Pisay’s Power Play

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Local actress Pisay Pao stars in Z Nation.

Z Nation Actress Pisay Pao Talks Filming in Spokane

By Katie Sauro Associate Editor
Photos by Daniel Schaefer/Go2 Digital Media

Z Nation is officially returning to film season two in Spokane, Washington, and no one could be more excited than actress Pisay Pao, who grew up in Seattle and worked on local commercials and films before landing the role of “Cassandra” on the Syfy series.

Filming in her home state and surrounded by local cast and crew, Pao describes the on-set atmosphere during season one as “euphoric.”

“Each week there was someone new to congratulate or hug on set,” she says. “This was because every single episode was filled with talented Washington actors. I was just as happy to see my friends and peers as they were to see me. It was like we all won the golden ticket. I know I’ll never have another experience like this.”PisayPao_ZNation-4

Of course, no matter how many of your friends are on set or how familiar you are with your environs, filming your very first TV series can be incredibly stressful, says Pao.

“I prayed every day that I wouldn’t mess up. It didn’t work,” she says. “Luckily, I was surrounded by a very supportive cast and crew.”

Pao recalls one particular moment on set when the crew came to the actors’ rescue.

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Pao films a scene for the season one finale.

“Spokane is such a diverse city in terms of its landscape,” she explains. “There were days where it would rain and hail. Then 30 minutes later, the sun would come out. And of course this would happen when we really needed to get a shot or we were running behind on schedule. But you don’t argue with Mother Nature.

“I remember a scene where we were all standing outside waiting to get into a compound and it just kept raining on and off. Anyone and everyone on the crew that had a free hand stood with an umbrella over the cast members, making sure our hair and makeup wouldn’t get wet. They just kept running in and out of the scene every time the rain would stop or start. It was comical, and really touching.”

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The newly-zombified actress.

This is what Pao enjoyed most about working on the production: the camaraderie.

“Every single TV or movie set runs into problems. Just about every project runs behind schedule,” she says. “But when you have a great team that’s willing to get a little wet so that the production as a whole gets the shot it needs, and they can laugh it off as part of the job, it’s really special.”

Not only did the crew go above and beyond to ensure that the production was a success, but so did the pool of talented actors, many of whom were from Washington.

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Between takes with fellow Washington-based actor Nat Zang.

“Nearly all of the actors that worked on Z Nation from Washington showed up 110 percent prepared. They knew their lines, they hit their marks, and just gave their overall best,” says Pao. “I know this probably sounds biased, but the truth is I think Washington actors feel like they have more to prove and they don’t have the opportunity to prove it often (given how hard it is to get things filmed in the state and how hard it is to get local talent hired over someone from L.A.), so when an opportunity does come along, they don’t take it for granted.”

Many of these actors will get another chance to showcase their talents during season two, which begins filming in April.

Speaking of season two, what’s next for Pao’s character, Cassandra? The first season’s finale ended with several cliffhangers, including Cassandra becoming infected with the zombie vaccine/virus.

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That’s a wrap on season one!

No spoilers for us. Says Pao, “I have to plead the fifth.”

Fans will have to wait until season two premieres to find out. Until then, Media Inc. will bring you more stories from behind the scenes, as cast and crew film throughout the spring and summer.

Pisay Pao is represented by TCM Models & Talent in Seattle. Visit www.tcmmodels.com for more information.

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