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Lavon Youins Interview
The moment that I realized that I was in the series was the moment that the actors walked on set


- When was the time you know you want to be an actor?

I have a speech impediment; an anxiety-based stutter. When you have any deficiency, you find ways to compensate, however unconventional they are. Naturally, I developed into a more visual storyteller; I would pantomime a lot of my explanations as I was speaking to ease my dialogue. However, I also grew up in a pretty abusive household, and I was always watching my family to gauge their nonverbal affects as to avoid being beat, and learned to mimic those little nuances to intimidate my bullies. I was a real handful to my teachers, and I don’t think they understood the why of me. They all figured that I was “too much” and left it so.

When I was in the fifth grade, my elementary school was producing their first ever play, “Annie,” directed by our music teacher. After music class, she would ask every class if anyone wanted to audition for a role. Along with two other classmates, I readily elected to audition for the villain, Rooster. I genuinely don’t think that my music teacher expected much because of my speech impediment, but I had watched the other two boys audition, and I took mental notes of how I could distinguish myself from their auditions; don’t be stiff, use the entire stage, etc.

To preface, I don’t stutter if I’m reading out loud or if I’m singing, so when I was handed my script, I got on stage and - kinda killed it. I sat down and everyone swarmed me, asking me to “do it again,” etc. I automatically became the school “actor;” exclusive standing ovations, and I was jaunted into the popular group for something that I actually found pretty easy. I enjoyed these fringe benefits so much that I pursued any and all performance opportunities ever since. Coupled with an appreciation of good dramatic moments in television series and films to where I would memorize the performer’s mastery of translating universal truths, I naturally honed my skills as an actor pursuant of a career in the industry because, again, you find ways to compensate for your deficiencies.


- How did you get cast for the series Fear The Walking Dead?

It was during Halloween of 2022, and I was being very irrationally salty towards everyone who was talking about their plans for Halloween costumes that season. I was already signed with the extras casting agency at the time, and I had participated as a background extra for a good number of their previous productions. I had seen roles for Walkers offered. My immediate consistent thought was that this would be the perfect idea to rub in everyone else’s face that, for Halloween, I was an OFFICIAL THE WALKING DEAD WALKER. I was employed at a warehouse with terrible, intellectually-lazy individuals at the time and had requested two days off to participate. I thought that the opportunity would be so golden and that my employer would support me following “my dreams.”

Of course, my employer denied it. I was angry, but not entitled. I understood. It was in early October, and I was no longer employed at the warehouse two weeks afterward, so I resubmitted the Walker audition tape and my measurements that I had submitted the first time, and booked multiple days as a Walker.


- How was the moment you realize that you in the show?

The moment that I realized that I was in the series was the moment that the actors walked on set. The shock literally feels like air compressing and collapsing your lungs for a fraction of a second, and then you have to consciously tell yourself, “You are here to do a job. You are at work,” and you kind of square your shoulders, set your jaw, and inhale a quick huff and get your bearings back.


- Which role did you play?

Again, I was initially expecting to only spend a day or two on set as a Walker. Six months later and I’m among the performers who are there on the last day of filming, this experience got way out of hand and I absolutely overshot my expectations towards my commitment in this production. I had started as a Walker, multiple types: Swamp Walker, Metal Head Walker, OG Walker, etc. A few months later, I submitted and booked a role for a Hero Walker; a military personnel-turned-Walker. Whenever you receive a featured role like that, obviously, you cannot book another featured role again. I was fine with that. For the days leading up to my wardrobe fitting, my nose was draining an inhuman amount of snot. I have horrible allergies, anyway, and we were outside contending with the elements so I didn’t think anything of it. I had booked a featured role for an upcoming Apple+ miniseries during my time on FtWD, and four days after I was on set of FtWD, I had taken the mandatory preliminary COVID test when I arrived at the other production and had to quarantine for ten days - which overlapped the wardrobe fitting for the Hero Walker role. Come to find out, I had caught COVID on set of FtWD.

It was spreading around and production had to be halted for two weeks. Regardless, the Hero Walker role had to go to somebody else. I was so upset, but another featured role appeared. Production was looking for “blue collar” types. I am half-Black/Korean, so I understand that I hardly fit into any type of role preference casting is looking for, so I hardly ever pay attention to them and submit away. Surprisingly, I booked the role! I was booked for a multi-week role as a Gearhead, Luciana’s posse that creates and refines all of the fuel throughout The Walking Dead universe. I had to learn how to hold a large firearm, and worked directly alongside the main cast.


- Working with the Main Cast will be a dream of so many fans. How was your time with the Main Cast?

I have so many stories. I was on hugging terms with nearly all of them even before I was a Gearhead; it was while I was still a Walker. I was so familial with the main cast that my fellow Walkers would stop in shock when me and the main cast would walk by each other, get excited, hug, etc. Colman and I were especially bonded; I’m a big fan of stageplays and I own the entire series of August Wilson’s Century Cycle. I brought my copy of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” the third play in the series, on set one day because Colman was cast in the Netflix adaption (which was Chadwick Boseman’s last live role). We were already so close, and I asked him to sign my copy as a sort of “blessing” between two gay Black men; a spiritual investment towards my endeavors in the industry. I can still recall the warmth of his hug in that moment. The first time I met Ruben Blades, I still chuckle about it. It was my first night as a Gearhead, and he walked up and shook my hand, thanking me profusely for coming. I loved how friendly he was and I leaned over to a PA and asked, “Hey, who is that? Is that set crew? He’s really nice.” And the PA choked on air for a moment and asked, “You don’t know who Ruben Blades is!?” I had to Google him and the significance of this humble, friendly, funny man’s life hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s still so funny; I still discover a million and one incredible accomplishments that Ruben can claim and I still can’t help but simply know him as “Ruben.” I have a reputation of being the idle eater on set. If I’m not conversing or on camera, I’m at craft services just snacking. Kim and I bonded after she helped me find Reese’s at crafty one day. After that, just like everyone else, both of us always lit up whenever we saw each other.


- With a role in TWD comes a Big Fan Community, what are your first The Walking Dead fan experiences?

Beyond receiving a friend request on Facebook from a fan every once in a while, none. It’s not an active effort, but I’ve never seen a single episode of The Walking Dead, and I’ve only watched the last two episodes of Fear the Walking Dead. Scratch that, I’ve watched the first two seasons when they first came out and immediately forgot about everything that happened. So I simply don’t run in the circles where fans would approach me.


- Looking back working on Fear The Walking Dead....?

It’s like bootcamp. You’re spending months with the same people, and battling inclimate Georgia weather for an average of fourteen hours a day. The bonds you create on set are unshakable. The Gearheads still have a groupchat and we speak to each other and see each other regularly, and the wider Walker community is just as bonded. I don’t know if we all lucked out and found ourselves in the company of wonderful people, or if we had no choice but to fall in love with each other to survive so many days and nights in the frigid cold or sweltering heat. I don’t take anything from my experience as significant as the network of beautiful people that I now have in my life.


- I see many photo´s with you on "Dickies Farm". What was that?

I don’t recall… As this was a series and this was, more or less, my fulltime job for half a year, you can imagine that I found myself on multiple sets. I genuinely don’t remember Dickie’s Farm but Georgia weather is bipolar, so I was probably cold, hot, and cold, with robo-mosquitoes with proboscis’ sharp enough to bite my arms through my Walker gloves. Welcome to Georgia.


- What will we see next from you? Any projects/movies/series?

So many… Too many to readily remember. I’m honored to say that I am a featured extra in an upcoming August Wilson adaption, though! “The Piano Lesson,” which will also be premiering on Netflix in the future. This was immediately after I wrapped as another featured extra in a film that’s a part of the biggest comic book film franchise (big accomplishment). A Rebel Wilson production, a vampire flick; Clint Eastwood offered me my first speaking role in his final film, a Laverne Cox miniseries… I’m sure that I’m forgetting a couple more. I’m more so focusing on transitioning back to stage acting, and at the time of writing this, I have just finished performing as co-lead for a staged reading of David Feldshuh’s “Miss Evers’ Boys” two days ago, and just had my final curtain call for his set production co-lead role of James Baldwin’s “The Amen Corner” as of a few hours ago. Papa is tired, but - happy.


- Is there any dream role or actor/actress you would loved to work in the future?

Absolutely. Being Black, gay, and “disabled,” there are few spaces, if any, where I am allowed to move uninterrupted in the world. I would love to embody a character like a mafia boss, or a god/spirit; any character that is allowed to inform their decisions exclusively by how they are feeling. I would love to explore how a minority body can engage that freedom in a world traumatized by white supremacy. It’d also be such an honor to be cast as one-half of a gay Black love story unmarred by the barriers of homophobia. I can’t recall any gay Black love stories; we’re always the love interest of white gay protagonists (because filmmakers don’t know how to develop us as individuals with internal lives). I would love to have the opportunity to show gay Black men that love doesn’t have to equate struggle; that we deserve every beam of light filtering through the leaves on a dawning morning. Exclusively.


- Is there anything else you would like to let TWD Fans and your fans know?

What with the proliferation of social media production, I’m noticing the extinction of the “Hollywood star” alongside the rest of you. It’s an exciting opportunity for actors to explore the roles that they want to embody without the usual concerns of it being a “career ruiner.” I just ask that you allow these artists the space to create art on their own terms, and explore the legacies that they want to leave behind. It’s an exciting time for everybody who found art in beautifully translating what another has created unto a universal audience. Also, I think that it is so beautiful that you all are so passionate about something that has resonated with you, and that you all are unabashed in how much you love these stories. I am so happy for you all; it truly is a rare, special phenomenon that you all have kept this franchise, kept this incredible worldbuilding, alive and fresh.


- Thank you being my guest Lavon Youins and best wishes for the future. I hope to see you one day in Germany.

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