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Karamo Brown Had To Be Told To Stop Making People Cry On ‘Queer Eye’

Culture
Photo via Instagram/@karamobrown

He’s not trying to make people weep “in a sadistic way”

I’m pretty sure I cry whenever Karamo Brown is on-screen. It’s like a Pavlovian reflex at this point, minus the drooling. And I'm surprisingly okay with that, which is something the Queer Eye culture guru is pleased to hear during our phone conversation. "I want you to cry," he pokes, a measured balanced of mirth and reverence underlining the sentiment that most people could use a little salty catharsis. He's careful to point out, though, that his desire to make others sob is never "in a sadistic way." Instead, it's grounded in the idea that, as a society, we are far too repressed, far too removed from our emotions, to really know what we want and need—and that's what he's here to fix, especially for those who have had to adhere to the ideals of toxic masculinity their entire lives. 

A lot of people who watch Queer Eye ask: "What exactly does Karamo do?" I would argue that he has the most important job. Why? Because it's hard to emotionally bolster and instill even a modicum of confidence within someone else who has, for a while, fervently not believed in themselves. And it is truly a testament to his abilities as a connector that Karamo tends to be the driving force behind the most emotional moments of Queer Eye. So what's a journalist with a culture job to do besides ask him about identity politics, emotional labor, and vulnerability? Read our Q&A with Karamo, below.

Truth time: Whenever I’m sobbing, 95 percent of the time, you're on-screen.
That's my goal, to be honest with you.  

Is it hard being the emotional rock of the entire show?
It's not. I was hoping that that could be my role! My background is in social work and as a psychotherapist—I did that for almost 12 years before I got into television. I always had an ability to listen and give people the space to open up and express themselves, and I was hoping it would translate on TV. This was my first attempt at trying that, so when I see people getting emotional and the crying... it makes me so happy. And when I say happy, it sounds, like, really crazy, but we don't have enough cathartic moments. We don't get to cry and express ourselves, whether it be happy cries or sad cries; and so I want that for people. 

It's so important to be vulnerable. 
One hundred percent. And I gotta tell you something, you're gonna get something no one's ever heard. So the creator of the show, after the second episode, literally came in the trailer and said, "Karamo, enough with trying to make people cry." And I was like, "No, I will not." And any of the guys—ask them—every day I was like, "My job is to figure out how I can make this guy cry." And not in a sadistic way, but to get him to reach a breakthrough. So when they were like, “Enough with the crying,” I was like, "I promise you, if you let me do my job, it will resonate with the audience." The same way you don't tell Jonathan, "Don't make people laugh," don't tell me not to make people cry. And eventually, [the creator] was like, "I'm glad you do what you do." 

The level of openness that you're able to achieve in such a short amount of time is remarkable. That said, there's so much personal burden that comes with trying to educate people at times. And, it's gotten to the point where some people are saying they need to limit the amount of education they give because it's a lot to continuing reliving their traumas—what's your stance on that line of thinking?
I completely disagree with that. I think it is our jobs to check in with ourselves and see what has molded us into being the human beings we are. Sometimes it's happy moments, and sometimes it's traumatic moments, but it's about doing the work with yourself. And sometimes we don't know how to do that. That's why I always advocate for therapists, psychiatrists, even life coaches if you feel more comfortable with that or if you don't have insurance. Because I think that, by checking in with yourself and getting to the core of why you react to life in a certain way, you'll be a better and more gracious and more healthy human being. I mean every moment that we've had from when you were a child—like that triggered me or was a traumatic moment—can be tackled by saying, "You know what, I need to figure this out." [And doing that for me] has helped me to be a better adult now. 

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I feel like most people are scared to really take that first step.
That's what it is. We all are scared. First of all, as a culture, we're constantly told that if you start to express yourself or express your needs, you're needy. You're too emotional. And they put all these negative connotations on it. That has started since we were kids, especially for men. They're like, "Stop crying, toughen up, be more of a man!" And even for young women, it's like you can't be emotional at work because then it's gonna make you seem weak. And it's like, what? When did we start getting to place as a culture where your emotions make you weak? I think we have to recheck that as we get older and say, "No, that's a horrible way to think." 

In this new season, what was probably the most emotional moment for you?
It's not gonna be the one that's typical, like Tammye... 

Tammye was amazing. I think people around the world relate to her in such a way. It's the same thing with Tom; Tom reminds us all of that uncle, that grandfather, our dad—that person in our life who's just sort of given up because life has beaten them down. And Tammye represents that woman in our lives that you always wanted to give you a big hug and tell you that it's gonna be okay. Whether it was your teacher, your mom, your aunt. And I think this world is gonna resonate with her. But, she didn't make me emotional. Ironically, the one that made me emotional was Leo, the father.  

Here we have this immigrant man living in the South, who has all this guilt about being a father. And, as a dad from immigrant parents, I know what it's like to have this guilt of "I came here to give my kids a better life, and I feel like I'm failing them." And a lot of time we leave space for women to be able to talk about their guilt as mothers, but we don't give men that same space. It was one of the first times that me, him, and other fathers were able to sit together and talk about what we were feeling. There was a big part of our conversation that got left out when I did the little daddy dates—all the guys were in there crying. And I was like, "Why did this not get [put in the episode]?" It was such a powerful moment to see men say, "I'm trying, and I feel like I'm failing my wife and my kids, and I want to be better but I don't know how." And I was like, "Do you know how many women wanna hear this?" To hear these men say, "I want to do better, and I don't know how," was so powerful, and for us to give ideas to each other… I was in there sobbing, they were sobbing, we were all sobbing. 

That's incredible and so beautiful to hear. I don't know why there aren't more scenes like that because there should be a lot more tears on the show. Watching Tom break down in the first season, I distinctly remember going, "Fuuuuck." 
I know, right? He reminded me of my grandfather; I've never seen my grandfather cry. So, when Tom cried, it was like, "Oh, that could be my grandpa!”

Why do you think the reboot has resonated with so many people?
I think that we're at a place where assumptions have gotten the best of us. We see people, and we see what we wanna see. We see a vote, we see a title, a job title, tattoos. We see a person they're dating, we see their race, we see their gender. And we assume these things. We make these assumptions that are killing us and dividing us. And for once, we pulled back the curtains on those assumptions and said, "You're greater than those labels, and all your other labels need to shine just as great, and here's an opportunity for them to do that." And don't be ashamed of any of them. I think that you saw in the first season with Cory. Immediately we saw cops, we saw trucks, but then we find out he's so much more. We see that with Tammye. With her, we see black, we see Southern, and we're like, "Oh, we know this woman." And then we find out that, even though she's in a church, she wants to accept her gay son. I mean, I think that's why it's resonated. Because a lot of times, we feel like we have to conform as human beings to what people expect us. It starts in high school, I have to be the cheerleader, or I have to be the jock, or I have to be the goth. And I have to go with this so I have my crew and I can feel accepted. But why can't we be all these things? Why can't I be the cheerleader that also likes goth music? And this is what the show allows people to be.

In terms of labels and jump-the-gun categorizations, in the first season, there was some criticism that the show felt structured in a way where you guys almost had to prove your humanity. To the people you'd label, quote-unquote, bigots. I'm curious to hear what you thought about that criticism.
I understand where that criticism comes from, but, I think, it's okay to want to show people all your different sides. I mean, the truth of the matter is, I have family members who have never been exposed to someone trans. And I don't mean exposed to [via] the media or by walking by them in the grocery store—but actually sat down and have a conversation with them. I know friends who say, "I have a grandfather who has never truly had a conversation with someone who is African-American." We find ourselves in these places where we really haven't exposed ourselves to other people. And sometimes, having us be there allows us to say, "You're exposed now. See all of me." And if we want to say "see all of me," and that means "see my humanity," then good for it. Because we need more of that, we need more people to see all of our humanity, and to see what's great about us, so that they can understand us and respect us and see that we all want love.

On that note, Tammye is the first woman on the show, and this season, you also have your first trans makeover. Why did you guys decide to expand the casting pool?
In Season 3 of the original Queer Eye, they dropped "straight guy," so that they could do this. I just don't think they got to [do women or trans folks], because of the fact that the show went off the air. But, the creators always—when they were bringing it back—had the intention of expanding it. That's why it was no longer Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. To start with Tammye and to have Skyler in there was just critical, because, again, there are so many people who have not been exposed and haven't been able to get an in-depth look at these individual lives, and now they have. And I hope we just take it a step further. If we're blessed to get a Season 3, a Season 4, Season 5, I hope we start working with people with disabilities. I want to start seeing more stories of women, more stories of lesbians. I want us to be able to help everyone, and I want people to feel seen. I think that's important. 

Final question, if you could switch jobs with any of the other guys, what would you choose and why?
Fashion. Fashion would be mine... even though Antoni, in the past two months, started mimicking Tan's style. 

No more Strokes T-shirts?
No, and I'm like, "Go back to those Strokes T-shirts! That's what's part of your sex appeal. You being like in a dirty shirt, in a ripped jean. It was sexy! And now you're dressing like Tan… I'm not into you in pajama pants." I'm just like not into it. But I am into it with Tan, because it works with Tan. Anyway, Tan and I have had lots of conversations about fashion outside. Even though my main thing is obviously mental health and well-being, and then my second passion would be politics, the third would be fashion. 

Queer Eye Season 2 is on Netflix now.

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

"I am honored to share this bonding experience with my own daughter"

In a heart-warming Instagram photo, Serena Williams shares the history of hair braiding and the importance of the tradition. The tennis player shared a photo of herself braiding her daughter Olympia Ohanian's hair and spoke about how "honored" she was to be able to "add another generation" to the tradition of the practice.

The photo shows Williams attentively braiding her daughter's hair while Olympia smiles, obviously loving the experience. Williams noted that hair braiding was created by the Himba people in Namibia, Africa, and that "we have been braiding our hair for centuries." "In many African tribes braided hairstyles were a unique way to identify each tribe," she continued.

Williams pointed out that braiding is a bonding experience. "People would often take the time to socialize," she wrote. "It began with the elders braiding their children, then the children would watch and learn from them. The tradition of bonding was carried on for generations, and quickly made its way across the world."

Williams closed her post with a sweet message about her daughter, saying that she's "honored to share this bonding experience" with her.

See the post, below.

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Courtesy of Adidas

The Stan Smiths are a must-have

Adidas just shared its capsule of sneakers paying tribute to Keith Haring, and TBH I can already feel my wallet emptying (and they're not even on sale yet). The new collection features three shoe silhouettes, all including the late artist's iconic imagery as embroidered designs.

The standout style of the collection is the Rivalry hi-top; with bright blue and orange stripes and piping along the edges, Haring's stars and cartoon bodies, in black thread, pop right off. If you're looking for something less over-the-top, the quirky white Nizza Hi RF sneakers show a snake wrapping around the back of the shoe and chasing one of Haring's cartoon bodies toward the toe. There's also a minimal embroidered design on the toe of a classic Stan Smith pair. Look a little more closely at the tongue though, and you'll notice the traditional image has been swapped with a caricature of Haring himself.

Peep the three silhouettes, below, and set your calendar for the official drop at the end of the month.

Adidas, Rivalry Hi Keith Haring Shoes, $120, available at Adidas starting at 10am EST on June 30.

Adidas, Nizza Hi RF Haring Shoes, $120, available at Adidas starting at 10am EST on June 30.

Adidas, Stan Smith Keith Haring Shoes, $120, available at Adidas starting at 10am EST on June 30.

NYLON uses affiliate links and may earn a commission if you purchase something through those links, but every product chosen is selected independently.


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Photos by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images, Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Hopefully this one will be typo-free

In an Instagram Live on Thursday, Taylor Swift announced that she would be creating a collaboration with fashion designer Stella McCartney inspired by her upcoming Lover album. Although she kept it vague, we can only assume that the two are working on a collection of luxe merch.

Swift noted in the announcement that she has been friends with McCartney "for a really long time," and that the designer already heard the new album. "I respect what she creates, how she creates it," Swift continued. "There's so much whimsy and imagination and romance to the clothing that she designs." Swift has been wearing McCartney's designs "a lot recently," so maybe we should have seen the collab coming.

One eagle-eyed fan pointed out that Swift wore Stella McCartney rainbow-hued shoes during her Wango Tango set. If the collab is anything like these shoes, you can bet I'll be copping it as quick as I can.

Swift detailed in her Instagram Live that the album Lover would be all about romance, which makes McCartney and her feminine designs perfect for the collaboration. We just hope that this collection doesn't have any typos, like some of Swift's "ME!" merch did.

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Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

And spreads the message that "we all got crowns"

Late on Thursday, Taylor Swift dropped a new single, "You Need To Calm Down," and announced her forthcoming studio album, Lover, out this August. Following her lead single "ME!" Swift continues to spread her message of self-love and call out haters—particularly the homophobic ones—in this latest song.

Swift "ended homophobic locals," as one fan put it on Twitter, with one particular lyric: "'Cause shade never made anybody less gay."

Along with the song, Swift shared a lyric video via YouTube which made her sentiments even clearer. With her lyric, "Why are you made?/ When you could be glad?" she spelled "glad" as "GLAAD," referencing the queer media advocacy organization.

Swift sings of homophobic protestors in the second verse: "Sunshine on the street at the parade/ But you would rather be in the dark ages/ Makin' that sign must've taken all night." In the pre-chorus, she adds, "You just need to take several seats and then try to restore the peace/ And control your urges to scream about all the people you hate."

Swift additionally comments on women being pitted against each other—"We see you over there on the internet comparing all the girls who are killin' it"—asserting that "we all got crowns." There's nothing trolls can do to rain on her parade anymore.

One fan pointed out the possible symbolism of the crown lyric. In "Call It What You Want," track 14 on Reputation, she sings "They took the crown but it's alright." Now on "You Need To Calm Down," track 14 of Lover, she sings that there's not just one crown—we all have them.

Some fans are pointing to the double meaning of the track title. If I had a dollar for every time someone said those words to me in a totally condescending way, I'd probably be richer than her! What woman hasn't been told to calm down about an entirely not-calm situation or while expressing their distaste?

During Swift's live stream for the release of the song, she also announced a fashion collaboration with designer Stella McCartney, a peek of which we got during the singer's WangoTango performance.

Lover is set for August 23 release.

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Credit: Frederick Elmes/ Focus Features

"I was like, 'Did I sleep with this critic's girlfriend, or what?'"

The day I meet Jim Jarmusch, the sun hangs so bright and hot and yellow and solid in the sky that it's hard to believe that it will actually set at night. It's one of those New York June days that suggests we might be in permanent daylight; it's got a completely different feeling than the crepuscular atmosphere of Jarmusch's latest film, The Dead Don't Die, which takes place in a small town in what feels like one long twilight, maybe the last one.

But for today, Jarmusch and I are sitting at a table in a sun-filled restaurant, though we're in the shade. We're in a part of the city that used to be very punk rock, and is now very NYU, yet being there with Jarmusch, who looks so at home, like he's holding court in the booth (it helps that Larry Fessenden, an old friend of Jarmusch's and a writer/director/producer/actor, who appears in The Dead Don't Die, happens by the table to say hi), makes the area feel a little punk rock again, even with all the sun.

The Dead Don't Die is a very punk rock zombie movie, by which I mean: It's not very scary, but it is very cool, and even when it's sneering, it's a little bit tender. Starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and Chloë Sevigny as a trio of small-town cops who fight back against a nascent zombie apocalypse caused by fracking, the film is cast with a who's who of Jarmusch regulars, like Steve Buscemi, Tilda Swinton, Iggy Pop, and Fessenden, to name a few; but it also features younger stars like Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez, and Luka Sabbat—and there's a real earworm of a theme song, courtesy of Sturgill Simpson.

Below, I speak with Jarmusch about the movie, being a dilettante, and why he only reads his negative reviews—which is definitely one of the most punk rock things I've ever heard.

Photo by Gareth Cattermole/ Getty Images

This was filmed on a pretty condensed shooting schedule, right?
It was a very rough schedule. A very difficult one, actually.

We only had seven weeks to shoot, and we had to shoot Adam Driver out in three weeks because he had to be delivered to Star Wars, and the financing of the film was incredibly grueling and took a long time, so we were pushed so far that we had about one month of prep, and then three weeks with Adam. And then all these different actors coming in and out; I don't know how Carter and Josh, the two producers, organized it all. And then we'd shoot 15-hour days, and halfway through, I had walking pneumonia; I had two coats; it was 95 out; I was shaking. You know, just weird stuff like that. But it's all okay because we had such great people—our crew—everybody. And then, the visual effects were very taxing and complicated.

How did that all work together? Because there's more than one decapitated head.
Yeah, it's a mixture. First of all, we mixed prosthetics with makeup with masks for some of the zombie stuff, but all of those effects with the decapitations, we had to just imagine. So we had to choreograph everything and then only imagine kind of what it would be like, which was, for me, very abstract because I'm not very versed in visual effects. You know, you had to really kind of trust your instincts, because Adam Driver's chopping away with a machete with no blade.

It could've been a machete, it could've been a lightsaber, who knows? So, to what degree is this a sequel of Paterson with Adam Driver's character's last name being Peterson?
Well, I just do these things to amuse myself while writing, you know? Bill Murray in Broken Flowers was named Don Johnson, and in this, I gave him the name Cliff Robertson. Tilda Swinton's character is Zelda Winston. Rosie Perez is named Posie Juarez. You know, I'm just kind of amusing myself.

And Peterson, Paterson. While we were filming Paterson I was always teasing Adam that the next one, we would make was gonna be a sequel about a psychopathic murderous bus driver named Peterson. Tag line: "Get the fuck off my bus!" Or "Next Stop Hell!" You know, stuff like that. It's just to make them... I love trying to make Adam Driver laugh, because he has a very odd and wonderful sense of humor, but it's on the dry side, so I'm always joking around with him between work to try and see what makes him laugh.

But yeah, there's no sequel of any kind, and I don't think that way, and I don't plan, and I don't see my films from the past ever again. I just look toward the next thing.

Credit: Frederick Elmes/ Focus Features

What was the original concept for this? When did you start coalescing all of these different elements into knowing that you wanted it to be your next film?
Some years ago after Only Lovers Left Alive, Tilda kept teasing me, calling me, saying, "When do we do the zombies? When are we doing the zombies?" And in between I made Paterson and Gimme Danger, but then after those I started writing the zombie one, and my original conception was: I wanna make a film that's really funny and silly like Coffee and Cigarettes, where people talk about whatever nonsense I want them to, and I want to get actors I love, you know? So I thought, okay, if I make a zombie film, I can have a structure where different groups are cordoned off against the zombies, and the zombie attacks will be intermittent and not very long, so I'll have long lags where they're just stuck there, like in the house of The Night of the Living Dead, where they can talk about any kind of nonsense. So that was my first idea, and then when I started writing it, for some reason, I wanted to have a small town, Centerville, and I just followed my intuition, and it became this, I don't really know why beyond that.

What is it about small towns that make them the perfect setting for existential terror?
They're insular. They're kind of… everyone kind of knows each other. It's controllable by the characters. It's believable that everyone kind of know each other. I don't know. I'm not very good at analyzing that. And also, this is not a horror film because horror films use devices that are necessary to frighten people, like suspense, and then you get scared. We have no interest whatsoever in that. This is more of a metaphorical zombie film, but I would not call it a horror movie. It's a comedy with zombies with a kind of sad ending. Beyond that, I don't know what it is.

And horror nerds may not like it if they're expecting creepy, creepy, scary thing! They're not gonna get it. They're not gonna get that delivered to them.

What's interesting about it is seeing who fights back against this existential dread. Or, like, Chloë Sevigny's character, Mindy, doesn't fight, she is on her own separate trip, avoiding the end till she embraces it.
It's a character film. It's not even a plot film, really, although critics say that about all my films. But Chloë… it's a complicated thing, because when I first called Chloë, I told her... I wrote her a letter, and then she said, "Yeah, yeah I'd like to do this." And I said, obviously, this is not a feminist character. She's reactive. She's our sort of "Scream Queen." She screams like six times. But Chloë is the master of reaction, and I love watching her react.

She definitely feels like a stand-in for what a normal person would feel during these absurdist experiences, which is nice to have. It's not necessarily that you need a relatable character in a movie like this, but...
Yeah, but she's an empathetic human that's in a job with some authority, but in a small town where that means taking care of whatever, you know, as a police officer, pretty minimal [stuff]. There's not a lot of rampant crime or anything going on… or anything at all, really.

Credit : Frederick Elmes / Focus Features

A lot of people are going to be projecting tons of different meanings onto this film, like with all your films. To what level do you participate in that or pay attention to that? Or, once you're done making a film, is it just out there, and you just let people project onto it whatever they will?
I've always felt that anyone's interpretation of a film that I write and direct is probably more valid than my own. Because it's a funny thing, the beauty of films is going into a world—or a book or whatever—but going into a world that you don't know, and you are entering a world, and it takes you. And if you wrote it, and you were there filming it, and you're in the editing room every day for six months, the mix, and all that... I can never possibly see it. I like hearing what friends or people I know... I like Q and As after screenings because they have no agenda except their interest. I like that a lot, and I value that. I don't really like to read a lot of reviews unless they're really negative. I love the negative ones.

You do?
Yeah, because they must be very far from me in their perception of the world, and that is interesting to me. But I try not to read a lot...

I think you're probably the first person who I've ever spoken to who says they like to read the negative reviews.
I really like them. The worst one I ever got in my life, I laminated and used to carry in my wallet. It was a brief thing from a right-wing French [paper], maybe Le Figaro or something, of a film called Dead Man that we made, and they said—this is the English translation—"The French intelligence celebrates Jarmusch in the way death and blind parents would celebrate their retarded child. Jarmusch is 33 years old, the same age as Christ when he was crucified. We can only hope the same for his film career." I was like, Whoa! That is harsh! I'm keeping that one!

It gets personal.
But that was vicious. I was like, Did I sleep with this critic's girlfriend, or what? What happened? It was really... the knife was sharpened, you know.

That speaks to a very specific kind of agenda for sure.
A friend of mine Amos Poe, he's sort of a mentor of mine, a punk filmmaker, whatever, and when we were young when he made, in the late-'70s, one of his films—The Foreigner or Unmade Beds—the New York Times called it "the cinematic equivalent of kindergarten scribbling," and he put that on his posters and put "New York Times" and we were like punks, we were like, "Yes! Amos! That's great!"

I mean, it genuinely is a pretty great pull quote, and I think also a little bit oblivious to the charms of a kindergartener's scribbles and what the value is in that anyway.
Yeah, it was kind of accurate in a positive way, and they intended it as very negative.

In this film, there are so many actors who are veteran actors, but there are also a lot of younger actors. What do you like about the combination of that dynamic?
I just like the variety of sort of world perceptions—indicated in a very minor way when Bill Murray's character says, "I've known Hermit Bob since we were in junior high," and Adam's character says, "Oh, wow! That must've been like 50 years ago!" And Bill says, "Yeah. It was." But just the kind of difference of perception of age I find as I get older really interesting. And I'm very interested in young people, especially teenagers, because I think they form our sense of style, of music, of so many things, and yet they're kind of pushed around and treated badly and constantly told, "You don't know how the world really works! You're just a teenager!" But they gave us poetry. They gave us Mary Shelley and Rimbaud and chess masters, and all the great music comes a lot from teenagers. So I tried to keep a pulse, that's why the three teenagers, I would not let them turn into zombies. There are only four people [who don't get turned by zombies]: those three that are delinquents, and the Tom Waits character, who's already removed himself from the social order long before.

When the zombies become zombies, they all have one inciting thing that they're still pursuing in the real world. Do you have one thing that you think you would pursue if you were a zombie?
You know, it's hard because I'm a self-proclaimed dilettante. I'm interested in so many things, I don't know if I would be breaking into a bookstore, or if I would be in the alley outside of a movie theater, or if I would be trying to get into a guitar shop. I'm not sure. I have a lot of interests.

I mean there's a way in which it's a really tender portrayal of the human impulse to just seek out these things that they love.
It's not totally a critique; it's their vestigial memory of some things that they were drawn toward, whether it was power tools or oxycontin.

The Dead Don't Die is in theaters now.

Credit: Frederick Elmes/ Focus Features