Nick Carter can't stop talking about how much he loves zombies.
The singer-turned-actor, best known for his role as the frontman in 1990's boy band, the Backstreet Boys, has spent nine years working on his zombie Western movie, Dead 7. For Carter, the zombie subsection of the horror genre has always appealed to him and has been something he's wanted to explore for years. But being a part of one of the most successful pop acts in the past few decades and caving into demands for world tours meant he had to put his dreams of pursuing a movie on hold.
"I wrote the screenplay for Dead 7 because I wanted to act in a specific type of movie, and at the time, there just wasn't anything out there," Carter told Polygon. "I was doing back to back world tours, too, so I couldn't sign on to any movie for a long period of time."
Despite touring for hundreds of days, Carter never lost sight of the zombie movie he was slowly chipping away at. Whenever he returned home to California for a few days, he would sit down and bang out a few pages, until eventually he had finished the script he'd set out to write. Although Carter loved the entire process, and was proud of finishing his first screenplay, most of the excitement he felt toward the project was geared toward the acting he had wanted to do for so long.
"I decided I was going to write the role that I wanted to star in and create the movie that I wanted to be in. I love the creative process, but having that last bit of control was important to me," Carter said.
Dead 7, which stars Carter alongside former Backstreet Boy members A.J. McLean and Joey Fatone, as well as a few other boyband members, is a post-apocalyptic zombie film set in the mid-west. In the movie, Carter's character must band together with a group of criminals who happen upon his small town when the undead begin to attack its citizens. The singer acknowledged that the film wasn't going to win any awards, but said he wanted to jump from the music industry to Hollywood, and he wanted to do it with this movie.
When he brought the idea to Syfy, the network — who are perhaps best known for the Sharknado franchise — fell in love with the idea, but had one tiny suggestion. Originally, Carter wanted to bring in a cavalcade of actors, from Lindsay Lohan to Jesse McCartney (although the latter shot down his offer to appear in the movie). It was an attempt to make the film seem as legit as possible without having to rely on his own status. When he approached Syfy, however, the network asked him to consider making it a zombie-Western-boy band movie, enlisting the help of his former bandmates and others from 'N Sync and 98 Degrees.
"I approached Joey Fatone when I had finished the script, because I had always been a fan of his acting work and thought he'd be great in the movie," Carter said. "When Syfy suggested we bring others on board, I knew I wanted A.J. to be in it, too."
"They always remember the bad guy."
A.J. McLean has been acting since he was three or four years old, and confessed that while he loved being a Backstreet Boy, he just happened to fall into music. He told Polygon that he always had designs to be an actor, and when Carter approached him about being in Dead 7, was quick to say yes on one condition.
"I told Nick I had to be the bad guy. I wouldn't do it if I wasn't the bad guy," McLean said, laughing. "When people go see movies like this, they always remember the bad guy."
McLean said he was inspired by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, and wanted to be the guy that people talked about after the credits rolled. A difficult feat, he admitted, considering that people only saw him as "A.J. from the Backstreet Boys."
"The whole boy band thing ... we got stuck in that world after we got back from our first European tour. We hadn't even heard of the term before then," McLean said. "That whole stereotype stuck. We never got away from that stigma."
"But it's the end of an era."
For McLean, who said he'll be using Dead 7 as a way to garner more auditions and pursue a career in acting, being able to play a character so different from the persona he's used on stage for years was one of the main reasons he decided to take the role. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to dip his toes into new waters, and doing it alongside Carter was icing on the cake.
"There have been rumors for years that we hate each other. That's just bullshit," McLean said. "Being with Nick and Joey and all the other guys felt like just hanging out with your best friends. It felt like a fraternity. A fraternity of former boy band members."
Carter echoed McLean's thoughts, adding that Dead 7 marked a new chapter for all of them. Although the Backstreet Boys probably wouldn't be going on any more tours (never say never, though), Carter was looking forward to collaborating with his former bandmates and friends on more films.
"One of the reasons I wanted these guys to be in the movie is because I wanted to surround myself with people that I respected and could rely on," Carter said. "But it's the end of an era. We're not what we used to be, but being able to rely on each other and move into a new era of our lives through Dead 7 was great."
When asked if Carter had plans for a sequel, the actor laughed, and said that while he hadn't written anything, he wasn't going to say no if the opportunity presented itself. McLean on the other hand said his bags are already packed for the next one.
"If someone were to call me right now, while we were doing this interview, and ask if I was interested in doing a Dead 8 or a prequel movie, I'd already be on the road," he said. "Three weeks of sitting in the desert with your best friends and fighting zombies? Who'd say no to that?"
Dead 7 premieres April 1 at 8 p.m. ET on Syfy.