between takes, even though what we’re doing is not actually funny.

Did anybody stick out as being extra generous or really fun to work with?
I know in my first episode I did, working with Norman [Reedus, who plays Daryl], I had to act like I was super-excited to meet someone I idolized. And that was pretty easy I loved Norman on the show and I loved his work.

But I had a really interesting conversation with Andy Lincoln [Rick Grimes]. I didn’t actually have too much screen time with him, but when he first met me I was shooting the scene in the shower and I was waiting to set up the next shot, and I had about an hour of down time. And I had my walker contacts in, and you can’t really see with those on, you can only see outlines because it’s too dark. And a mysterious figure came up to me when I was sitting in my chair, and it ended up being Andy Lincoln (laughs). And I ended up having this hour-long conversation with him and I could hardly see him the whole time.

But we ended up getting to know one another, we talked about working and his process on the show, and just a lot of different things. Everyone was just so cool on set, it was so easy to get to know everybody.

I think a lot of people, if they were on the show and had to be killed by one person, they’d choose Daryl. Were you psyched when you found out that was part of your story line?
I was, yeah. I was psyched when I found out I got to be shot in the head with a crossbow. That’s a pretty good way to go on The Walking Dead. I was definitely stoked to get to do that, and I also got to attack Steven [Yeun, who plays Glenn], which was fun.

I assume when you film this, they told you you had to keep this totally under wraps. Were you able to tell family or close friends, or did you keep it totally to yourself?
No, I ended up keeping it totally to myself. My parents had a good idea of where I was going because I was missing (laughs). I was in Georgia, they kind of knew what I was doing, but no one else really. I just had to go and shoot and say that I worked on a project that was really good, but I can’t talk about it yet.

Oh, I was just assuming you couldn’t say if you died or when you died, but you didn’t even tell them you were on The Walking Dead.
No, I couldn’t really tell anyone that I was involved in the show, because that starts rumors going, and you don’t want to kind of end up ruining anything for anybody just in case.

How did your friends and family react when they first saw the episode, and how did they react when you died?
Yeah, everyone was really excited when they found out that I was going to be on the show, and then when they watched the episodes, I think people were just really, really surprised at everything that was happening. I know I watched last night’s episode with a group of friends, and everyone was so pumped when they saw me get up as a zombie in the shower. Everyone was like “Ohhhhh no, you are going to eat so many people.” My friends were actually placing bets on how many people I was going to take out. It was really funny.

What else stands out about your experience?
The fans of The Walking Dead have been super awesome. Everyone’s giving me a really good amount of compliments for my work on the show, which is awesome because I wanted to do a good job on a show that I love. And the fans have been really, really great and I appreciate the support they’ve been giving me.

Did you follow on Twitter as the episode was happening?
I did. Yeah, I did. And that was a lot of fun, because I love when…especially last week, when people were giving theories about what was going to happen. It was funny hearing what people think is going to happen. And people’s reactions to when I died and when I was eating that guy…everyone kinda ended up freaking out, and I liked watching their instant reactions, which is a great part of social media that I get to do that.

And The Walking Dead is a show where people seem to either really love or really hate characters, and everyone seemed to like you.
Yeah it seems like everyone really enjoyed it, which is awesome, because I was worried about that. And now I’m not!

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