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New Meat: Andrew J. West

To say it’s been a rough couple of months for former Sheriff Rick Grimes and his post-apocalyptic new family would be a major understatement. Sadly, for some of our favorite characters, it’s far from over. Last season’s finale had our heroes finally arriving at Terminus, only to find that this so called “haven” is anything but. Joining the series for a full run on its widely anticipated fifth season is Andrew J. West, as Gareth, a seemingly nice guy with a streak of pure evil. Exactly what makes him the big bad wolf of season five is unclear, but the common rumors lead all signs to cannibalism. Could Gareth be the leader a la The Governor? Maybe? Maybe not? With a mischievous smile like West’s, it’s any man’s guess.

Be it cannibalism or a hoard of walkers invading your space, West has gotten used to what’s considered “business as usual” for any actor on The Walking Dead. “I love getting dirty and running around in the woods with a gun,” he gushes.  “Like every other actor since the beginning of time, I really just want to revert back to the 10 year old version of myself.Another thing that’s business as usual is keeping plot points and storylines on the highest notch of hush-hush. When initially auditioning for the part, West was given material specifically written for the audition in an attempt to keep private any important details and ties that would come from his character. A few days later, West was on a plane to Atlanta and straight to a fitting, all without the mere knowledge of his character’s first name. “I think I had about 24 hours with the real material before we started shooting.  I don’t mind those conditions at all, though.  It forces you to rely more on your instincts.  There isn’t time to over-think anything,” he admits. Arriving on a set full of actors that consider this clockwork could be tough, but West found comfort in knowing things would be different. “It quickly became clear that everyone involved cares a great deal about the show and will take the time needed to get each scene right.  As an actor new to a particular set, that approach goes a long way in helping you relax.” During my interview with the Indiana native, he had adapted to the rules of his latest gig quite thoroughly, making sure not to spill spoilers with any answer. He did let on to something though, “This season will certainly advance into unchartered territory in terms of plot and tone.” Saying this about a show that has decapitated a person, and has a kill of the week, every time more intense than the last, is saying a lot. But that’s the kind of show that draws 17.5 million viewers to a finale episode, breaking all types of records on twitter and the Nielsen ratings.

One would think an actor with the skills to snag a role on The Walking Dead must certainly have another trick up his sleeve. If you’re referring to an indie drama co-starring William H. Macy, then you’re right, because that’s what West has up next in his bag of tricks. This time, he’s playing the titular character of Walter, a boy with a peculiar son-of-god complex who works as a ticket-taker at the local movie theater. Macy plays Walter’s psychiatrist. “William H. Macy is someone I have looked up to for a very long time, so this experience was something very special for me.  I had a particularly long scene with Macy in which I confront him with a two page monologue,” explains West. ” While we were shooting, something wasn’t clicking for me and I asked him for some advice on how to approach the next take.  He told me to take all focus off of myself – which is difficult to do when it’s only you talking for two pages – and use those two pages of words to really get something from him.  Actors often need to be reminded that our job is to do.  It was such simple and useful advice.  The next take was excellent, thanks to him.”

In this digital age, coming off a multi-episode arc on a big network drama and a film with an Oscar nominated co-star, the next best step would be the millennial act of joining twitter—and that’s exactly what West has done. “As an actor who is certainly not a household name, you sometimes wonder if anyone is really on the receiving end of your work.  Twitter gives you immediate feedback from fans and allows you to interact with people you would otherwise never have the opportunity to be in touch with.” He says, “ I love the Walking Dead related art and photos that fans share. It’s always fun when someone shares that kind of stuff.” Give or take a couple weeks, West will be the one immortalized by Dead fans worldwide. Don’t say I didn’t call it first.


photography ALEKSANDAR TOMOVIC www.alekandsteph.com

styling JULET VO www.julietvo.com

grooming MELISSA DEZARATE at EXCLUSIVE ARTISTS for Kevin Murphy Haircare