Now available on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray, is Blood Quantum, Writer/Director Jeff Barnaby’s bold and bloody vision of a zombie outbreak and the immune, indigenous community left to combat the horde of hungry undead. An impressive and unique entry for the zombie sub-genre, Blood Quantum has already found a strong following among fans since its premiere on the popular horror-centric streaming service, Shudder.
We were fortunate enough to speak with star Michael Greyeyes, who portrays Traylor, a tough and resourceful father and sheriff facing a fearsome, violent new normal in Blood Quantum. In a most enjoyable conversation, Michael and I converse about his lengthy diverse career, being a horror fan and the importance of being a part of Blood Quantum.
PopHorror: Thank you so much for your time. I loved Blood Quantum! I’m actually a Shudder subscriber, so I have been able to experience it a couple of times during this crazy pandemic.
Michael Greyeyes: Yeah! Our sort of first shut down. I’m glad it was released at that point, because I think it got more eyes on it than if it was released theatrically.
PopHorror: I agree with you. I agree. Alright, so I’m going to jump in with you, sir. You’ve been acting in television and film for quite some time, and you have an impressive number of credits to your name. Was there a particular film, or performance from an actor, that made you want to pursue this craft?
Michael Greyeyes: Oh, wow! Thank you for asking that question. I take my craft as an actor really seriously. I’ve been really fortunate in my career to play a number of characters. I’ve played soldiers; I’ve played serial killers. I’ve been really fortunate to play cultural heroes from my community, people like Sitting Bull, Wandering Spirit, Crazy Horse. So, I’m delighted that I get to play heroes that reflect my identity as an indigenous man. I’ve always looked up to actors, just as an artist who wants to get better at his craft. I look to heroes of mine like August Schellenberg and Gordon Tootoosis, indiginous actors, of course, who have passed on. I’m a big fan of Daniel Day Lewis, Denzel … the list goes on. I really love actors like George C. Scott. George C. Scott blows my mind when I watch him.
PopHorror: He’s phenomenal!
Michael Greyeyes: First of all, he’s a chameleon. He’s so wildly different from role to role. I admire that. I admire the immersive quality of people like Philip Seymour Hoffman. These are actors that I watched their work, and I go, “Yeah, I want to be that good.”
PopHorror: That’s an incredible list of people to aspire to. Speaking of eclectic talent, I read that you’re also an accomplished ballet dancer. How did that come about?
Michael Greyeyes: Well, you know, it’s interesting. I can’t say that I’m a good dancer anymore. I retired 35 years ago. I owe much of my success to that training. I trained at Canada’s National Ballet School, one of the top academies for dance in the world. And we trained six days a week. I went to school at 9:00 am, I finished at 6:30 pm. We worked through the summer. It was like Olympic-level physical training combined with academics.
I learned a few things when I was in school. I learned about discipline, and I learned about the importance of rigor. When I approach my own work as an actor, I try to approach it with the lessons that were instilled in me then: repetition, precision, rigor, honesty. I don’t think there’s a day on the set where I don’t rely on a lesson that I learned from my dancing days.
PopHorror: That’s a solid foundation to follow in life and in general. But after being a classically trained dancer and your roles as prominent figures in history, what was your initial reaction to the script for Blood Quantum?
Michael Greyeyes: I’m a huge fan of Jeff’s [Barnaby]. Jeff’s work, Rhymes for Young Ghouls, just blew my mind. An essential, seminal film for the indigenous filmmaking community. I don’t think people realize what a fantastic writer Jeff actually is. I remember I was on stage at TIFF for Midnight Madness, and someone asked me the question: “What drew you to the script?” And I said, “It’s so beautifully written.”
There is this one image that describes one of my friends taking a shit off a bridge … it lands on the windshield of a lady’s car, and Jeff’s description was brilliant. It said, “And the turd hit the windshield exploding like a moldering melon.” And I was like … okay. Okay, this guy is like Bob Dylan. This guy is fucking great. I said, “Where do I sign up?” And yeah. It’s not just in the descriptions, but it’s in the complexity of the emotional truth and history of the characters. The relationship with his ex-wife is so beautifully drawn.
PopHorror: That was my favorite interaction between characters was you and the ex-wife.
Michael Greyeyes: Thank you. First off, Elle-Máijá is a brilliant actor. She’s also an astounding writer and filmmaker. Her film, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, is another seminal, contemporary indigenous film that everyone needs to see. So, working with her was so great. She’s so fun. We actually laughed a lot. She thought I was quite hilarious, which you don’t get from a lot of the characters that I play. I would always make her giggle on set.
PopHorror: You’re making me giggle!
Michael Greyeyes: It played the darker notes of a history, of a marriage in shambles. These are people left in the ruins of that.
PopHorror: That’s beautiful. Michael, are you a horror fan? Do you like our beloved genre? Do you have any favorites?
Michael Greyeyes: Am I a horror fan? Don’t even get me started. First of all, I was a fanboy. I had my comic collection and the films that just jazzed me from the first time I saw them were sci-fi and horror. On my list, I think my top 10 films, three of them are horror films. Alien is number one. Silence of the Lambs. Silence of the Lambs still holds up ….
PopHorror: Yes! Absolutely.
Michael Greyeyes: … it still holds up. And Train to Busan. Come on. These are legendary films. Blood Quantum, I think, made it into the top 10. I’m a serious fan, and that’s not just because I was in it. But to me, it’s a really sound landmark art statement.
PopHorror: I agree wholeheartedly. And I think a lot of fellow horror fans really dig it, too. Have you been surprised at all at how well received Blood Quantum has been?
Michael Greyeyes: I’m delighted by it, but not surprised. I’m not surprised, because I know it’s good. I know the level of effort and the sacrifice of what it meant to make it, certainly on the cast side. Not so difficult, but we had to put up with the grim reality of filming in the cold, covered in blood and wet, late at night with lots of night shoots. That’s small. But just watching Jeff and the filmmaking team and their level of effort, especially on a small budget film … Filmmakers of color do more with the money they have than anybody else. So when you look at Blood Quantum… did that movie cost twenty million dollars? Because it looks like it. But no, they did it on half the budget. I’m proud to be part of that tradition.
PopHorror: It comes across as a passion project, and not just for Jeff but for everyone involved.
Michael Greyeyes: Thank you.
PopHorror: Absolutely. Alright, Michael. This is a fun one. If you could collaborate with anyone—living or deceased—who would it be, and what kind of project would you like to do with them?
Michael Greyeyes: Oooh. Oooh. You know what? I think I’d love to collaborate with Kubrick. That would be … It probably wouldn’t be fun.
PopHorror: Probably not! (laughs)
Michael Greyeyes: It would be something else, man. It would be something else. 2001: A Space Odyssey … It still boggles my mind.
PopHorror: Is that one of your favorite films, too?
Michael Greyeyes: I wouldn’t say top 10, but it lives inside of me, just like the images and the two halves of it, and the ultimate relationship between HAL .… yeah. Fuck it. Still one of my favorite movies.
PopHorror: I’m noting how much you love it, and I share your sentiments. Michael, thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure speaking with you!
Michael Greyeyes: Danni, it was my pleasure. Have a great day!
Available now on Amazon at the link below; don’t miss Blood Quantum!