Sunday, January 4, 2015

Part One of Steampunk Granny's interview with Patrick Devaney of Zombie Hunters: City of the Dead

Steampunk Granny has a guardian angel named Joe Parascand who tells me about some very talented people in Independent Films. Through these many interviews, I’ve made a lot of new friends, but it seemed that with the different interviews that I’d done about Independent Films, there was one name that kept coming up, Patrick Devaney. It was time for me to meet the creator of the first zombie show on television.

Marie Gilbert: “Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me, Patrick. Why don’t we start off with you telling us a little bit about yourself, your acting, directing and am I right, producing?”

Patrick Devaney: “Yeah, I actually started out that way. I always wanted to do film work in general my whole life, but I kind of put that on pause because I was in the music industry for a while, then I was doing finance for a while. But at one of the places I worked at doing finance, we rented space out to the various Law and Order shows. And, I was selling them locations and at one point I was doing four different Law and Order’s several times a year, so they were a regular staple and I would watch them film and I watched this for years. The more I watched it the more I thought; you know I think we have enough people that we could do this.

We always wanted to see a zombie based T.V. series and there never was one, so we could wait the rest of our lives or we could make our own. I got a number of people together that had gone to film school and I asked them their advice and then got some other people together and asked if they would want to be in it and we started Zombie Hunters: City of the Dead. We came up with the idea in 2005 and it first aired in December of 2007, but the only outlet that we had was public access T.V. I had no contacts other than renting out space for L&O, so the only place we could get access was on public T.V. Since we started with one station in Queens, we’ve been on seventy-five stations across the nation since.”


Marie Gilbert: “Wow, so Zombie Hunters: City of the Dead came out before The Walking Dead?”

Patrick Devaney: “Oh yes, we came out several years before The Walking Dead, actually. We were the very first broadcast zombie-based T.V. series in history. We were the very first ones ever on the air, the debut was in December 2007 with the pilot episode and it has been continuously on the air ever since in one way or another. It started out on Queens Public Access and it’s still running on Queens Public Access to this day.”

Marie Gilbert: “I did get to see the first episode of season one, so with Zombie Hunters are you using the same cast every season?”

Patrick Devaney: “We’ve made it pretty much consistent, I’ve been very lucky in that. If someone doesn’t die, they pretty much come back. We’re actually wrapping up the series this year. We’re filming the very last episode in 2015 and that’s going to wrap up the entire series and some of the people that were from the very first show and continuously with the show will be there at the very end and, we are even bringing back some of the zombies that were in the very first pilot episode.

We are bringing them back eight years later. I’ve already spoke to some of them and they were like, just let me know when! It started out just to see if we could do it and to date, we’ve had over four-hundred people work on the show.”

Marie Gilbert: “How many episodes do you have per season for the last eight years? In 2015, it will be eight years.”

Patrick Devaney: “The first season was eight episodes and the second season was going to be another eight, but we cut it down and are wrapping up the show on the twelfth episode. For a while we were averaging two or three episodes a year, and in later years since we had gone onto so many other film projects; to get one out a year has been a miracle. We realized that with so many projects going on right now, we had to shorten the series down and are ending in 2015. Yes, we are going with that, but it has been a continuous storyline and continuous characters and the entire series only takes place over the course of five months.”

Marie Gilbert: “Oh, okay.”

Patrick Devaney: “Yes, so in the storyline, this event happens and no one believes it at first. What we tried to do was show what if George Romero and John Russo’s original idea for Night of the Living Dead actually happened in New York City today. What would it be like? So that has always been the premise of the show. And what we thought was that in a city like New York, no one would believe it at first. If you saw things going on, you would just call the Cops. You wouldn’t think there were zombies. You would just think that they were crazy people or on drugs or whatever and, if the government actively covered it up, we go for almost a month before anyone in authority even admits that this is happening! So, it’s not worldwide and it starts in New Jersey and it spreads out from there,’s a slow progression and most people still don’t buy it until it’s too late and by the time it’s too late; no one is prepared for it. That’s where we are right now and things have gotten horribly worse and no one is prepared except for us and, the end of the world is upon them.”

Marie Gilbert: “That is so interesting especially since it is taking place in the city because normally when you talk about a zombie apocalypse, they always say that the city is the worst place to stay. It’s better to go out to the countryside. But, your guys are staying in the city. How was staying in the city better for the characters?”

Patrick Devaney: “Well, we sat down and talked about this and I think that most people wouldn’t think to leave. I mean, I’ve lived in New York City for forty-six years and I couldn’t think of where else to go. I don’t have a house anywhere else and most of my family is still in the city.

I wouldn’t even know where to go, really. I think a lot of people in New York, most don’t have firearms and most get around by the train so what do you do? Do you rent a car and find a gun and try to go somewhere that you don’t know, or would you figure out maybe I’ll stay put and see what happens.

Unfortunately, we had that really happen when 9/11 occurred and most people did not flee the city. Most people stayed exactly where they were and if they had to get to Queens, they walked over the bridges. What we did was stay in the city not knowing what would happen next and knowing that the city was a target; we all stayed in the city and we all went to work two days later. So, I think that in any kind of emergency, people in a major city, until they see that it’s bad and the food runs out and the water stops and the gas runs out, they are going to stay put. So, our characters pretty much said, we’ve been lifelong New Yorkers and we have access to some guns and we know people where we can get more guns from. We’re going to stay put and that’s what we do until it’s really far too late.”

Marie Gilbert: “In a way, that does make sense. You stay where you’re comfortable and you know the area. Now you play Billy Cassidy in this series. Is he the main protagonist of the story? Is everything centered on Billy?”

Patrick Devaney: “He started out that way, but it’s quickly progressed that the real leader of the group, who has been holding it all together, is Paul Michael Bates, who is played by Christopher J. Murphy. He is also a fan-favorite and people really respond well to him.

Billy is kind of a jerk. He’s moody and he’s not very positive and the character of Bates is like, “Listen things are bad, but we got this by the ass,” to quote Dawn of the Dead, “We got this by the ass and we are fine.” Bates has readily become the fan-favorite, so you see in the series as it goes along that he’s started taking more of a leadership role, also because Billy kind of vanishes for a while and Bates has to deal with everything on his own. Eventually, Billy comes back into the fold and he’s changed. He’s different and when the series wraps up, you’ll see the changes in him. There are a few main characters like John Salazar, played by Rick Martinez, who is always there and he plays the voice of reason. He is the only person with military training. He is the person who holds things together on a much more non-emotional level and on practical level. We see the things that he goes through; he loses his entire family at one point so we see the different ways that the different characters progress and we’ve lost some along the way. Yeah, so anyone who has survived so far will be there at the end.”

     Photo courtesy of photographer John Sheehan                                                              

Marie Gilbert: “Besides working on Zombie Hunters that will end in 2015, do you see this series becoming a movie?”

Patrick Devaney: “It’s funny, people have asked me that before, but we don’t really see it becoming a movie only because we are finishing up the story completely at the end of the season with the last episode and we actually explain everything that goes on. We explain what the zombies are and where they come from and we do a big reveal for this. The fate of the characters may be up in the air and that is kind of left to the viewer, but what really happens is that we do finish the series properly and explain everything. We don’t leave a lot to conjecture, and it’s not going to just end abruptly.

But, like I said there are so many more projects that we are writing and producing and moving on towards; plus, most of my crew is made up of a company called Mass Grave Pictures and they have their own projects going on right now. They finished their first feature film called Blood Slaughter Massacre, and they are currently filming another one called In the Shadow of the Imp. So, it’s very creepy kind of horror stuff and they are all doing their own projects, so everyone is kind of spreading out from there. To keep this series going, I mean we’re all for working together, but there are so many projects to do.”

Okay, my little zombie snacks, we are going to end part one of this interview here and pick up with part two on Monday.

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