The horror-comedy proves that emotions can be so closely linked that only a slight change in moment, setting, or behavior, can turn a terrifying concept into a hilarious one. The Ryan Nagata film, Amigo Undead, takes a terrifying concept of ancient curses and undead monsters, and adds the aloof meta-humor our generation comes to expect. I got to chat with stars Steve Agee and Randall Park about the film, their inspirations, and both horror and comedy in general.
THE NERDIST: Alright, guys, are we all ready to go?
STEVE AGEE: I just want everyone to know I am really loopy right now, because I just walked out of acupuncture a few minutes ago. So, I’m a little spacey, but in a good.
RANDALL PARK: And I just walked out of a dentist appoint, so half of my face is numb.
SA: Ah, so your face is numb and my back is numb. So, we’re all good.
N: Well, I’ll try to sit cross-legged and let my feet go numb so we can all be below 100%. Thanks for talking to us, guys, especially with parts of you currently inoperative.
SA: You’re welcome. [Laughs]
N: Alright, we have a few run-of-the-mill questions to get through before I dig into your shady pasts. First off, how did each of you get involved with Amigo Undead?
RP: I just got a call from Ryan Nagata, the director, who I knew from doing Channel 101 stuff. Which, is how I met Steve, too, and just about everyone else involved in the movie. So, Ryan talked to me and asked if I wanted to do this movie with Steve. So I said, “With Steve? No way.”
SA: [Laughs] Then they offered you $100 and you were like, “okay.”
RP: [Laughs] They also described what the craft services would be, and I said, “sure,” but it wasn’t even that good. [Laughs] No, but they told me about it, I read the script, thought it was really funny, and I really wanted to work with Steve because I am a big fan of his. So, we just went into the mountains for a couple of weeks and did it.
SA: Yeah, I have pretty much the same story for getting involved. I knew Ryan and George [Edelman] from Channel 101 and they just asked me. I read it, thought it was funny and said yes, but only if we can shoot the first week during the day when it’s 110 degrees out, and the second week all at night when it’s 30. They assured me they could make that happen, and they did. It was great. [Laughs]
N: So with the added background of Channel 101, you guys at least had someone experience with each other. Did you try to stick to Ryan’s script most of the time or did you get a chance to improv a bit?
SA: I feel like we stuck pretty close to the script. We didn’t really improvise a lot. We didn’t really have time to be doing a couple takes and then improvise. We were moving through a lot of set-ups in a day.
RP: Yeah, for the most part. I mean, maybe a few lines here or there were improv but it really was just a matter of time. We had a lot to shoot in very little time so we, for the most part, stuck to the script. I mean, we literally shot the movie in like two weeks. One week of days and one week of nights, like Steve had said before.
N: What would each of you say was the scariest experience you had filming any movie or TV show you have been in?
RP: Oh, yeah, that’s easy. While doing The Interview there’s a scene where I am hanging out of the side of a helicopter while it’s in mid-air, and these tanks on the ground are shooting stuff at the helicopter. I actually did that. I was in that helicopter in the air, just hanging out of the door, and only held there by a metal clasp. It was apparently very strong, but it still scared the crap out of me.
SA: Then you have the added threat of the North Korean government wanting to assassinate you. [Laughs]
RP: [Laughs] Yeah, there was that too. I had forgotten about that. That might have been scarier, actually. On set, though, it was the helicopter.
SA: Well I have nothing like that, but when we were filming the last season of The Sarah Silverman Program there was an episode where bad things happened to me, and primarily to my dick, all in a row. I get hit by lightning while I’m taking a piss, then I step on a rake and get hit in the crotch, hit by a golf ball, all that. The scene is supposed to end with a giant dog running out of the forest and just biting me in the dick. So a week before, they wanted to see if they could hire a wolf to do it, but the producers and the animal trainer knew that wouldn’t end well. So they got this giant all-black german shepherd named Cannibal, and they pad my crotch up really well. The trainer walks over with a chew toy, which the dog immediately locks onto it and starts drooling. They hold it so the dog can see it, and then put it in my pants. Now the dog is just staring at my crotch. So they wanted the dog to latch on and shake his head back and forth for like twenty seconds, but every time we would film the dog would rip off my pants in like three. We only had seven pair of the same pants, so we had seven tries. That had to be the scariest thing.
N: Did either of you have a friend growing up, or even in adulthood, that you would equate the gun-crazy character Wayne in the film?
SA: Well, when I was a teenager I got sent to military school so I was in a school that was about 50% Wayne…that’s it. [Laughs] Just a bunch of gun-toting psychopaths. So, yeah, I’ve experienced my fair share of Wayne.
RP: Yeah, I had a Wayne growing up. This kid [NAME REDACTED], who had a lot of BB guns and pellet guns. He had an actual leather holster that he would keep a very real-looking pellet gun in. He’d just go around with this thing on him and shoot out car windows. He got arrested a few times. I don’t know where he is now. [Laughs]
SA: Actually, I feel like our director, Ryan Nagata, is sort of our Wayne because he has a huge collection of fake guns that he loves to show off. He’s had some sent in from overseas, or he will make some, and so they don’t have that orange cap on the barrel that we have to have in America. He used them in the film, the collection of guns that Schumer, David Clennon, shows us is Ryan’s collection.
N: The two brothers that you play in the movie have a moment of bonding by reminiscing over pranks they played as children. Were either of you real big pranksters when you were younger?
SA: Oh my god, yeah. I was a horrible kid. [Laughs] One time in third grade, we broke for recess and at the school they would rotate what teachers would monitor the playground. So, our teacher, Mr. Nelson had to monitor recess and a few of us stayed in the classroom without him knowing. A girl in our class had a tape recorder she brought to school, and so I recorded a message pretending to be Mr. Nelson’s conscience and saying in this ghostly voice, “Mr. Nelson, this is your conscience. You are being too mean to the children. You’re a horrible teacher.” By the way, apparently Mr. Nelson’s conscience refers to him as Mr. Nelson. [Laughs] We fast-forwarded the tape like fifteen minutes and recorded this message, than rewound it. So, when the bell rang for class to start we put the tape recorder in the drawer of his desk and pressed play. Fifteen minutes into class and you hear a muffled voice in his desk “Mr. Nelson, this is your conscience…” and he lost his shit. He started screaming and cursing at us, “Who the f*** did this?!” He jumped up on his desk and started throwing shit at us. Someone went and got the principal, and the principal came and took Mr. Nelson out of the room. Mr. Nelson never came back after that. [Laughs]
RP: Oh my God. [Laughs] That dude probably got committed.
SA: Oh, yeah he just snapped. [Laughs] I’m laughing now but I felt horrible about it.
RP: I was never really much of a prankster, I was much more like my character in the movie. I was pretty straight-laced growing up. I remember once in middle school I told my friends I was going to put dog shit in my teacher’s desk, and I had a baggie of dog shit I brought to school. I showed it to my friends, and while in class I was planning to put it in my teacher’s desk, but I decided that was just too mean and I never actually did it. So, at least I didn’t ruin a teacher’s life. [Laugh]
SA: Well, karma got back at me. I have vertigo now, and horrible back problems. It worked out. [Laughs]
N: With Amigo Undead being a horror-comedy I will ask you each: What is your favorite horror film, your favorite comedy film, and your favorite horror-comedy film?
SA: I would say my favorite horror is pretty evenly divided between The Thing and The Shining. I don’t think I could decide between those two. I’m a huge fan of 80s horror with the practical effects even if they look dated. Even some of the psychological stuff I love, like Scanners. Favorite comedy, geez, depends on what day you ask me really. It might be Sixteen Candles, or Rushmore. Young Frankenstein. I’d say those are my top three. Favorite horror-comedy might have to be James Gunn’s Slither.
N: All respectable answer. Now live up to that, Randall.
RP: [Laughs] I’m going to stick with The Shining for horror, I don’t really watch much. I don’t like horror, I get scared easily, but I did make the mistake of seeing The Shining when I was little. That’s a film I revisit a lot, actually. For comedy I’m the same as Steve, it is so hard for me to say. I mean I love Anchorman, and I just saw The Apartment for the first time, and I can’t believe I waited that long to see it. As far as horror-comedy, Shaun Of The Dead is really the only one I think I’ve seen, but it was a good one.
SA: Also, on the subject of practical effects, Ryan did a lot of that for Amigo Undead as well. It’s amazing because Ryan is really great with doing digital effects but he loves the genre so much, and loves to make things with his own hands, that he wanted to stick to practical.
RP: Yeah, there were only a few things they did in post, but most of it was practical.
N: It is always nice to see a horror-comedy stick to the classic gag of covering someone in a geyser of blood for an extended period of time.
SA: [Laughs] I have to tell you, after we shot that I was covered head-to-toe in this blood and whatever else was mixed in, and our make-up girl wound up having to leave early that night. So, I had no one to help me get it off when we finished shooting at like 4am. I couldn’t change into my other clothes because I would just ruin them, and we didn’t have trailers or anything. I had a hotel in the area I was staying at and I headed back there at like five in the morning and walking through the lobby covered in blood. There’s a couple checking in at 5am, for some reason, and the guy behind the counter and me. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t wave, I just walked through the elevator covered in blood and went up to my room. I sat in my room just waiting for the cops to knock on the door, but nothing happened after that. Must have been like “Well, it’s Lancaster. That happens every day.”
N: Finally, guys, what do you have going on right now we should be on the look out for?
SA: I’m on a hiatus right now, doing a lot of stand up, but Comic-Con weekend in San Diego on the Saturday, July 11th, I’ll be headlining two shows at the American Comedy Club in downtown San Diego. So, anyone who is down there for Comic Con can come see me. Pretty much just doing a lot of stand up this summer, otherwise.
RP: I’m just gearing up for filming another season of Fresh Off The Boat in August. So I’m just relaxing before that. I think the Netflix Wet Hot American Summer series is going to come out soon, so look out for that. I’m in like maybe four of the episodes, but I’m excited about that one. It was amazing to be a part of. That’s about it, though.
Amigo Undead is available now to rent or own on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Digital, and VOD.