By George Riddell Editor
Photos By Oliver Irwin
As the Northwest summer shines on, production continues in Eastern Washington on Syfy series Z Nation. The zombie-centric show is being shot in and around Spokane, and three Washington-based actors have been cast as series regulars.
Russell Hodgkinson, represented by Topo Swope Talent, plays Steven “Doc” Beck, an ex-drug dealer whose nickname was earned by his knowledge of “pharmaceuticals.”
Pisay Pao is represented by TCM Models and Talent. Her character, Cassandra, is a mysterious woman with a very dark past. “She’s like a feral animal,” Pao says. “She’ll do whatever it takes to survive.”
Nat Zang, represented by Big Fish NW Talent, plays 10K, a young survivalist with a tragic past.
Because of its production location and status as a Washington film incentive project, Z Nation has provided unusual access to Washington’s pool of actors to work on a network series. This is Zang’s first on-camera acting experience.
“If it wasn’t shooting in Washington, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to audition,” he says. “It gives a lot of local Northwest talent the opportunity to work.”
Becky Reilly with Big Fish NW Talent is one of the talent agents who was on the frontlines during the Z Nation casting process.
“Actors from all over the state, with varying levels of ability, are getting opportunities not seen by thousands in other markets, including California,” she says. Reilly’s agency is heavily involved with casting of the extras for the series, which are mostly comprised of the ‘zombie horde.’
“Throughout this process, Big Fish has had first contact with more than 2,400 Spokane-area locals just aching to be zombie extras,” she says. Through just the first two weeks of production, they had billed for 320 man-days for extras alone.
The local talent agencies and actors aren’t the only ones who benefit from the Spokane production. The economic impact is felt by related businesses, as well.
“Actors wanting to up their game for the future, or prep prior to auditioning, are flocking to the region’s coaches for assistance,” says Reilly. “They’re also working with the various video production services to help their video auditions look as good as they can be.”
In addition to providing unique work opportunities for the actors, the Eastern Washington production is also a welcome shooting environment.
“I love shooting in Washington,” says Pao. “Every time I walk on set, I’m either walking into somebody I know, or meeting somebody who I know I’ll run into later. That’s the community here and it’s something the L.A. cast and crew became part of immediately.”
She adds, “Both the Seattle and L.A. crew have been really impressed with Spokane’s diverse landscape. The possibilities are just endless here.”
George Riddell is Executive Editor of Media Inc magazine and media-inc.com. He is President-Producer/Director at BigHouse Production LLC. In addition, he serves on the board of directors of the American Advertising Federation in Washington DC and is the national chairman of the American Advertising Awards committee.