James Wolk, Nora Arnezeder Interview: ‘Zoo,’ Killer Squirrels, and Working with Animals

Zoo - James Wolk and Nora Arnezeder Interview
James Wolk as Jackson Oz and Nora Arnezeder as Chloe in ‘Zoo’ (Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle © 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc.)

What animals do the stars of CBS’ Zoo James Wolk and Nora Arnezeder absolutely not want to work with? Wolk’s answer to my question during our roundtable interview at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con was definitely unexpected. “I’m not that comfortable around squirrels, to be completely honest with you. I’ve gotten better at it, but I’m just glad we haven’t been that close to squirrels because squirrels… They’d be like, ‘Hey, James, you don’t mind being in a scene with a squirrel, right?’ As opposed to like a leopard, you’re like, ‘No, I’m not going to be in a scene with a leopard!’ They understand. With a squirrel, how do explain like I don’t want to be by a squirrel? And thank god we haven’t,” said Wolk, laughing.

Of course I had to follow that answer up by asking if he was attacked by a squirrel as a child. “A squirrel fell on me when I was on a camping trip,” revealed Wolk. “It ran all up and down my body. It didn’t do anything but ever since then I’ve been a little [leery] around squirrels.”

Meanwhile, Arnezeder was campaigning for ants to be a part of the show. “Ants, I had no problem with. I talked to the producer and I was like, ‘Hey, listen, I have to talk to you. What if we put ants in one of the episodes? Like, ants are so scary!’ He was looking at me like, ‘And what? [Slapping her arm] To do this?”

There’s a lot of CG involved in creating the CBS series based on James Patterson’s book, but when the animals are on set Wolk says in a lot of cases they’d split the humans and animal shots up so they weren’t actually confronting each other. “Even in the shots where we are working with the animals, some of them we are in proximity to the animals,” explained Wolk. “Others they’ll shoot us and then they’ll turn around and shoot the animals and put it together. It looks like they’re right there.”

In order to prepare for the series, Arnezeder read the book because she wanted to know more of the story. “But the show is different. I’m very happy because James Patterson is a big fan of the show, which is really important for us to make him happy – to not disappoint him,” said Arnezeder.

Both Wolk and Arnezeder say they were immediately sold on the idea of being a part of the series. “It was like James Patterson’s doing something that’s going to be on TV, and then it’s these producers like [Jeff] Pinker and [Josh] Appelbaum and [Scott] Rosenbaum and [Andre] Nemec and their body of work behind them, and what they’ve done with big concepts and made them really palatable. It all seemed to just feel right. And the script was great. It was interesting and different than a lot of things that are on TV right now,” explained Wolk.

Watch the entire James Wolk and Nora Arnezeder interview:

In addition, executive producers Zoo executive producers Josh Appelbaum and Jeff Pinkner also took part in Comic Con and discussed the source material, the animals, and what viewers can expect from season one.