Being a college student is hard. Being a college student living in the midst of a zombie apocalypse is even harder, but that’s exactly what Alison Sumner, portrayed by Bri Castellini, is doing in the web series Brains. Through a series of short videos, Alison takes us on her journey of traversing life in the apocalypse, including chasing down her long-time crush and even investigating murders. Aside from portraying the female lead, Castellini is also the creator, writer, and executive producer of this comedic horror web series.
I recently had the opportunity to discuss Brains with Bri and get a tease of what is to come for Alison in season two.
What was your inspiration for creating Brains?
Brains began as a five-minute play assignment in a college playwriting class, because I wanted to answer the question “why, when people imitate zombies, do they just groan ‘braaaaains’ when they’re usually depicted eating any and all flesh?” I also thought it would be funny to have an apocalyptic setting that the characters largely ignored because of some interpersonal conflict. Then after the success of web series like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (which I loved) I decided to adapt the original concept into a web series, and now, here we are! (laughs).
How do the zombies in Brains differ from the typical zombies that are seen on TV and movies?
Our zombies are unique because they only eat brains; no other human flesh is consumed, though they do bite (which is how they transfer the infection to humans). Plus, if they eat enough brains consistently enough, they can maintain an outer appearance of being alive, and they don’t even need to eat human brains to do it. However, if they go too long without eating, whether it’s right after they’ve been turned or after years of living amongst the living, they can pass the “point of no return,” and completely devolve into the classic shambling monsters we all know and love.
In episode 5, “The Undead are Throwing Off My Game,” Alison sort of goes off on a tangent about how art is still important even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Do you think this is true? And do you think that people would still find time for art and creative expression during an actual zombie apocalypse?
(laughs) I do think it’s true that art is important, even in the apocalypse. Obviously, Alison’s perspective is a bit skewed because she considers the apocalypse much more “over” than her peers seem to, but I think there’s truth in her tangent. One of the best parts about art, no matter what form, is that it allows for escapism. And when better to escape reality for a little while than the apocalypse, if you can spare a moment or two? Also, to her science-y point, there’s a psychological need for art, be it appreciation or creation, to help deal with trauma or stress. I think people always find time for creative expression no matter what form.
Where does Alison go from here? She’s just discovered that Damian, her major crush, is a zombie, and to top it all of, Professor Heather Sherman is a zombie who killed two students.
Yeah, Alison had a rough week (season 1 takes place over the course of eight days!), but she’s nothing if not a planner. Our girl always has a new goal or scheme. Without giving too much away from the new season, Alison is going to have to deal with how her original plans and preconceptions must change in the face of reality. She wants two kids and a pit bull, but the guy she spent all season pursuing can’t give her that. She wants to continue her neuropsychology studies, but her mentor traded ethics for science by murdering two students and nearly murdering her best friend. Alison desperately wants to get her life back on a normal track, but the world is not making that easy on her.
Will Alison find a new love interest, or is a romance with Damian still a possibility?
Season 2 does introduce a new potential love interest, Ben Roscoe, played by the excellent Jean Perez, but a romance with Damian (played by the equally excellent Marshall Taylor Thurman) is definitely not off the table, which of course makes things complicated. Against her better judgment, Alison’s not one to throw away all her effort just because she discovered a deal breaker late in the game (laughs).
What would you miss most if there were a zombie apocalypse?
I would probably miss showers the most, followed closely by perishable foods. I don’t deal with heat and sweat well, so feeling grimy all the time would not be an ideal situation for me. As for food, I’m an embarrassingly picky eater.
Do you think that you’d be able to survive a zombie apocalypse?
I would probably not survive the zombie apocalypse, but I’m one of those delusional people who still holds on to a glimmer of hope about it, because I’m very competitive and aggressive, which could be good survival traits. Maybe if someone I disliked was on my survival squad that would motivate me better, because I would want to at the very least outlive them.
Our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us, so what do you nerd out about?
Rhetoric and discourse are things I tend to nerd out about the most, because I was a competitive speech and debater for six years and I love deconstructing arguments and discussions about OTHER nerdy things. Talking about talking. Arguing about arguing. I love that stuff (laughs).