Interview with Black Summer’s Justin Chu Cary

Black Summer - Justin Chu Cary as Spears - Photo Courtesy of Netflix
Black Summer - Justin Chu Cary as Spears - Photo Courtesy of Netflix /

Justin Chu Cary, who plays Spears on Netflix’s latest high-octane zombie thriller, Black Summer, chatted with Hidden Remote about the show.

If you haven’t had the chance to watch the new Netflix zombie show, Black Summer, a prequel to Syfy’s Z Nation, then I recommend YOU STOP READING NOW! SPOILERS ARE AHEAD! And also, what are you doing!? Go watch the show right now! It’s a super realistic, gritty and thrilling foray into the zombie genre with a unique spin that sets it apart from other series.

We had the chance to chat with Justin Chu Cary, who plays Spears on the show. You may recognize Cary from his roles on shows like Jane the Virgin, S.W.A.T., and Lucifer or the 2018 film, Blindspotting.

He chatted with us about his character, Spears’s relationship with Rose, what he hopes for moving forward should the show get renewed (fingers crossed) and lots more!

Hidden Remote: I really didn’t know what to expect with Black Summer going in because I hadn’t seen Z Nation before, but I’ve always really liked the zombie genre. I was really impressed with how intense the show was.

Justin Chu Cary: Yeah, it is an intense high-octane show.

HR: Did you know anything about Z Nation before you got Black Summer? Or was it brand new for you too?

JCC: It was brand new for me too. One of my friends did an episode of Z Nation once and I watched it, but this was a few years ago.

HR: What’s cool is that it’s a prequel series so it gets to stand on its own two feet.

JCC: I think it’s helpful that I didn’t know anything because I didn’t have any preconceived notions going in, especially since it’s such a different show than Z Nation.

HR: One thing I noticed in Black Summer is that there were tons of long takes. Was that intense to film?

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JCC: It was intense and it involved a lot of choreography, but the cool thing is, John, the showrunner, he was keeping his eye out for people who had a lot of theater experience because he wanted people who could stay in the moment and through the choreography.

Some of the takes were 7-8 minutes long and everyone on set, I think almost every actor, had a solid amount of theater background and you could tell because it was just like get in it and we’re going.

HR: I thought it was a really unique way to film the show. It makes perfect sense for a zombie show because it makes so much more intense and adds to the tension.

JCC: I haven’t seen that many zombie shows or movies, I mean I’ve seen a couple of classics like 28 Days Later, but it felt like something I haven’t seen before in horror in general. That’s something they were talking about, that they wanted to shoot it like a war movie. Like you’d see that in a war movie, right? Like there on the battlefield and it’d be this one beautiful, long take of the soldiers. John wanted to capture that feeling because it is a war, you know?

HR: I certainly think he succeeded in that because it was one of the more realistic zombie shows I’ve seen. Did you want to talk about your character and his arc?

JCC: Spears was such a good character to have the opportunity to play because he starts out as this street hustler kind of dude, doing his typical up-to-no-good thing and then he is dropped into this apocalypse and has to make a lot of decisions that normal people wouldn’t make.

Now we’re in this apocalyptic moment the only way you’re going to survive is to team up with other people and trust them. Not to mention, these people are very different people than I’m sure Spears is used to being with. I think the journey for him is going from being kind of a solo, on his own dude, to having to put his trust into this random collection of strangers for his own survival.

HR: Sure and he kind of bonds the most with Rose, it seems like.

JCC: That’s something Jaime and I talked about. In life, sometimes you meet a person and for whatever reason, you just kind of click with them and it’s like “boom, I get you and you get me!” We were saying we felt like these two, for whatever reason, as different of backgrounds they come from, they lock eyes – not even in a romantic kind of way – but they understand each other and they are connected somehow.

HR: It felt like a natural progression of their characters because the first time they meet, he saves her life.

JCC: And for whatever reason, even though Rose isn’t the type of person Spears would trust, or Spears isn’t the type of person Rose would trust, for whatever reason when she’s like “take me to my child, take me the stadium” and I kind of just say, “okay”, we talked about that moment being this thing of like, “I don’t know why, but I trust you and we work well together.”

Black Summer
Justin Chu Cary Headshot – Courtesy of PMK•BNC /

HR: That really comes into play in one of the later episodes, where she shoots the two guards who try to take Spears.

JCC: That is actually one of my favorite moments, especially for the arc of Rose. Because if you notice, that’s the first time she killed someone in the series. I know that’s something Jaime was going for.

Like this is the moment she switches from suburban mom whose going to soccer games, to going to this woman who has to kill – and not even zombies, these are just two regular men, soldiers at that – but she knows what she needs to do to get to her daughter and to safety.

HR: If the show gets renewed for a second season is there anything specifically you would like to see for your character moving forward?

JCC: I mean it’s not up to me but one of my favorite things about the show is it really only takes place over 3-4 days, if you track it, it’s not even a week! I love that, I hope they don’t go too much forward, if anything, I’d love to see them drop in maybe even a few days before.

I would love to see what’s happening with the heist or money looting thing that I’m talking about in the first scene with the soldier. I know part of the series is not really about backstory but I would love to open that up and see what world Spears comes from.

HR: That would be cool to learn more about him. One thing about the show is, you don’t get to learn a lot about the characters, which can be a good and bad thing.

JCC: Right, and I could just be making things up here, but I feel like I’ve heard the writers talking about how they wanted this first season to just hit you hard and throw you into the world, not getting backstory, not getting anything, just this adrenaline rush to the stadium.

Then, hopefully, in seasons to come, we start to unpack and open up these characters and learn more about the world and the virus that has infected everybody. I think it is an interesting way to tell a story, to just kind of throw you into the adrenaline mix and then unpack.

HR: I think the intensity makes the show stand apart from other shows in the genre because usually they take it much more slowly and I like that Black Summer did the opposite of that.

JCC: I feel good about, you know, when you’re in it, you’re just trusting the directors and as the actor you’re just being in whatever moment you’re supposed to be in.

It was kind of hard to track the series because we were shooting separately from like, the diner scene, me and Rose weren’t in the diner, or to see the episode with Lance running, I had no idea what was gonna happen in those scenes.

HR: So you got to enjoy it as a viewer too.

JCC: I totally enjoyed it as a viewer and was on the edge of my seat! Like, I know I see Lance in episode six, but I was like, “how are you going to get out of this Lance!?”

HR: I was wondering if you had any favorite moments on set or any scene you really were proud of?

JCC: I love episode five. I think all the actors absolutely crushed it because there isn’t much action, it’s really dialogue-heavy, but they brought such intensity and truth to it that it was really captivating to watch.

For me, personally, in what I shot, I was happy with the bathroom fight scene. I hadn’t done a full fight scene like that before so the first time you do anything you’re like, “I hope that works.” But when I saw it, I was like, “oh wow, that’s brutal.”

HR: And that’s a great scene too because it sets up how you become Spears, since he takes the guy’s uniform.

JCC: Right, and all my friends and family had been hitting me up because they had seen the trailers and images of the show and were like “oh he’s a soldier,” and then with that reveal everyone was like, “OH that’s how he’s Spears.” I love how that turned out.

Next. Black Summer: 6 WTF moments from Season 1. dark

HR: It adds another layer to his character too, with that twist.

JCC: Yeah, and I’m interested as an audience member, of what the writers and creators are going to come up with if they choose to do a backstory, like what was that money heist thing Spears was doing before in the middle of this government shutdown?

HR: Thanks so much for chatting with me! I really do hope the show gets renewed for a second season.

JCC: Thanks, me too!

The complete first season of Black Summer is now available to stream on Netflix.