NZ stars in US zombie shows a strong local force at pop convention.

As Cliff Curtis exited the press room for his new series Fear the Walking Dead, Marton Csokas waited to enter for his latest US gig, Into the Badlands, while next door Lucy Lawless hopped from camera to camera chatting about Ash vs Evil Dead.

The trio may have been oblivious to each other, but their simultaneous promotional duties marked another strong Kiwi presence at Comic-Con, the biggest and most influential comic book and pop culture convention in the United States.

Rose McIver and her Zombie crew kicked off the convention on a high, taking out an MTV Fandom Award.

Ash vs Evil Dead, with Ray Santiago, Bruce Campbell and Dana DeLorenzo, also stars Lucy Lawless. Photo / AP
Ash vs Evil Dead, with Ray Santiago, Bruce Campbell and Dana DeLorenzo, also stars Lucy Lawless. Photo / AP

"It's incredibly flattering that we've only had one season and had this incredible, exponential fan growth," the 26-year-old said. "We won Best New Fandom and for me that's not for us - it's for everybody that has supported the show and kept us alive." McIver also fessed up to her lack of Comic-Con street cred.


"My biggest and most embarrassing confession is I haven't seen Star Wars ... Coming from the bush in New Zealand I've definitely missed a few of the cult/convention-friendly shows, but I'm catching up. I watched Ghostbusters for the first time last week!"

In other Kiwi zombie happenings, Cliff Curtis helped launch Fear the Walking Dead, a companion series to monster hit The Walking Dead. The show follows an East LA family, led by school teacher Travis (Curtis), as they face the early stages of a zombie apocalypse. Coming off the back of one of the biggest shows on television may ensure its August US premiere doesn't bomb but Curtis isn't counting his chickens, saying the series will "take the time to earn its audience".

Curtis joked he's working on getting more Kiwi content on the show. "I'm pitching them to do a season in New Zealand."

Lucy Lawless was also in town with husband Rob Tapert for their latest blood and gore project Ash vs Evil Dead, a TV adaptation of The Evil Dead films.

Shot in Auckland and made by the original films' creators - who grew tired of being asked every Comic-Con when another movie would be in the works - the horror sitcom is produced by Tapert who also worked on the first film. It picks up 30 years later with Bruce Campbell reprising his role as Ash, while Lawless plays Ruby Knobby.

Lucy Lawless. Photo / AP
Lucy Lawless. Photo / AP

"If you don't know that name, then you aren't hardcore," she said.

Asked if Campbell requested raunchy, Spartacus-style love scenes, Lawless laughed, "Every chance he gets", to which he retorted, "Yes ... just not during filming".

Following a big year which saw him star in three number one movies (most recently, The Equaliser with Denzel Washington), former Shortland Streeter Marton Csokas marked his return to series television with Into the Badlands.


The martial arts drama (airing on the same US network as The Walking Dead) is loosely based on the Chinese tale Journey to the West and Csokas plays the central character, Quinn. Producers searched high and low for the right actor to fill Quinn's shoes, before discovering Csokas and his "magnificent beard".

"I liked the gamble of this show," said Csokas. "There are a lot of elements thrown in and it seemed things were still being worked out, so I was drawn to that organic process of what it might be."

New Zealand-filmed MTV series The Shannara Chronicles also made its Comic-Con debut with Manu Bennett kicking off the panel by greeting author Terry Brooks with a hongi. The series is based on Brooks' best-selling fantasy books.

Bennett had just relocated to Los Angeles when the role came up. "I just moved all my gear, bought a car, moved to LA and went on my first audition in Hollywood and it was for this," said Bennett.

"They were like, 'We like you'. I had to get on a plane and fly home."

Bennett's fellow Middle-earth grad John Rhys-Davies also returned Downunder for the project, quipping that his portrayal of King Eventine is far superior to that of Orlando Bloom's Legolas in Lord of the Rings.

"I would like to address a certain elf I worked with; from dwarf to elf-king ... eat your heart out, Orlando Bloom!"

Fans and reporters were buzzing about the trailer's stunning New Zealand backdrop and Bennett believes premiering the clip at Comic-Con will prove pivotal to the series' success.

Rose McIver. Photo / AP
Rose McIver. Photo / AP

"Once you get on a show that's released at Comic-Con, all of a sudden you're part of this world, which is a massive part of the American public. Even though Hollywood has a presence here, there's nothing bigger at Comic-Con than the people.

"I've been here five years in a row so I'm starting to feel old, but I know what it's allowed me to open into as an actor."