Atlanta actor Steve Coulter last year landed a plum job on cable's most popular drama "The Walking Dead" season five as the nice guy architect Reg Monroe in Alexandria.
Unfortunately for Coulter, his role lasted only five episodes. He joined the show with no idea how long he'd last and was naturally disappointed he (SPOILER ALERT!) died in dramatic fashion in the season finale March 29. Drunken Pete came rampaging into a meeting with Michonne's katana sword and accidentally sliced Reg's throat. Blood spurt every where as he gurgled his way through his death scene, his wife Deanna hovering over him, horrified.
Coulter is also a star in the "Insidious" film series. He played psychic Carl in the second film and will return for the third prequel "Insidious 3," out June 5, 2015. I caught up with him at an "Insidious 3" 4D experience to promote the film at the Dogwood Festival Thursday.
He auditioned for "The Walking Dead" for what he thought was a pretty minor role. They gave him an audition script that on the surface seemed to have nothing to do with the show: a cocktail party in New York where his wife was a famous author. Another author comes by and compliments his wife's TED talks.
On the actual "Walking Dead," there is a cocktail party for the newcomers that mirrors his audition scene where he plays the husband of the leader of Alexandria and tries to make Rick feel comfortable. "They are like injured animals in a hospital," he said. "The actors felt weird because they were used to being outside in the woods, not all dressed up eating hor d'oeuvres."
When showrunner Scott Gimple gave Coulter "the call" about his role in the finale last fall, it quickly dawned on him that Reg was going to die. He even mentioned it to Gimple before Gimple had a chance to break the news. Gimple, he said, "apologized 14 times but said it was a really cool death in the final scene of the episode." Gimple was right: it was a dramatic way to die for sure.
"It was fun," Coulter said, despite the fact it was below freezing in November. They had a device pumping fake blood out of his neck. "It felt like gallons going through my fingers!" he said. "It's like being a kid and squashing ketchup packets."
Coulter's character Reg was abnormal in the post-apocalypse age. He seemed relatively untouched by what was going on outside the walls he created. He had no hidden agenda. He was just a nice guy willing to teach Noah about architecture - until Noah died a horrid death.
Until Rick's crew came in, Reg hadn't experienced the type of trauma they had gone through. He didn't have to kill people or walkers. He was about as mild mannered as can be. And ultimately, his death becomes a turning point for his wife and Alexandria leader Deanna. As her husband lay dead, she gave Rick permission to kill Pete.
Coulter thinks if Deanna had been killed instead of him, he would have allowed Pete to survive. He thinks that is Reg's way, however wrong-headed in this day and age.
The actor was impressed with the walls the production company built around an actual Senoia neighborhood. "People really live in some of those houses," he said. "They'll peek outside their curtains to watch. Sometimes, we have to stop a scene because a FedEx truck goes by."
He was also impressed with the cast and crew. He said Andrew Lincoln definitely sets an example on set. "He was one of the first people to welcome me," Coulter said. "He's a genuinely nice person. He didn't run off to his trailer between scenes. He'd hang out."
Coulter has been an actor in town for more than a quarter century, with a lot of theater credits as well as film parts ("Hunger Games," "Flight.") He has also written for Tyler Perry.
Here's my video interview with him:
A Canadian native, he said he came to Atlanta as an adult more by mistake in the late 1980s. "I was visiting a friend auditioning for a play at the Alliance," he said. "He said to crash the audition. I got the role. I never went back to New York!"
Over the years, he did a lot of theater and nabbed a few roles on shows that shot here in the 1990s such as "I'll Fly Away" and "In the Heat of the Night." In the 2000s, he started working for Tyler Perry and wrote for "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" and "Meet the Browns." Then the tax credits got sweetened and more work came his way: "Detroit 1-8-7," "What To Expect When You're Expecting," "The Odd Life of Timothy Green," "Flight," "Anchorman 2," "Fast and Furious 7."
"I've been fortunate to do a lot of TV and film here," he said, and not have to spend too much time in Los Angeles.
Grilling Denzel Washington in "Flight" was a highlight. "Watching him work was incredible," he said. "Take after take."
His work on "Insidious" and "Walking Dead" has led to more work. He's in an upcoming Mickey Rourke film "Ashby" ("I play his old best friend") and a Bruce Willis move "Extraction." ("I'm his boss.")
Despite all his work in horror flicks recently, he said he gets scared easily. "It's not so much about monsters, but evil," he said. "We shot in an empty hospital at 4 in the morning where there had been a murder in the basement. I'd never wander far."
He still finds time on occasion to do a play and is currently working on "Edward Foote" for the Alliance with an all-Atlanta cast.
He admires Melissa McBride, who he has known for 25 years and now plays the delightful Carol on the show. When she spent a decade focused on casting instead of acting, he'd tease her and try to coax her to come back to the fold. "We took acting classes together," he said. "She's one of the best actresses I've ever worked with. She doesn't take herself too seriously."
He loves how her character has evolved from a mousy battered wife to a badass who is pretending to be Susie Homemaker in Alexandria.
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