Exclusive Facebook Live Interview With The Walking Dead Actor ‘Keith Harris’ Dr. Carson
On The Walking Dead episode, “Dead or Alive Or,” it looked like things were finally going to turn around for Dr. Carson (Keith Harris) and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam). As the duo discussed the realities of religion versus science, it did seem like they were about to meet in the middle. Then, of course, tragedy struck the doctor.
Actor Keith Harris later described the doctor as a manager of risk. As a doctor, he must assess whether or not a situation calls for a bold moment. Before the outbreak, this likely meant taking a chance in surgery. Because of the outbreak, this meant going for a gun.
Unfortunately, Dr. Carson went for a gun at the wrong time. He thought he had one more chance to save the duo and get his sick patient to Hilltop. But, one of the trigger-happy Saviors put an end to that idea.
In an exclusive interview, we sat down with actor Keith Harris for a Facebook Live event where fans of The Walking Dead could ask questions about their favorite episodes and favorite characters.
Actor Keith Harris Answers Fan Questions
Keith, when we originally spoke for Creative Principles, you mentioned only get your actual pages. Tell us a little bit about your first days on set.
Keith Harris: I like to dig in to the script, do a script analysis and see my motivation and what the other characters are saying about me and try to build the character arc and I get on this show and I get my pages—that’s it. I don’t get to see anything else. If I’m two pages of one episode, I get two pages.
It was interesting coming at it from that standpoint. I guess technically, my character wouldn’t know what any other of the other characters were saying anyway. So I just had to roll with it.
That is a unique aspect to the show. As a viewer, you forget that there isn’t much communication between communities. If there’s a death, there’s always someone who doesn’t know about it until much later.
SPECIAL GUEST INTERVIEW – Live Q&A with Keith Harris (Dr. Carson)!! The Walking Dead Recap Show – S08E12: ‘The Key’ – Mondays @ 9pm EST/ 6pm PST
Posted by The Walking Dead Fan Club on Monday, March 19, 2018
You were in about half of your last episode. Tell us about those scenes in the “prepper” location and that final script.
That set—I’ve got to give props to the prop department. They go above and beyond every week. It was like stepping into an old, creepy abandoned house. That’s the thing I love about [the show], they really build this environment. That’s one less thing I have to worry about as an actor. I’m not on stage trying to pretend a cardboard cutout is a tree or whatever.
Is this like a normal set? I know you’re shooting around Atlanta, but it feels like you guys are actually shooting in the woods a lot.
That particular location was off the studio lot, but for instance, Hilltop is on the studio. They have probably 400 acres there or something like that. They build the entire Hilltop area on studio property. There are several miles of dirt roads that weave and wind through there. There woods are abundant. If they need woods or a lake, they’re not in short supply. The great thing about woods is that you can use the same woods 100 times.
Actor Khary Payton (King Ezekiel) mentioned the various locations being separated from one another as actors as well as characters.
Yea, the core groups sort of broke apart. So I wasn’t really around Alexandria or the Kingdom. So I was with the Hilltop folks. Well, until Negan stole me. Jerk!
The first Dr. Carson was killed pretty horrifically. You would think they would be more precious with the doctors. Once we learned Saddiq had medical experience, your character was killed. Is this a foreshadowing as to the series not having more than one doctor at a time?
That would be my guess. I was hopeful because Dr. Harlan Carson that I was cast as is still in the most recent graphic novel. I was hopeful in that sense, but they have a certain aesthetic they have to juggle with the graphic novel.
They have to keep the audience pleased, on one hand, but on the other hand, they have to keep them guessing so they’re not doing a play-by-play of the graphic novel. It’s a tough balance that Scott has to juggle, but I think they do a good job of that. I’m sad that I’m not still on the show, but I see the reason why they did what they did.
The Last Time We Saw Dr. Carson
There’s certainly a balance of characters, particularly in the final scenes between Father Gabriel and Dr. Carson.
Can you share some details about those scenes with actor Seth Gilliam? How did you guys prep for those scenes?
Seth has a really neat process and we just kind of jumped in and started working on it. The thing I really liked about it was with the director, Michael Satrazemis. He also directed my first episode in Season 6, when they found us in Episode 11. Jesus and the crew found us in the warehouse. He directed one of my episodes in the middle of Season 7 and my final episode as well. That really helped me dial in.
I really like the way he works. As we were approaching the scenes, Mikey brought a good energy and Seth brough a good energy, but if we weren’t quite thinking of something the way we wanted him to, he would dial it in and we would pitch it at each other. He’s got a real easy way or pitching it in so it’s not the same every single time.
On our Facebook Live comments, Gerry Woods said “Too slow to the trigger doc” about that final scene. It seemed like things were getting better and better (or luckier and luckier) for Carson and Gabriel. Did you see that last act as bravery or foolishness?
I think it was a mix. Dr. Carson manages risk. That’s what he does. He’s a doctor and he’s very astute at managing risk. He was frustrated at himself and the situation of being lost. But, as they went along, one thing after another kept happening. I think he and Father Gabriel came together to some extent. In Dr. Carson’s risk assessment, what’s going to happen?
They’re going to go back and get stuck with the Saviors again or there was a part of him going, I got to get him to the Hilltop, what’s the worst that could happen? He goes for it and bad timing. Someone else is standing off to the side, another Savior, that saw him go for it.
As a viewer, he was probably thinking he would get hit in the head or get the gun rather than being shot. The Saviors even blamed one another once they did shoot him because he was the doctor.
Fans Say Goodbye To Dr. Carson From TWD
On Facebook Live, Roxann Frey Castellano said she will miss the doctor and Travis Gullickson asked for a shoutout.
Hello Travis, what’s going on bro?
Greg Deininger writes, “Hey Doc, how do you feel about the blind guy shooting at the zombie right beside you?”
I was like, Amen!
A lot of our fans saw you on Talking Dead after last week’s episode. You mentioned getting that call from Scott Gimple. Can you share some details about that “death call?”
My buddy Brett Gentile (Freddie) told me that he got the call. I saw my phone ring and it was this 3-1-0 number that I didn’t recognize. He was like, “Hey Keith, this is Scott Gimple…” I was like, Ahhh… No! And so, it went from there. Bad day.
There’s definitely no one safe on the show. Debbi Baker-Schumer writes, “Doc, what do you think of the way Eugene helped you out?”
I think the Doc was surprised, for sure. Eugene just doesn’t do that kind of stuff. But I also think that’s why Eugene is drinking a whole lot more. He knows what he should do and he’s not doing it. I think he even said, “Because I aim to sleep tonight.”
In your last episode, I think he even asked, “Will there be win there?” because he’s going back to that bad mental space.
Joey Fredericks wrote, “Dr. Carson, thanks so much for joining us tonight. How about a hand for Dr. Carson. Great actor, great character! We’re gonna miss ya.”
A Walk In The Woods, Big Fish, and More
I meant to say earlier, you may have seen Keith in a variety of other shows. He’s been in films like A Walk In The Woods and Big Fish (full list here). You’re currently working on a new show called The Resident as well?
Yea, I’ve been in a few new episodes of The Resident as well, towards the end of the first season. It’s unclear as to whether or not [the show] will come back next season or not.
Eric Hutson asked, “What’s going to happen to Maggie’s baby now with her OBGYN gone?” I think Saddiq has some experience, but Dr. Carson was a little more prepared for that birth.
I was definitely more prepared. Definitely! I think he’s going to be fine. Saddiq is going to step in. There’s nothing like on-the-job training.
He’s kind of like Denise from a few seasons back in terms of medical knowledge…
Also on Talking Dead, you mentioned that they were using actors as zombies that were actually missing limbs for that final scene. There was some foreshadowing there when the walker was crawling towards the car.
Mikey (the director) thinks of those cool little touches like that. I’m sure some of that had to do with the writing as well, but the thing I really loved about it was the first one crawling towards the car.
He had the chain and missing a limb. As we were walking through the woods, there was a woman on the ground missing a limb as well—straight amputees that were actually missing limbs. It wasn’t a special effect. I think that’s neat on their part to reach out to those kind of people.
One Last Shot Of Faith From Father Gabriel
Here’s a great question from Mandy Frelitz. “Doc, do you think Gabriel is going to turn?” What can you tell us about that point-of-view? Gabriel died in the comics, so this is a new storyline. He’s got severe tunnel-vision. It’s unclear if the problem is radioactive waste or that he’s slowly turning, but the antibiotics seem to be slowing down the problem at least.
Wow, that’s a good question. I’m honestly not sure. My expert opinion as a [TV] doctor, I think the antibiotics were working, but I definitely think he’s looking at permanent eyesight damage that will affect his character. That would be an interesting storyline.
Joey Fredericks asked, “So did you have any idea that you were being taken off the show prior to it actually happening? Any clues or signs?” If you can also maybe add some information about the shooting schedule versus when you get the chance to read the script as well.
The thing that I think is really classy about the show is that Scott Gimple called a week or so before I was officially booked on that episode. It’s the old saying, if you’re going to shoot somebody, look them in the eye and don’t shoot them in the back.
He was straight up with me and let me know it was coming. I knew it was coming by the time I got the pages and mentally prepared for that.
Last time we spoke, I think you mentioned Andrew Lincoln coming over and introducing himself. I’ve heard he’s stays in character. Was he in his Southern drawl or his normal British accent when you met with him?
Totally. When he’s working on set, he stays in his Southern-American accent. I don’t know that I would necessary say that he stays in character. He keeps the accent because he’s keeping his [mindset]. He came over and we chatted for about fifteen minutes about life and kids—that whole thing. [Andrew] was super nice and super welcoming. That was the other amazing thing for me.
I auditioned three or four times before I was actually cast and it was really neat to step on to the set of such an iconic series in this iconic world. And, meet the people or meet the Wizard behind the curtain, so to speak.
Everybody was so nice and so welcoming. The word I left with after my first day of shooting was “Family.” Everybody is a tight-knit family. You’re in the door and you’re welcomed in. You might be the black sheep uncle that only shows up for a chicken leg, but you’re family.
Will ‘The Walking Dead’ Really Last 20 Seasons?
You’ve been on dozens of shows. What do you think of this show in terms of longevity? There’s not really a shot like this.
I’ve compared it to Gunsmoke in the past, but that’s procedural versus serial. This is one long arc and they’ve rumored twenty seasons. Do you think they’re planning that far ahead?
I don’t know if they have it that far ahead, but at a minimum it’s got a solid twelve in it. It’s only got one more season before it hits ten so that’s a no-brainer. It would take that long to tie up storylines. One thing that Chris [Hardwick] brought up on Talking Dead is that fans are like, “Maggie has been pregnant for three seasons.” But as Denise [Huth] was saying, almost every episode is a direct pick-up.
From the time I came on in Episode 11 of Season 6, to where I go out in their world, it’s not longer than two and a half months. As far as longevity with that compressed storytelling, I think it’s easily got twelve. It will depend on where they go with it and if they [upset fans]. I’ve read about them killing off too many main characters, but you’ve got to think about juggling the entire world. Again, I read one article about Daryl. Daryl shouldn’t’ be there as far as the graphic novel goes.
So, his existence in the world has had a trickle-down effect on other characters. You have to juggle all of that and maintain those things. He’s super popular and if he were killed off, there would be a riot. You got to juggle popularity with storyline with unimaginable numbers of different criteria to build the world out.
As long as they keep pleasing the audience, and with Fear the Walking Dead, they’ve proved they can spinoff to something else. They could potentially spin off to “Dead U.K.” or wherever. They’ve got the expanse that they’ve been building in.
There’s a rumor that Scott Gimple’s new position was created to eventually bring on a third show and possibly a fourth show.
Let’s read a few more questions and I do want to apologize to Debi DeLost who wrote, “What, you died?” There are a lot of spoilers here if you’re not caught up.
Yeah, you must have missed last week!
Cindy Blohm-Meidam wrote, “What is your favorite memory that you are taking from working on The Walking Dead?”
Gosh, I’m going to have to go with my first impression. That family environment when you walk on set and the welcoming nature of everyone. But, one of the funniest things is that you’ve got zombies and all of this stuff on set.
Andrew and I had this nice conversation. I go over to the craft service station and all of the zombies—there’s probably ten zombies in their cast chairs smoking cigarettes and flipping through their cell phones. That’s just a funny sight.
‘Shifting Gears’ Now In Theaters And V.O.D.
So a lot of fans have asked about your future work. Some things are still in progress, but you’ve got a big movie coming out this Friday. Can you tell us a little more about that?
It’s called Shifting Gears [check theaters near you here]. It’s a sports comedy about dirt-track racing [and] it’s good for the whole family, so if you get tired of zombies for a minute or you have small kids, you can take them to this movie.
Theatrically, it’s going to be in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and in Sacramento. It will also be available on demand across all of the major platforms.
In addition to acting, you also helped write that movie so you’ve got a couple of different roles there.
Yea, I wrote and produced it as well. It’s based a story from a buddy of mine. He worked in a garage for like ten years and he just kept a journal of funny things that would happen to him periodically. Him and some buddies would run a renegade-class dirt-track racecar. He just had a loose idea of a storyline.
He typed up his journals and there are tent-pole moments throughout the script that actually happened and I included them into the storyline…
Keith, thanks again for coming on to the show.
Thank you so much for having me on. Thank you so much for supporting the show. If you get a chance, check out the movie. It’s really fun [and] t’s got a tone that I like to mention about the film. It’s We Bought A Zoo meets Days of Thunder…on dirt.
It’s also somewhat like two John Candy movies—Summer Rental and Uncle Buck. It’s this make-you-laugh, make-you-cry of this family butting heads and working out the kinks. I’m hoping that it will strike a chord with folks.
Did you get a chance to ask Keith Harris your question on Facebook Live? Make sure to tune in every Monday night at 9pm EST/6pm PST for our weekly chat about The Walking Dead.