Josh Mikel on fighting Gerard Butler in ‘Greenland’ and playing the bad guy

Photo credit: Sean Robertson

You may know Josh Mikel as the Savior Jared from AMC’s The Walking Dead and since his death on the show, Josh has been busy. You can see Josh battle Gerard Butler in Greenland and get a change of heart in Active Shooter. Both are streaming now!

In Greenland, Josh plays Lucas who has an epic fight scene with Gerard Butler on a moving truck. 

“It was wild. It was a wild couple of days actually. So, the first day we did what was called a ‘poor man’s process’ which is all the back of the truck stuff before the tarp is cut off. And so, we shot the dialogue and went through the fight that happens before the tarp comes off so, there’s a bit where I hook [Gerard] around the neck with a claw hammer which was wild because there were probably eight or nine people in the back of the car, some of which were extras… But yeah so we did all that stuff on the first day.” 

Josh said they shot this at the Centennial Horse Park in Conyers, Georgia which is where he’s from. They shot the bulk of the action on day two.

“Then I’m thinking ‘oh well, this is the part where my stunt double’s gonna take over.’ And they were like, ‘Alright everybody in the back of the truck, this is what we’re gonna do’ and they shored up everything they threw a wire around the back of the stake bed to make sure that the wood slats didn’t fall off. As we were going down the road at 45 miles an hour. So we get up to speed, we’re all sitting under the tarp. There’s a couple of stunt guys that are kind of in charge of making sure that thing flies off and it gets blown out of the way but didn’t pull anybody out of the truck. And then we get up and we start grappling around the truck and then it was kind of freeform improv that the stunt coordinator wanted to look scrappy. He didn’t want it to look rehearsed. So we just would kind of stand up, they throw the tarp off, and then we would just kind of grapple. We needed to get to our side of the truck because the truck was going to start spinning in once they did that full spin… That was handled with just stunties, so my stunt guy stepped in, they hit the curb. A bunch of dudes fly out through a breakaway through the breakaway side. And then, and then we picked up the rest of the scene at the bottom of the hill. And that was with Randall and I and [Gerard]. And he hits Randall on the arm and then turns around and cracks me the head and it was awesome.”

Photo credit: Sean Robertson

Yeah, watching Josh and Gerard fight with the hammer was ‘gnarly.’ Luckily when they were shooting, they used a stunt hammer.

“I’m not a stunt dude. A lot of times you get on set and you start doing that sort of stuff and a lot of times they’ll hire stunt guys for those particular things. I wasn’t completely sure if they knew that I wasn’t a stunt guy at certain points, so I had to be like, ‘whoa, hold on. Let’s just make sure we get this right because I’m not a stunt dude, my job ends here and I’m not coming back to the set and I may have to work in a week. I can’t have a busted ass face.’ But it was a blast. We’d finished just as the sun was coming up the second day so we used every bit of nighttime that we had and I just remember it being a really gorgeous evening and then getting there before the sunset and then driving home as the sun was rising.”

Josh said looking back on the project now, he realizes how dangerous the stunt was. 

“It was just a normal stake bed but they had thrown like a solid wireline around the inside to make sure the planks didn’t give way but I just did my best not to think about it. It’s tricky sometimes because you want to maintain your performance and you want them to be able to get everything they need. And if they’re going through the trouble to have a camera car and this long jib arm kind of following us closely, you don’t want them to have to shoot around your face if your stunt guy’s in for you. And I had a hugely competent stunt guy. I just felt comfortable enough and I also forced it on my mind long enough, the danger of it too, you know, I was just talking to my girlfriend about it last night and I was like ‘damn I could have gotten run over by a camera car if that thing would of…’ I mean I had this flash where you think about the worst-case scenario after something has happened, like, let’s say you get close to a car wreck or whatever and you think how terrible it could have been. And I was thinking like, just last night I was like ‘man that could have gone really wrong.’ But you just trust the stunt professionals and put your life in their hands I guess, a little bit. It sounds overdramatic but it was scary.” 

Josh plays another bad guy in Active Shooter. This film was incredibly intense and takes place solely in a women’s restroom. Josh was nervous about this project because he didn’t want it to come off like they were glorifying the situation. He said everyone involved approached it with reverence for the subject.

 “I hopped on the project because I had worked with the director [Robert Bryce Milburn] a number of times before, and I knew he surrounded himself with competent people and I liked the idea of a one location, horror/thriller. I was also nervous about the subject matter, being that it was an active shooter situation and I think all of America is traumatized by the shooter situations, and many people unfortunately are more specifically traumatized by it. So, I knew there was certainly some gravitas that was inherent in the subject matter and was hoping we would kind of do that justice. I’m not sure if we did. But, yeah, it was a good time. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to have an extended stay on something. Usually, I play these villains and pop in for a couple of days and get the hell out. But this was, I think we shot consecutive 10 days, it was such a quick shoot. And so it was a pretty easy thing to be excited about. The role itself was challenging and my biggest worry was the logistics of it is, how do you make this believable and keep it contained, keep it interesting. And I think part of that solution was keeping the movie too, I think it turned out to be 60-68 minutes or something. So like, you know, it’s an extended short film.”

Josh plays Dale Reznik, who was in on the shooting, but had a change of heart and decided not to follow through with the plan.

“I really like that… I was watching Murder of Middle Beach last night. And they always talk about it, if someone knows the murder victim they cover them up because they feel ashamed that this was a crime of passion and then all of a sudden they realize what they’ve done and feel ashamed and don’t want to look at the body anymore, don’t want to see their face and I think that’s more human than these kinds of stereotypical villain types. But yeah, I like that very much being someone who had a change of heart… Did I kill people before I came into the bathroom? I’d say yes.”

Josh believes that when Dale became a part of the plan to shoot up the office building, he didn’t think it would come to fruition, and then when it did, he did his best not to kill anyone.

Screenshot of Josh Mikel as Dale Reznik in ‘Active Shooter’

“Yeah, I think he is bad. I don’t think he’s inherently bad but I think he’s bad because of his actions and it’s gonna sound really douchey, but I try not to think of the villains that I play as completely bad or good because it’s not very interesting, and when you see parts of yourself in those characters, I think that’s the challenge of taking on something like that. And yeah with Dale I think he had plenty of opportunities, probably along the way as they were conceiving this plan,  to hop off the train and tell someone and get help and make sure this thing didn’t happen. And unfortunately, it did and he certainly pays the price.”

Josh is not a stranger to villainous roles, and although he doesn’t like to call them ‘bad guys,’ he has played quite a few dirtbags. And in most cases, like with Dale, they all got what they deserved in the end.

“I did a home invasion thriller called Intruders. And, spoiler alert, my character dies in that. And I think it was kind of built in the same way that Dale is. This character Vance is someone who got caught up in a plan that he didn’t think would play out completely, or someone along the way would have the sense to be like ‘no, no that’s a bad idea.’ And come to find out that he was the only person that had that sense. And so he got caught up in this thing and ends up getting killed first, very early in the movie. I think this character was designed to show that, all right, you can get caught up in some dumb shit and it’s just kind of incumbent upon you to decide when to hop off the train and this guy takes a hairpin to the neck. It was pretty gnarly… But yeah, I think generally I play a lot of shitheads and dirtbags and I don’t think anybody deserves to die but these guys certainly had it coming, especially Jared, I think is a no-brainer.”

Jared is definitely a no-brainer. He deserved getting eaten by that herd of walkers.

“I had written to Scott Gimple, the showrunner, asking him ‘Hey, is there any sort of redemptive qualities in Jared that I should start coloring my performance with? Like is there any potential that he may have a change of heart and become a better dude?’ Scott was like ‘No, no, he’s bad through and through.’ and I was like ‘alright, well, that’s something to work with.’ And so my hope to stick around on the show a little bit longer and stay, unfortunately, didn’t pan out. I didn’t expect to be around that long. I expected to take an arrow to the eye two episodes in or something. So I was fortunate to stick around as long as I did. It’s funny too because when I first got to set, my first day, you walk in the makeup trailer and Taylor [Knight], who has been running hair on the show since the pilot,  she turns to me and says, ‘Well, everyone comes here to die.’ And it’s the truth, everyone shows up on The Walking Dead eventually to have a gnarly death and you just hope you earned it.”

Jared’s death was gnarly indeed. But in addition to playing these dirtbags, Josh has some other projects in the works as well. He’s playing Roger Hawkins in the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect which will hit theaters in August and his other film Ragged Heart will be hitting the festival circuit this upcoming year.

Greenland is streaming now on-demand and Active Shooter can be found on Amazon Prime. You can follow Josh on his social media @Joshua_mikel on Twitter and @Joshuamikel on Instagram.