We Love TV!
This is just an unofficial fan page, we have no connection
to any shows or networks.
Please click here to vote for our site!
Interview with D.J. Qualls of "Z
Nation" on Syfy 9/30/14
I enjoyed this call! I don't like zombie shows, but I do
love D.J. Qualls, so it was great to speak with him again.
Moderator: Maureen Granados
September 30, 2014 5:00 p.m. ET
Operator: Good afternoon. My name is Mike and I will be your
conference operator today.
At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the
ZNation Conference Call. All lines have been placed on mute
to prevent any background noise. After the speakers'
remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session. If you
would like to ask a question during this time, press star,
then the number one on your telephone keypad. If you would
like to withdraw your question, press the pound key.
I will now turn the call over to Maureen Granados from SyFy
You may begin your conference.
Maureen Granados: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for
joining us today for our ZNation conference call featuring
DJ Qualls. We're so excited to have DJ on the line to answer
As you know, ZNation premiers -- or airs, rather, Fridays at
10:00 on SyFy and this week will be the fourth episode in
its run. So, without further ado, I will turn it over to
We can open the line.
Operator: And at this time, I'd like to remind everyone, in
order to ask a question press 'star-one' on your telephone
key pad. We'll pause for a few moments to compile the Q&A
Your first question is from the line of Suzanne Lanoue from
The TV MegaSite. Your line is open.
Suzanne Lanoue: Good morning, DJ.
DJ Qualls: Good morning. How are you?
Suzanne Lanoue: Pretty good. I'm a big fan of yours. I
enjoyed the -- I'm sorry. My mind is blanking. It's early
DJ Qualls: Oh, that's OK. Actually, I just -- I just woke
up. I went to a premier last night and I'm a little tired.
Suzanne Lanoue: Oh.
DJ Qualls: So, you're good -- you're in good company.
Suzanne Lanoue: Well, was it fun?
DJ Qualls: It was really fun. I went to the premier of
Annabelle. My friend, Alfre's in it so I went and hung out
Suzanne Lanoue: Oh, cool. Yeah, --
DJ Qualls: So, well, what would you like to ask?
Suzanne Lanoue: I'm sorry. Yeah, Memphis Beat -- I loved
that show and I enjoyed your work on Supernatural. And--
DJ Qualls: Thank you so much.
Suzanne Lanoue: -- I was wondering, will we be seeing you
this year on Supernatural, as well?
DJ Qualls: You know, I'm not sure what they're doing on the
show. I really only know probably a few weeks to a month out
if they're planning to use me. But also, this year has been
probably one of the busiest of my career. I -- my -- I was
on Legit then was cancelled. I was on (refugee) that was
cancelled. I was on Legit and that was cancelled. Legit hurt
because I really loved doing that show. And I recur on
Supernatural. I recur on Reception and now I'm doing ZNation
and I just did a pilot, too. So, it's been a pretty busy
year. I would love to go back to Supernatural but I don't --
like I say, I have no idea.
I'm headed to the UK in a couple weeks to do a convention,
so I'm sure I'm going to get that question a thousand times
in the next few weeks.
Suzanne Lanoue: Right. Cool. Why do you think zombie shows
are so popular right now?
DJ Qualls: I don't know. But you know what's interesting, if
you go to any major city, drugs, like problems with drugs
are out of control. There's a lot of homeless, druggie
people that kind of resemble zombies. And I was walking
around downtown Spokane where we shoot and I had this really
weird experience just looking at things like as an outsider.
And probably just this looks like our show. It's sort of a
reflection maybe of what's happening in current culture. And
also vampires, sort of ran their course. I think it's
zombies' turn. You know what I mean?
Suzanne Lanoue: Yeah.
DJ Qualls: All those romantic themed vampire movies I really
just didn't understand. Having sex with a vampire probably's
not that fun. They're cold. It'd be like, you know what I
mean, getting stabbed with a popsicle. OK. So, I probably
shouldn't talk about that anymore.
Suzanne Lanoue: All right. Thanks a lot.
DJ Qualls: OK.
Operator: Your next question is from Tony Tellado with
Tony Tellado: Hi, DJ, it's great to talk to you.
DJ Qualls: Hey, brother, how are you?
Tony Tellado: All right. I wanted to talk to --
DJ Qualls: Good.
Tony Tellado: --talk to you about that scene you did with
the two dogs, the zombie dog and the regular dog. What was
that like? I mean, you pretty -- you pretty much were the
only one talking, obviously, so -- and how was...
DJ Qualls: Yeah.
Tony Tellado: ...the -- just yeah, how the physicality was
for you and things like that.
DJ Qualls: You know, it's interesting about this show for
me. I don't work with any of the other actors. I only
recently met them all at the premiere of the show. So, it's
-- I am talking to myself or two a blank computer screen
most of the time. I do -- I do, in Episode Eight, I have an
actor to play off of. It's my favorite episode of the
season. I can't wait for it to air.
But the dog scene was interesting because we have budgetary
constraints on our show. So, we're not getting, obviously
like -- we're not getting a dog who has played in a movie
where he dunks a basketball or any of those kinds of dogs.
These dogs don't really want to be there.
And actually, the dog that we used, his name is Wizard. He
got a movie or a TV -- a big TV show or something like after
we shot the first three episodes. And he came back and now
he hates us. The catering on that other show must be
But, it's -- you know, the editing on this show is amazing.
I really take my hat off to the editors to make it look like
the dog likes me. We had to -- I had -- I put peanut butter
behind both ears. I put the peanut butter jar down my pants
just to try to tempt him to come over and stand beside me.
And he did it in one take and that's the take that we used.
So, they're not kidding when they say don't work with kids
and animals. Because it's a long day.
And also, it was like 90 degrees in Spokane when I was
shooting that stuff and I'm supposed to be in the arctic.
And I was wearing a snow suit that whole day while I was
jumping from like crate to crate in the -- chasing the
zombie dog. And at about hour 14, I was in that snow suit
and it -- with hat and gloves and a scarf on and a big parka
cooking steaks over an open fire.
And I lost my mind and started crying. And the (frigister)
had to talk me down off the ledge. As I'm going this is
abusive. This is abusive. Get me out of these clothes. I'm
standing there in my underwear with the snow suit around my
ankles just crying from exhaustion. So it's -- I'm really
digging the fact that people like the show so much because
we bust our ass to make it.
Tony Tellado: Yeah. Well, did that dog not like you after
you cooked the steaks for -- steak for him and fed him, too.
DJ Qualls: You know what? We actually -- it's we have kind
of a bewitched situation on the show this year like we --
you know how Darrin switched to another actor without
Tony Tellado: Right.
DJ Qualls: We couldn't get Wizard the dog for like episodes,
I think six and seven, so we have another -- no, no, no,
it's episodes -- yeah, it's six and seven. We couldn't get
that dog, so we have another dog that's like 40 pounds
lighter. And we made a mistake. We use a wolf pelt like an
actual wolf pelt that's been stuffed with like plastic wrap
as the dog, a lot of times, when he's just chilling. And we
made the mistake of letting that new dog smell the wolf
pelt. And it's smelling a dead animal. And so after that, he
wouldn't lay in the -- in the crate anymore.
Tony Tellado: Oh, no.
DJ Qualls: So, it has its challenges.
Tony Tellado: Yeah, definitely. Well, great to talk to you.
I'll get back in line.
DJ Qualls: Thanks, brother.
Operator: The next question is from Kyle Wilson with
Kyle Wilson: Hey, DJ, what's going on, man?
DJ Qualls: I don't know.
Kyle Wilson: So. Right on. Hey, so, I really enjoy the show
and I'm wondering, with Citizen Z, is he -- is he going to
continue to sort of suffer signs of the isolationism?
Because, I know in this week's episode, Full Metal Zombie,
you start to see another behavior tic start to come up, a
little bit of obsession. Is that going to continue to affect
him throughout the season?
DJ Qualls: Yeah, you definitely -- that's one of the fun
things of the -- about the show for me. I mean, I don't get
to play with other actors, but I get to play the isolation.
And he does start to crack after a while. He develops like
multiple personalities that he uses to do different things
on the air during broadcasts. Yeah, you definitely see the
I think, at this point, when the show starts, he's been by
himself for, I think he's been isolated for a year, because
they're two years into the zombie apocalypse. And he hasn't
seen another human being for a year. The dog's the first
thing that he sees. And that's why he's so -- that's why he
tries so hard to save him in episode two. But yes, you
definitely see that, the effects that it takes.
And also, I mean, one of the saddest moments to shoot for
me, and when I watched it, it really drove it home, because
I didn't see the actress playing Daisy but when he's playing
that video chat with his girlfriend and he realized that
she's probably dead and this is a recording that he talks
to. We see a lot of that as -- (when we see more of that) as
the season goes on.
Kyle Wilson: Yeah, absolutely. That was -- that was a nice
moment, but I will say that the show definitely -- it puts a
little bit more of the fun back into the zombie films or and
DJ Qualls: It should be fun.
Kyle Wilson: Absolutely.
DJ Qualls: That's exactly what we're trying to do. This is a
genre that's (arrived) with humor. It should be. I mean, but
we also play -- I mean, we also play our dramatic moments
honestly. Some pretty heavy stuff happens mid-season in the
next three or four episodes that really, really affects not
only the group of survivors but also Citizen Z in a really,
fundamentally, sort of detrimental way. And he has to deal
with that and he doesn't have the -- there's no one around
for him to hug. There's no one around to really comfort him.
So, you see him suffer that by himself. And it was -- it --
when -- I will -- I take my hat off to the writers, too, on
this show. They do a really good job of balancing the, you
know, the fun and the drama in this show a lot.
And also, as opposed to shows like, you know, we -- the
inevitable comparisons against Walking Dead are happening.
And we're not that show. We don't strive to be that show. We
are a fast-moving, popcorn show. And it's really fun to be
on one of those.
Kyle Wilson: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's what set it
apart for me but hey, I love your work, appreciate it and
good luck, with the rest of the season. Can't wait to see
where it goes.
DJ Qualls: Thanks, man, I appreciate it.
Operator: The next question is from Mary Powers with TV
Mary Powers: Hello, or good afternoon.
DJ Qualls: Hey, Mary.
Mary Powers: Hey.
DJ Qualls: Where you from?
Mary Powers: Kentucky.
DJ Qualls: I love it. I'm from Tennessee. I'll be talking
just like you by the time I'm off this call.
Mary Powers: Great. That's awesome. OK. I have a question
about those little spiels that you read off at the end of
each episode while you're on the air. And they're so funny
and I love them. Are all of those scripted or is that part
of your improve? Or, how is that done? Because you go so
DJ Qualls: That is a ...
Mary Powers: Yeah.
DJ Qualls: That's a very good question. It's a -- it's a mix
of both. Because I have so much dialogue to memorize by
myself, I mean, a lot of times, on an average shooting day
on a TV show is about 11, 12 pages and that's split between
multiple actors. I shoot about 30 pages a day by myself
because I block shoot.
And I'll do maybe an episode in a day. So I'm shooting a lot
of dialogue. So, it would be impossible for me to memorize
it word-for-word. My brain sort of blanks about 14 pages
into it. I can't remember anything. So, they've given me
some license to really make it my own and find different
voices to say things in and different cadences of speech and
different accents. And it's -- and that's also playing some
of that isolation madness that Citizen Z has. So, yeah, it
-- to answer your question, it is -- it's a good mixture of
them, the writers and myself just sort of coming up with
stuff. I mean, I have to hit basic plot points.
Mary Powers: Right.
DJ Qualls: But how I say it is left up to me.
Mary Powers: Okay. Great. I'll get back in line and thank
DJ Qualls: All right (gentlemen), my pleasure.
Operator: The next question is from Jamie Ruby with SciFi
Jamie Ruby: Hi. Thanks so much for taking the call today.
I'm really loving the show so far.
DJ Qualls: Oh, my pleasure. Oh, and by the way, everybody,
I'm sorry that I wasn't here last Wednesday. I was working
and I couldn't get off the shoot to talk to you guys.
Jamie Ruby: Well, we're talking to you now. We're fine. And
I apologize for...
DJ Qualls: Perfect.
Jamie Ruby: And I apologize if my question's been asked. I
had some phone problems but you were just saying how you
kind of hit certain plot points as you go. Is there
anything, though, like a specific thing that you can think
of that may be added that you liked? Or, was that part of
DJ Qualls: In Episode Five, I think, it's called Home, Sweet
Zombie. We have a weather storm that moves in and I --
that's when I first started exploring the different
characters that Citizen Z's going to play as opposed -- I
mean, the innate two characters are Simon, who's -- Simon
Cruller (ph), who is the guy behind Citizen Z and sort of
the Wolfman Jack character we explored a little bit. Which
comes out of just frustration and he's trying to pump up
everybody to go out and kick some zombie ass and find a way,
you know, to cure this thing.
But, in Episode Five, you really start to see the character
explore sort of different ways of saying things, different
ways of talking and also, his love for Address (ph) starts
Jamie Ruby: Well, very cool. So, how did you come into the
part in the very beginning?
DJ Qualls: That's a good question. I was on my back porch
and I'd just gotten a call that my show, Legit, on FX was
cancelled. And I was pretty broken hearted about it and I
was outside just sort of thinking and then, the phone rang.
And my manager called and said that I'd gotten offered this
thing on SyFy and my initial, honest reaction was, no, I'm
not doing it. just because I didn't -- I was -- you know, I
was in that sort of thing where I just -- I didn't want to
get emotionally attached to anything else so quickly.
Jamie Ruby: Right.
DJ Qualls: And also, it just felt like I was cheating on my
old cast and crew because we get very -- television actors
more so than film actors. Films have a beginning, a middle
and an end. It's going to take, you know, one-to-three
months of your life to shoot. And you may not see these
people again but television is open ended. And you let your
guard down in a way that you don't in film. You become
really close with y, your fellow crew, for example. And you
know, I was mourning the loss of that.
And then, a couple days later, I read the script and talked
to Carl Schaffer (ph), our show runner and co-creator just
about the creator and what they were seeing and what the
demands would be of my time and all that stuff. And you
know, and my heart started to open up to it and then I read
the episode again. I was like this is really good writing.
And it's a -- it's a -- you know, it comes with its own set
of challenges, the fact that I'm totally isolated. And I
don't get to work with other actors. So, I rely solely on
And usually, when I have a reaction that I don't want to do
something, I try to question why and I think the reason why
was it's hard. This is a really hard thing I'm doing. And I
needed to see if I could do it. And I'm glad for that reason
alone that I took it. But also, I've fallen in love with our
new crew. We -- they're -- they bust their ass for us. And I
couldn't love them more.
Jamie Ruby: Great. Well, I'm really enjoying it so far so,
DJ Qualls: Thank you.
Operator: Next question is from Jeff Grant with Geek Smash.
Jeff Grant: Hey, DJ, how are you doing?
DJ Qualls: Hey, Jeff, what's up?
Jeff Grant: Hey, one of my questions has already been asked.
I've been waiting a little while. Well, I just wanted to say
The Asylum, is who's producing ZNation, I'm a fan. I love
their movies and stuff. Were you a fan going into ZNation?
DJ Qualls: To be honest, I haven't seen any of their movies.
The first time I was really aware of them, obviously, was
(Rick Shardanado) stuff. but I was -- I was working most of
that time and I was in and out of the country a lot. so, I
didn't really, I still haven't seen them. I understood the
sort of social media phenomenon it's taken on...
Jeff Grant: Yeah.
DJ Qualls: ...that occurred from it. But I've met -- I've
met the two guys that run it. I met a lot of the staff at
The Asylum. It seems -- they all seem crazy happy to be
Jeff Grant: Yeah.
DJ Qualls: ...that casting from your production company,
when everybody's happy to go to work every day, it trickles
down to the production itself and to the actors and
everybody who works under them. So far, I will say they've
been pretty great. Our season ends in a bit of a cliff
hanger so you don't know -- really know any of our fates.
So, maybe my attitude toward him will be determined by the
-- whether I live or die. So far, so good. They seem to be
really great, creative, fun people.
Jeff Grant: Awesome. Thank you so much.
DJ Qualls: Thanks, brother.
Operator: The next question is from Benhameen with
Benhameen: Hey, DJ, how you doing, man? This is DJ Benhameen
DJ Qualls: Hey, how are you?
Benhameen: Great, man. My question is, would from higher
three characters from Kyle Edwards from "Road Trip", Shelby
from "Hustle & Flow" or Citizen Z, who would be the most
likely to survive the zombie apocalypse?
DJ Qualls: Oh, that's a good -- that's really a good
question. It'd probably be Shelby from "Hustle and Flow".
Benhameen: Thank you.
DJ Qualls: Yeah. So, have you been to Memphis?
DJ Qualls: You've got to be buff to survive there, man. It
is no joke. You just pull into the wrong driveway, you'll be
met with gunfire. I'm not even kidding.
Benhameen: So, apparently...
DJ Qualls: Yeah, Shelby definitely would survive the zombie
apocalypse. Citizen Z, you know, get back to me next -- ask
me this same question when we do this again next year after
DJ Qualls: He's acquiring a lot of skills. I mean, you have
-- you have to think -- I'm not in the military. I'm at a
military outpost. I'm at the NSA outpost. But, I mean, he's
a computer hacker. He's a computer guy. All of his life
experience, basically, you know, takes place in front of a
monitor. And you know, he reminds me of my own -- myself. I
spent my whole life on it -- on a set my whole adult life. I
don't know how to do anything.
I went to buy a curtain rod two years ago from Ikea and
stayed there three hours and left with -- and left empty
handed. I can't do anything practical. I have no practical
skills. Like last -- just last night, somebody had to help
me use the valet ticket machine to get out of Hollywood and
Highland. I went to a premier last night there and I could
not figure out how to work the ticket machine. So, I -- out
of -- out of the four of us , out of those three characters
and me, I probably would die first.
Benhameen: All right. Well, thank you, man. I'm really
enjoying the show so far. So, thank you very much for doing
the call and everything.
DJ Qualls: Thanks, man.
Benhameen: All right.
Operator: The next question is from (Guy Hutchinson) with
(Agent of Geeks).
Guy Hutchinson: Hello, DJ. I'm curious about the aspect of
acting in one place -- how is that different from if you're
all over the place acting in multiple locations? Is it a lot
harder? Or, is it easier?
DJ Qualls: It is so much harder to do what I do on the show
being isolated. I don't really get the benefit of someone
else's performance. I'm a big believer in film and
television as an ensemble experience. You know, from the --
from the writers, the directors to the other actors, it
really is -- it's about everybody. And I don't really get
anybody and I don't get to see the other side of the
conversations that I have with the survivors.
So, and a lot of times, I work right before them, so they do
get to see what I have done or at least, they get to hear
it. So, they get to respond to something. It's a challenging
thing. And you know, I have a hard time watching my own work
but I have -- I've watched, you know, every airing of the
show and I'm seeing it with the audience. I haven't seen
anything that hasn't aired yet. And I mean, I have to -- I'm
not -- I'll be honest, I'm proud of myself. I'm proud of
(him) holding it together and I'm able to do this with no --
really, I'm acting, basically, in a bubble.
And I'm lucky that we have John Hyams is the guy who -- he
directed the pilot and a couple other episodes this season.
He's also a producer on the show. But he's my -- he's the
director who directs every one of my segments in each of the
episodes. And then, he gives the footage over to the
director and they -- he does what he wants with it.
But, I have a really good crew behind me of producers and
directors who help me. And you know, they're my -- they help
me sort of understand the intent of lines. They help -- they
see bigger -- big picture, I don't. And they help me get
through it and I really appreciate that.
Guy Hutchinson: Are the screen images there for you when
you're working? Or is that all put in later?
DJ Qualls: Yeah, they're all put in later. I don't see
anything. I have to imagine what I -- and what we do before
I shoot every scene, we all work out with the -- I work out
with the director of photography, Alex Yellen (ph). I work
out where I'll be looking. And I get to choose what monitor
I see different things on and where things happen in that
room. And then, Alex lights accordingly and then, we will
blue that screen out and -- because we use blue screen, not
green screen. I think most people do now, actually, I don't
know why. But, so we'll blue that one out so it can be CGI'd
later and they can add the visual effects they need just so
I can see what I'm seeing.
Guy Hutchinson: All right. Thank you very much. I'll get
back in line.
DJ Qualls: (on) brother, thanks.
Operator: We have time for one more question. The last
question is from Tony Tellado with Sci-Fi Talk.
Tony Tellado: Hey, hello again, DJ.
DJ Qualls: Hello.
Tony Tellado: I just wanted to ask you about him mentally.
Do you think it's one of these things that we never get to
the apocalypse. He's a guy who's worked on computers all his
life. He kind of got what he really liked, you know, to do
and now can do it all the time. But then again, that's the
problem. He can do it all the time and there's nothing else.
Do you think that he kind of got what he wished for but he
kind of wished now that he didn't get that kind of thing?
DJ Qualls: That is so smart. Thank you for asking that,
which I've actually -- I've said this to the director. This
is a prime example of be careful what you wish for.
Tony Tellado: Yeah.
DJ Qualls: This -- he's gotten exactly -- I mean, he's the
guy who could -- he's helping save the world. And just -- I
mean, just physically being this guy, I know what it's like
to -- you're marginalized. You grow up and you sort of look
like me. You have interests that aren't sort of mainstream
and that you know, people marginalize you. They don't like
take you seriously. And this is a guy who's really good at
this one thing and this is a time in his -- in his life that
it's not only -- it's not only his biggest moment; it's the
world's only hope.
And we use -- we see that as the season goes on that the
isolation and loneliness that that brings. And just to sort
of equate that to my own life, like I got successful really
fast. I did a -- I went to a one-line audition for my first
movie. And wound up like eight months later, I was on "The
Tonight Show". And it was so fast and I got exactly what I
asked for, what I'd always wished for, which was to be a
But, I was incredibly lonely. I'd done like 10 films without
a break. And then, somewhere around 2004, I woke up one day
and I was like, I can't go -- I can't go to the grocery
store by myself and feel, you know, and feel like safe.
Tony Tellado: Yeah.
DJ Qualls: And I was in Vegas once and these frat dudes were
hugging me. You know, I -- turned out security guard looked
dicky when I first started because you're embarrassed about
all these things that actually, you need to live. And in
Vegas, I do need security and these guys started hugging me
and sort of passing me around. And later that night I went
to my room and started getting sick to my stomach and they
had cracked my collar bone.
Tony Tellado: Oh, wow.
DJ Qualls: So, but it's -- but then, I look at these
moments. I'm like well, you got exactly what you wished for.
You didn't know what that entailed. You asked for this. And
all the good stuff and all the bad stuff that accompanies
that, is part of it. it's part of the wish even though you
Tony Tellado: Yeah, yeah. Cool. Well, great. Well, loving
the show and I'm having a fun time watching it, that's for
DJ Qualls: Thanks, man.
Well, we're super stoked to the response. I've been
interacting on twitter for every episode and I'll continue
to do that. I don't have an east coast feed so I just
basically work either from memory or what people are telling
me is happening. But I haven't -- I've never had this kind
of response from a project before.
I mean, even -- I even -- I get more interactions from this
than I do Supernatural, which is pretty crazy because that
fan base is rabid. (Cold Frame) is so much different than a
guy who's just known as an actor. (Cold Frame) when people
identify you with one or two characters is a whole different
animal. People call you -- they call me Garth from
Supernatural or Citizen Z in public when they see me. And
it's pretty great that -- to be loved like that.
Tony Tellado: Oh, sure. Sure. Well, it's great to talk to
you, man and looking forward to seeing what you guys do
Female: All right, thank you.
DJ Qualls: Thanks, man. Keep watching.
Female: Thank you so much, everyone. It looks like we are
out of time for the call. But DJ, thank you for taking the
time today. We really appreciate it.
DJ Qualls: Oh, no, it's been my pleasure. Thank you so much,
guys, I really appreciate your time.
Maureen Granados: All right. Thanks so much, everyone.
Again, ZNation airs this Friday at 10:00 on SyFy. Thanks so
much and have a great week.
DJ Qualls: Bye.
Maureen Granados: Bye.
Operator: This concludes today's conference call. You may
Back to the Main Articles
Back to the Main Primetime TV Page
We need more episode guide recap writers, article
writers, MS FrontPage and Web Expression users, graphics designers, and more, so
please email us
if you can help out! More volunteers always
Page updated 8/31/15