Justin Chu Cary on Spears in Season 2 of Netflix Hit Show "Black Summer" and "Blindspotting"
By Zack Choo
Justin Chu Cary has been acting for well over 10 years now. Still, it wasn’t until he landed Spears’ lead role on Netflix’s Zombie Apocalyptic hit show “Black Summer” that his career really started to take off. “Black Summer” is getting close to its Season 2 premiere in the spring of this year to much-anticipated hype. Justin also appears in Starz’s adaptation of “Blindspotting,” set to premiere later this year.
On December 10th, 2020, Justin appeared on Dead Talk Live to discuss playing Spears’ role on “Black Summer,” his first feature film, “Blindspotting,” and his entire career. Cary has also appeared on “S.W.A.T,” “NCIS,” “Jane The Virgin,” and “Supergirl.” The link to watch the entire interview is located at the end of this article.
“It’s funny because, at that time, the showrunners request an old white male like Mickey Rourke from the clients under my manager at that time, Ray Wilson.”
Justin mentioned that her manager heard about him monologuing about he is not the guy they’re looking for. Still, she sent the request over to Justin, nonetheless.
“What I’m totally not expecting is she snuck my tape and pinned it to one of the clients they requested. That person did his audition, but my manager submitted his audition twice and pinned my tape on his headshot.”
“I didn’t tell my showrunner until we finished shooting, just in case. After I told him about it, he just realized why he clicked on the person’s headshot, and I’m the one popping up. That interested him. I guess he really liked my audition, and I got to meet him for a 2nd call, and I got the lead.”
Justin then shared with Dead Talk Live about Black summer’s rumors being a prequel of Z nation.
“I could be mistaken; I think that is part of the pitch for Black Summer to Netflix. This is from what I understand because usually, actors are the last to know about these. But with that said, they were creating the show without thinking about Z nation at all. They were different stories with totally different vibes.”
An Instagram follower then type a question in chat, wanted to know what attracted Justin to Spears in Black Summer.
“As an actor, I always want to play a character that is totally different than myself. I like to consider myself a nice, easy-going guy. As opposed to Spears, who are pretty much no-nonsense, take no shit kind of guy. And what is interesting about that is the showrunner didn’t give me much about that character backstory either. I knew as much as the audience knew about him.”
Justin then explains how he acts as a character that has no backstory at all. That was how he was able to bring Spears to life in “Black Summer.”
“As a writer myself, I wrote pages of journal entries from the time Spears was 5 years old to the moment where the audience met him, just to give myself that groundedness that I needed to do that performance.”
As the audience first meets Spears, he is a prisoner, and he ends up killing the real Spears, stealing his uniform. Justin shared with Dead Talk Live that he definitely never wants to frame that main character as a bad guy as the writer for his main character.
“I definitely think he comes from the streets, do what he has to do to survive. I don’t think he is necessarily on the right side of the law; he has done enough bad stuff to end up where the audience first meets him. So, I think he’s a survivor.”
From what the audience sees, “Black Summer” Spears definitely is a guy who cares only for his own survivability. And from a logical standpoint, it is unusual for a character like “Spears” to lend Rose a hand. Justin actually talked about this with Jaime King, who plays Rose in Black Summer.
“There’s a kind of bond between us going on. It’s almost like love at first sight, but not in a romantic way. Sometimes it’s just clicked. They both knew they needed each other in this apocalyptic world.”
In the latter episode, where the group arrived at the school. “Spears” is the only person who suspects the kids, while everyone else wants to go to the school and save them. Justin tells Dead Talk Live that he’s been talking with the showrunner of that episode before.
“I don’t know if it’s about his natural tendency to be cynical, but his survival instinct kicks in that time. He doesn’t feel safe, as they’re living in this unknown chaotic apocalyptic world right now.”
And fast forward to a couple of episodes, where “Spears” is captured again by the military-looking guy and being carted away in the middle of the night. Rose catches up with them, and the military guy promises Rose that they will take her to the stadium, telling Rose that “Spears” is a bad guy. But Rose decided to kill them in a split second and save “Spears” anyway. Justin tells Dead Talk Live that he loves that scene because she made a big decision there.
“If you notice, that’s the first time she kills anybody, whether it’s a zombie or a human in the entire season. It’s obviously 100% that zombies cannot be trusted, but with humans, you’re trying to gauge. So that was a big decision for her, who should she trust. After she pops those guys, it’s a big pivot moment for her. The old Rose is dead, and the new survival Rose is born.”
In the scene where “Spears” witness Rose takes out those soldiers, Justin describes that scene looks and sounds very realistic as the caps inside the prop gun are very loud, plus the muzzle flash coming out from the prop gun that surprised him.
“That’s just one of the cool things with John Hymes, the showrunner. There’s a lot of single takes, and they do very few cutaways. And there’s very little coverage compared to traditional ways. But a lot of it is done in wide shots, because sometimes we do really long takes, like 3 to 5 minutes, there are so many authentic moments that come out of that.”
Out of curiosity, Justin was asked to reveal a little bit about what will happen to “Spears” in season 2.
“Let’s say his past catches up with him. The audience will get a little taste of what’s happening to “Spears.” The next season is insane.”
Some speculation says Carmen, played by Erika Hau, plans to go rogue after she decides to take out one of the partygoers. Justin mentioned that is not part of the plan as the things in the series happened so fast. Carmen and her boyfriend know a place where the group can get weapons.
“These are their kind of hangouts; there’s a lot left for the audience to figure out. John doesn’t like to over-explain stuff. They just let the audience fill in the blanks. The moment when she recognizes somebody did her wrong, she’ll take that person out.”
The final episodes of Black Summer, although only 20 minutes long, but it was action-packed. Naturally, the audience will be curious about why the sudden changes. Justin says he doesn’t really know about that but knowing John Hymes, who likes to do the unexpected. And describe John as a “less is more” type of person.
“Originally, when I read the script, it was like 45 pages long; it originally was a longer episode. Then I think they want to trim the fat and go straight to the action.”
Justin recalls that the episode required a few days to take because it required shooting in different locations. Plus, there was a lot of choreography between the background for all the people playing the Zombies, like the bridge scene, which actually took them a whole day to shoot that scene.
“A perfect example of how John cutting out the fluff can be seen in the scene where Rose shoots William Velez, played by Sal Velez Jr. Originally, that scene was more melodramatic. Velez begs Rose not to shoot him in the head. And then John doesn’t think that was a good idea, so they make it a quick, split-second decision scene.”
Dead Talk Live host, Viz mentioned he got his son, a teenager, to binge-watch the show in the next two days after telling his son to watch the 20-minute-long finale. For Justin personally, that left him wanting more. When Anna, Rose’s daughter, runs off the stadium at the very end of season one, it originally played a little differently. They cut the part where she’s running towards Rose, but not showing the part where she runs all the way up and having a reunion by hugging each other.
“That makes me, as the audience question, it is real? Or is it another hallucination? And I think that’s what John wants to deliver.”
Justin confirms that the team is finished filming Black Summer season 2 around November 2020. It’s in post-production from that onward. But he doesn’t confirm whether the release date will be on Netflix, but rumors say it will be released around spring 2021.
“We actually shot the first half before the COVID-19 pandemic and hope we can make it after that. But, like everybody else, I was stuck in Limbo for 6 months or so. But the good thing was in those 6 months they already cut the first half of the film. After that, they need to finish the last half.”
Lauran on Instagram (Thank Lauran!) then wants to know how Spears, “Black Summer,” react to actually seeing Rose’s daughter still being alive if the scene in the stadium ends up not being a hallucination.
“I think he’ll roll along with Rose and other survivors, and it’s always better to roll with a group than going solo in the world that he’s in now.
As a fan who is excited and filled with curiosity, the Dead Talk Live Host asks Justin to describe as vague as possible what time point will season 2 start with. Justin revealed that it would start after about 6 months from the last episode of season 1. And he believes there will be 8 episodes in season 2, and the episode will be around 50 minutes to 1 hour.
“What I love about John, our showrunner, is that he loves to play with reality. He was really encouraging us to find that space about how the character, in terms of emotionally and psychologically, will look after 6 months inside an apocalyptic world. How will the character’s everyday life look like at that time?”
Joining Spears In “Black Summer,” there is a Korean female survivor, Kyungsun, played by Christine Lee, who didn’t speak English. Justin points out that he never met Christine before filming Black Summer; they become good friends afterward.
“Most people, especially my friends, are shocked when I mentioned that she doesn’t have an accent when she speaks. She’s from Vancouver, an actress, and a chill young woman.”
As the interview touches on the character Kyungsun, Justin loves how Christine, and the deaf kid Ryan, played by Mustafa Alabssi, deliver the struggling of communication on the screen.
“I love that they didn’t put any subtitles on it. That was a strong choice. I think Netflix wanted subtitles, but John had to really fight against it because he wanted the audience to feel the communication struggle as well.”
And the interview goes back to touch on Rose, which is played by a successful model turn actress, Jaime King. Justin felt a little intimidated when he worked with Jaime since Jaime is already a long-time veteran compared to him. For Justin, Jaime really raised the stakes. She’s definitely brought the truth to her work, which always elevates everybody else. She made everybody else step up to her level. But they become close friends afterward.
“I love telling stories when I first met Jaime. She was sitting in the car, the crews waiting to bring her to set, and they tell me Jaime wants to meet me before we start the first scene, it is about “Spears” saving Rose from her husband. She’s sitting in the car and looks at me, and I look back; we’re connected for a second. After a while, she cheered me up, telling me the scene was going to work.”
Justin also mentioned that although Spears on “Black Summer” didn’t completely trust Rose in the film, since they just met for 3 days, he definitely trusts Rose more than anybody else.
“I think the dynamic changes when she shoots those military guys when they are dragging “Spears” away. I think that definitely gave her some points in Spear’s spirits book.”
Rage Zombies play an important role in Black Summer. Justin had a deep appreciation of the zombies’ actors. It required a lot of energy to act, including the expression, voices, running, and chasing the survivors while having the zombie makeup on their face for hours.
“They all did an excellent job; I completely appreciated how much energy and afford they put in to breathe life in those scary zombies. There was a scene where the group was going to get the weapons from the underground building. And towards the end of that part was “Spears” running from all the Zombies. By that time, the camera was on top of me. I didn’t even really see the camera. At that point, the zombies tackled 2 regular people, and they were tearing them apart, blood and guts splattering all around, plus how the lights were set up. It looks so real, and that’s going to give me nightmares. I’m not going to forget that.”
Compare to hardcore or diehard fans of the horror genre, Justin does not consider himself as that kind of fan.
“I’m careful when I say “fan” because there’s diehard, hardcore fans out there. Oddly enough, I actually love a really well-done mythical horror like Werewolf, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Gary Oldman. I like Jack Nicholson’s role, which I feel doesn’t get enough credit. But I do not consider myself a hardcore fan. I watch everything.”
Kelsey Flower, who plays Lance in Black Summer, is a jokester among them. Justin mentioned he has difficult times to keep a straight face around Kelsey.”
“He is a funny man, he is really great at improv, impersonations and he can sing too. In the film, John describes Lance as a character who has no business surviving, but somehow luck favors him.”
As an actor, Justin finds that the scene where “Spears” pulls a gun on a kid in Black Summer is emotionally difficult.
“We’re trying to find an authentic place where I would actually pull a gun on a kid, which I wouldn’t do. It was very emotionally difficult for me even to point a gun at a 10-year-old kid. And it doesn’t make me feel great.”
And the scene which drained him a lot in terms of physically was the bathroom fight scene. Justin mentioned that they have to do like 10 takes for that scene without stunt doubles. The production team actually cut around that scene for the final product. But they are required to do the full fight for that scene.
“There’s one scene where “Spears” fights the soldier, where he cracks the soldier’s head into the mirror. The actor for the soldier is also a stunt guy himself. I think the mirror we use in that scene is made out of sugar glass. But it actually still cuts him. We did that number of times, and he’s really slimy against the wall, and we were pretty exhausted by the end of the takes.”
Before Justin talks about his other project, he confirms with Dead Talk Live that the director did the chronological order episode.
After that, Justin talks about his other project, BlindSpotting (2018), with Dead Talk Live. That movie took place where Justin from (Oakland), and it appears that Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, the writer and stars of the movie, are two of his best friends back in high school. And they put many people that grew up together with them as the characters in that series.
Justin laughs and reminiscing about how they started.
“We used to make a web series on a shoestring budget, 500 dollars is considered a lot when we all put together 10 years ago, trying to make out a little web series, which actually turned out not bad. It just feels like we’ve come so far from those little projects we do together that no one would watch it now.”
Blinspotting TV-series will be around spring 2021, as told by Justin.
There is another revolutionized TV Series, Quarantine, that Justin was involved in. It was created by Jerry Ying, a good friend of Justin.
The TV series takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic, where like everybody else during the series locked down in March 2020. Justin tells Dead Talk Live that Jerry is very fascinated by what Zoom could do. As Zoom can record conversation video, that sparks Jerry’s idea to make a series out of it.
“He gathered a group of tech specialists, and people shoot from their own house individually. Even some actors, who were couples, got to have a kind of dynamic at their house. The joke is kind of soap within a soap. It’s a very highly exaggerated soap opera star, with egos and how they’re dealing with being locked down and being in quarantine. That kind of phrase that I think a lot of us went through, like they thought this wouldn’t last long, but it actually does.”
For the last question, Justin was asked about which project is the biggest breakthrough for Justin’s acting careers so far, and Justin tell Dead Talk Live:
“It was Black Summer, hands down.”
Although Justin and the crew face hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic season, they are very determined to deliver the Black Summer season 2 as best as they can.
Watch Justin Chu Cary as Spears on “Black Summer” as season two is set to premiere in the Spring of 2021. Justin is also currently filming “Blindspotting” for Starz.