Avid fans of the post-apocalyptic, constantly mind-blowing, intensely action-packed TNT series, Snowpiecer, will recognize Kwasi Thomas as the stalwart and courageous Tailie soldier, Z-Wreck.
When he’s not aboard the Last Ark of Humanity, fighting for survival and liberty, Thomas has made a successful career of comedy in live venues as well as on-screen.
Thomas recently spoke with TV Fanatic via Zoom to unpack some of the trauma Z-Wreck, and the people of Snowpiercer suffered on the recently aired Snowpiercer Season 3 Episode 3. (#Spoilers if you haven’t yet watched it.)
Z-Wreck has been a regular face among the Tailies since the series launch, but his backstory from before The Freeze is still very much a mystery to audiences.
Thomas has ideas on filling in those gaps in Z-Wreck’s story.
“I’m always trying to sneak something in. My biggest secret low-key campaign has been an origin story season.
“We take it to a certain place and spend one season not necessarily moving the story forward but actually digging into a lot of the characters that we’ve gotten to know and that we haven’t really gotten to see how they all came to be.
“I would love to explore that. I’m always kind of coming up with little backstories for Z-Wreck myself.”
Many of the Tailies go by nicknames. Thomas figures Z-Wreck comes by his in a straightforward manner.
“It’s a pretty simple abbreviation. I’m not sure how much of this is going to get through to the writers, but I just figure his name is something like ‘Zachariah Wreckman.’
“It’s not like Pike, [which] is obviously a nickname based off of something else, based off of being in the Tail, a pike [being] one of our preferred weapons.
“Z-Wreck sounds like it’s just like K-Thom, J. Lo! Z-Wreck is the J.Lo of the train! [laughs]”
Z-Wreck’s devotion to the Tail’s cause has been unquestionable from the beginning. On Snowpiercer Season 1 Episode 1, he is one of the Tailies put in The Drawers, convinced by Layton to do so willingly so they’ll be in place when the Revolution comes.
“Luckily, physically, they haven’t written in any lasting trauma for him. He was a little wobbly coming out of The Drawers and puking up all that black stuff which was disgusting to shoot, by the way.
“At the end of the day, he’s got a threshold for how much he can trust that [when] someone says something to him, it’s going to go down that way.
“Just speaking for Season 1 strictly -- without the knowledge of what happened in Season 2 and Season 3 -- it goes to the trust that he has in Layton. ’Cause that was a pretty big deal. You go into the Drawers; you have no idea what comes next.
“We just found out about the Drawers, and now all of a sudden [he’s] gotta volunteer to go in there. So he does it at the risk of never seeing the Tail again and never seeing his family again.
“He’s a soldier. He’s a right-hand man. And if the big guy says this is what we need, to preserve life, Z-Wreck’s got you on that, and you better have my back. You better say what you mean. As far as getting me out of here.”
Loyalty is key to everything Z-Wreck values and for which he risks his life. The character is deeply connected to several other characters from The Tailie days.
“Me and Strong Boy, we definitely have our own little team kind of thing when it comes to missions and stuff like that and fighting.
“I like that in Season 2, they were putting The Last Aussie and Z-Wreck together. Even just me and Aaron [Glenane], the actor who was playing him, we got to know each other so much better, just hanging out that much more.
“The two characters, I found they played really, really well off of each other and dealing with Pike being a druggie all of a sudden. I think they made a pretty cool team.”
“There’s also something I hope they start exploring a bit more, the relationship between Z-Wreck and Lights.
“There’s a camaraderie there that can be explored more. I hope they get into it.
“Thing is, we’re all family. Doesn’t matter which one of us ends up with the other. We already all know the score.
“It’s all about completing X, Y, Z mission, moving on, and bettering our living conditions.”
Snowpiercer Season 3 Episode 3 saw the shocking and horrific murder of Strong Boy under Kevin’s sadistically enthusiastic torture. After all these years together, what was it like to say goodbye to a castmate with whom he had worked so closely?
“I’m going to give you two answers. I’m going to give you the Z-Wreck answer, and then I’m going to give you the Kwasi answer because it actually really started affecting me.
“As Z-Wreck, it’s sort of to be expected at this point. We’re constantly in conflict. We’re always getting into battles. It won’t be the first time he’s lost a friend. And it won’t be the last the longer and longer the story goes on.
“The longer there’s a conflict, the longer we’re at war, we gonna keep losing people. And Z-Wreck, he’s a solid guy. He’s aware of what’s going on. It’s gonna mess with him because these are his brothers, but you gotta keep moving on.
“You can’t dwell on it. We don’t live in a world where you can dwell on that. You still have to keep moving, right?”
“It was weird because we shot two deaths scenes within a month. Now, obviously, it’s make-believe, a show like that, but at the same time, Kwasi was like, ‘I’m not going to get to work with Kurt [Ostlund] anymore.’
“Kurt’s become a very close friend of mine over the last three years. Outside of the character work, I was personally thinking, ‘When am I going to see these guys again?’
“These dudes have become family to me. They’ve become close friends to me. And, it’s like, ‘Well, this is… shoot, this is actually it! You guys all live in L.A. and London and [elsewhere].’ Am I going to see these dudes again?
“It was starting to get to me. I let the way I was feeling about not seeing these guys anymore inform how Z-Wreck dealt with it on the day. I allowed myself actually to feel because I was really, really sad. Very, very sad.
“It’s like I’ve been to two funerals in one month. FOUR, in a sense, because I’m losing the character, and I’m losing the person.”
One of the most heart-rending scenes to watch was Winnie looking down at Strong Boy’s disfigured corpse.
The littlest Tailie survivor, young Emma Oliver has played Winnipeg (Winnie, for short) for more than half her acting career.
Having worked alongside her on Snowpiercer, what is Thomas’s take on the damage the character of Winnie has sustained through the conflicts and losses?
“Here’s the thing. Let’s just say everything goes back to normal tomorrow. If we take her out of this world and put her in a normal world, there will most definitely be trauma and difficulty adjusting because the train is all she knows.
“We [adults] are all holding onto a memory of the way things were. Kind of like where we are in the world right now. The Before-Times. We’re all holding onto it like it’s ever going to be a thing again. But all she knows is the train.
“So, yeah, she will feel the trauma of losing her mother and losing her brother and … but it’s all she’s ever known. I think, in a sense, she’s better off than all of us on the train because she has nothing to compare it to.
“Let’s just say there’s a world where we’re fine. The world has gone back to regular temperature. We’re not on this [constantly] moving surface … She might even need to relearn how to walk.
“She’s not holding onto anything. It’s all just one day at a time. It’s pretty sad, but, man, did they get the right actor to play Winnipeg. She is phenomenal.”
The realism of life aboard the main train has been a marvel of the show’s production. For Z-Wreck and most everyone else, life has been one of constant motion, rarely smooth.
“Right before they call action, they’ve got people outside on hydraulics and stuff, just keepin’ it moving and making it look so [real]
“All that moving around, it’s not camera work, it’s actually us being jostled around on the actual train cars because we work in a huge-ass studio, and it’s all actual train cars that they built.
“[They’re] designed so you can fit in the cameras, but we are in very, very tight quarters for a long period of time.”
The central focus of Snowpiercer Season 3 is the quest for New Eden, a place on the Earth where the climate has warmed enough for colonization to be possible. Hopes are pinned on a spot on the Horn of Africa.
When the pirate train returns and Wilford cedes his power, Layton puts the decision to take the train there to the vote.
Does Thomas think Z-Wreck believes in New Eden?
“Z-Wreck wants New Eden to be real. And not just because we’ve been on this train for so long, it’s time to get off, and it’s time to end this war.
“If New Eden isn’t real, I don’t know how many lies he can take from Layton.
“He’s had his back. He even understands the need to lie to the people for the greater good and all of that. But it’s one thing if you want to tell the masses, ‘All right, we’re doing this!’ just to keep everyone calm.
“But, why are you telling me the same lie? Why are you feeding me the same crap? I think it’s starting… it should be starting to mess with Z-Wreck at this point.
“Why am I following you to the ends of the earth if you’re just treating me like everyone else? I’m supposed to be a soldier. I’m supposed to be a lieutenant of yours. I should know what’s actually going on.”
Once again, it’s a question of loyalty for Z-Wreck. In this case, whether that loyalty goes both ways.
“I’ve found as of late, that hasn’t been the case. Z-Wreck is just as surprised every single time Layton says something that isn’t true.
“Now I personally, it wouldn’t take that long for me to be like, ‘Forget this guy!’ I’m a two lie maximum guy.
“The thing is, though, where are you gonna go? Z-Wreck can break out on his own, but then he kind of becomes a Pike in a way. And then you become an enemy of the lesser of two evils.
“I think Z-Wreck needs New Eden to be real so his trust in Layton and his trust in the movement can remain intact.”
“I’ve given it quite a lot of thought because, like I said, I think Z-Wreck’s patience might be wearing a little thin with Layton specifically.
“The way they’ve written it, it just escalates. [With] how Z-Wreck’s constantly being asked to carry water for this, they’re setting him up to have an actual beef with Layton at some point.”
Despite Layton gaining control of the train and being guided by a vision of New Eden, Thomas acknowledges that there are several characters placed near Layton to check his balance regularly.
“Josie does it well. Pike did it well, in his own way. He had his own purpose. Pike kind of kept Layton humble as an adversary.
“Josie’s on the team. Z-Wreck’s on the team. Pike, you were never really sure of whether he was fully with everyone or not. But that still kept Layton honest.”
While Thomas may currently be best known for Z-Wreck, he is a talented and acclaimed comedic powerhouse.
2021 saw him in two contrasting Christmas projects.
“There was Love Hard. That was a Netflix feature film. It was cool. I was a bit more of a side guy, like a silent comedic relief on that one, but I did get a little piece to just do my thing, my physical comedy.
“I’m pretty good at physical comedy and getting things across without saying anything, just using my eyes and y’know. I actually got a really good opportunity to use that skill set. Love Hard was the ‘it’ Hollywood Christmas movie this year.
“There was also A Clüsterfünke Christmas written by Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch, and, man, that was so fun to work on. Just to be around these two comedy legends.
“It was a very, very strong woman-led cast and crew. Very, very, very strong classic female comedy legends at the helm of this project.
“So, [first of all], that was amazing for me. It was really, really great. And, [secondly], it was just I got to be Kwasi, the Comedian, and that was fun.
“The movie’s a spoof on all the Hallmark movies. It makes fun of all the Hallmark Christmas tropes and stuff like that.
“The premise behind my character and my wife’s character was great. We ran an antiques kiosk called Colorful Representation. My character and my wife’s were there to expose the lack of diversity that once was in the Hallmark world. To put it mildly. To put it VERY mildly.”
If that wasn’t keeping busy enough, Thomas has another comedy project, Pillow Talk, dropping February 10 on the Canadian streaming service, Crave.
The ten-episode docu-comedy series casts four real-life couples and one set of roommates playing fictionalized versions of themselves, an idea born of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pillow Talk takes place entirely in bedrooms and explores in a raw and unexpected way the drama and hilarity experienced by couples in the intimacy of the bedroom.
Meanwhile, there are still many exciting scenes of Thomas as Z-Wreck to come as the third season of Snowpiercer is picking up steam, heading to the potential New Eden, carrying with them all the conflicts and emotional baggage they can fit on a train one thousand and twenty-nine cars long.
Remember you can watch Snowpiercer online right here via TV Fanatic.
New episodes of Snowpiercer air on Mondays 9/8c on TNT.
Be sure to come on back and check out our episodic reviews after you watch!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.