Hal Cumpston tells us about his series regular as ‘Silas’ in The Walking Dead: World Beyond, the newest instalment in AMC’s long-running television franchise.
Born in Australia, World Beyond is Hal’s first major credit on American television. He plays the role of “Silas”, a shy young man who has experienced ten years of Robert Kirkman’s zombie apocalypse first established in The Walking Dead graphic novel.
In this interview, Hal tells us about landing the role of Silas, his experience filming in Richmond, VA, how he sees his character and much more.
Welcome, Hal and thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
Hal Cumpston (HC): No worries.
Fans of The Walking Dead universe know you as “Silas” on World Beyond, but may be unaware that you hail from Australia. What inspired you to start acting and was reaching the United States always a goal?
HC: I think the idea that I wanted to have a really cool life and cool job was the main goal. I left school and I guess that means an opportunity to try and make films very young. People tend to be a little bit nasty to you when you’re 18. So, that was my big plan.
There’s f**k all Australian teen movies, not really any good ones. There’s this really good one, The Young Offenders, which was somewhere in the UK. Or maybe it’s Ireland, I forget. Then I thought, “Alright, I’m going to write what I know.” I’ll leave the emotional 30-year-old stories to a 30-year-old. I’ll just write a ridiculous teen comedy.
[I] basically worked 20 hours per day, 4 hours per night, holidays off for 2 years trying to get that made. I had a lot of people who were extremely generous in allowing me to make that movie and be writer, producer and lead actor. Very generous to give myself the lead actor role.
It ended up doing pretty well in Australia. Not super well financially, but everyone seemed to like it. I guess it had enough heart and authenticity that it got me the opportunity to get managers. It gave me this audition, my first American audition. I filmed it at 3am after finishing my film. I ended up getting it and getting my foot in the door that way has been insane.
I can’t believe I get to do this as a job. Especially in America, it’s ridiculous. Every now and then I wake up and go, “I’m not in Australia, I’m in a completely different country on the other side of the world.” It’s extremely surreal.
As a concept, The Walking Dead had been on television for a decade before World Beyond premiered. Were you a fan of either the original show or Fear The Walking Dead beforehand? Was there a lot of pressure?
HC: No, I wasn’t. I felt pressure because I knew most of my friends had watched the show because it was on paid TV back in Australia. What a productive session of binge-watching. When I found out I got a callback, I binge watched the first two seasons of the show. It was so incredibly cool because I actually liked it and was like, “This is awesome.”
I hadn’t really been a fan of the ‘zombie world’ but this is big budget, beautiful shots, really good acting. But yeah, definitely the most productive binge-watching session I’ve ever had. Getting involved in this universe and being like, “Oh shoot, I’m going to be in this universe of the show I’m watching right now.” Again, surreal.
When you first auditioned for Silas, could you see yourself playing the role? How much of a stretch is Silas compared to your real-life personality?
HC: It was very different from who I am in real life. I don’t shut up in real life, but Silas is a silent dude who can’t get more than a word out. It was definitely different but I was able to talk to the show creator all the time and have an open dialogue about the story, how Silas was reacting and his whole backstory.
It was made very easy when I’m talking to people who are at the top of the game when it comes to storytelling. I sort of got an idea of who Silas was from reading the scripts and having my own ideas. I guess it’s a slight shift, an awkward version of myself for the first few episodes until I become more comfortable with my surroundings, which is funny.
Quite ironically, the original series is set in Virginia but films in Atlanta. The World Beyond is set in Nebraska but is shot in Virginia. From what you have experienced so far, how have you found filming on location?
HC: Again, it’s so funny to wake up and be in Richmond, Virginia. I had so much fun. It’s nice to know that basically everyone’s very nice. They could make it seem like we’re all very different or these groups of people hate those groups. Everyone gets on pretty well. I’ve made so many friends over here and have been having such a fun time.
For doing work that could be stressful or tense, it was a welcoming, open environment… supportive of the best form of creativity and making the show the best it can be.
Although all the first season is out, the series will become available on DVD and Blu-Ray from June 15. Are you excited for the show to potentially expand its audience?
HC: Yeah! I mean, do people still buy DVDs? They must do. Yes, that would be cool. I would sort of feel like a little kid when I remember you’d go into a store to rent a DVD. I think probably the reason I am an actor is that I grew up around the corner from a Blockbuster. From 7 years old, I was allowed to walk down the lane to the Blockbuster and rent… I would rent any 15+ or 18 comedy or full on movies.
The staff working in Blockbusters didn’t seem to care that I was only 7 years old. So, it definitely would be awesome. I’d go and get myself a copy of the show. I don’t know what I’d play it on. The Playstation 5 I just bought, you can’t even put disks in it. I’ve still got a Playstation 4 that I could hook up with Blu-Ray, get that going.
Professionally or personally, what do you hope to accomplish with the rest of 2021?
HC: Hopefully, we’ll have my original film out on streaming. So when I talk about it, I’ll actually be able to go, “You can watch it…” as opposed to talking about it constantly coming out soon on streaming. It’s a different world, the independent filmmaking world. I really hope that I’ve got a few different projects to try to get up.
It would be awesome to get $5 million to shoot my comedy private detective movie, that would be awesome. If I can just keep getting acting roles and hopefully people like Season 2 of the show. Then, yeah, who knows? It’s just awesome that I’m in this position. I really want to keep doing it. I go, “Oh, don’t f**k it up!” Let’s not them know that he’s an impostor who somehow found his way into this situation.
Hal, thank you again for taking the time to speak with us. Take care and stay safe!
HC: Nice to meet you dude!
RLJE Films will release The Walking Dead: World Beyond Season 1 on DVD and Blu-ray on June 15, 2021