Sunday, March 18, 2012

IronE Singleton talks T-Dog's fate on 'Walking Dead'

Singleton as T-Dog, courtesy AMC
For two seasons of The Walking Dead, IronE Singleton has just been trying to fly under the radar. While he has been part of key, intense scene during the zombie drama – and become a beloved fan favorite - as showrunner Glen Mazzara puts it, Singleton’s character of T-Dog is aware of his outsider status as the only African American character on the show, and is trying to be a team player who doesn’t attract too much attention.

Conversely it is hard not to pay attention to IronE Singleton. A native of Atlanta, GA ("born and raised ... a Grady baby!”), Singleton is a laid back, convivial guy who doesn’t hold back with a laugh. I caught up with Singleton at the Atlanta Run For Your Lives zombie 5K race and obstacle course and tried (really, really tried) to get him to open up about the fate of T-Dog.

What resulted was a funny, but still informative, interview where we learned more about an actor caught up in the midst of a hit show where anyone can die at any moment. Read ahead - and very closely between the lines - to determine if T-Dog will survive tonight’s season finale, as well as what it was like to shoot the infamous Sophia scene and deal with the zombie gore, and if T-Dog might get an appearance in Robert Kirkman’s comic book.

Q: Would you survive the zombie apocalypse?

A: Definitely. I’m always optimistic. I’d probably get with a pack. That’s the best way to survive. You have to stay with a group of people in order to ensure your survival. You can’t stay by yourself.

Q: I can’t help but notice you let your hair grow back in, but don’t you guys go back into production soon.

A: You guys? That’s a general ‘you guys?’ You’re skillful (laughs)! But hey, I can’t say, I don’t know if T-Dog survives or not. People have to tune in to see.

Q: Is your razor sharp for cutting off the hair any minute?

A: Not any - I don’t know (laughs)! You want answers, don’t you? I did this for another role, to soften my look. I’m playing a police officer for a movie I just shot with Neve Campbell in Toronto a couple weeks ago. I play Officer Rupert Nichols. That’s why I grew out my hair, but if I have to take it off, I’ll take it off. IF!

Q: [Before the episode aired] we got some information leaked about Shane’s (Jon Bernthal) death …

A: I heard about that! My agent was just telling me about that. That’s crazy. I don’t know where they got that information!

Q: So if indeed the leak is true about Shane’s death [which we know now it is], what do you think about that character? Is that a good thing for the survivors?

A: He’s going to be a major loss. A major loss. We need Shane. The group needs Shane.

Q: Is T-Dog going to step up? Does he have leadership material?

A: I think he has leadership abilities, and whatever needs to be done for the group, I think T-Dog is willing to step up to do that?

Q: What do you think his task or expertise should be? Glenn (Steven Yuen) is good at scouting, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is a leader, etc. What do you think is a job he could own among the survivors?

A: T-Dog could do all of that. He could do anything that needs to be done. He’s really versatile, but right now, the leader of the group is Rick. He acknowledges that and accepts that. It’s a general consensus. But if Rick goes down, and T-Dog needs to step up in a certain area, that’s what T-Dog is going to do.

Singleton gets injured at the beginning
of Season Two, courtesy AMC
Q: Aside from a moment of doubt when he cuts his arm and is delirious at the beginning of Season Two, he’s been loyal to Rick and the group. Will that continue?

A: If he lives, I think so. T-Dog is an even-keel type guy. He just goes along with the program, as long as it’s not ridiculous to where he thinks it’s going to endanger the lives of the group, he’s for it. Right now, up through this point, I think he sees Rick as the rational one. He wouldn’t do anything that would endanger the lives of the survivors. So yeah.

Q: Neither T-Dog nor Norman Reedus’ character Daryl were in the comic, but we now know he’s going to show up in it. So have you had a conversation with Robert Kirkman about T-Dog appearing in the comic?

A: That would be a cool thing. But now Daryl is a – what can I say? The women love Daryl! Have you seen his following on Twitter and Facebook? This guy is a stud. So I can’t argue with that! (laughs)

Q: But you have a following too. So you haven’t said to Kirkman, “let’s make this happen”?

A: Not formally, but we’ve had quite a few informal conversations and who knows? We’ll see what happens, but until T-Dog attracts the type of attention that Daryl attracts, then I think it’d be a pretty hard thing to do to convince Kirkman to do something like that. But I don’t know. T-Dog is pretty popular but he’s no Daryl. I just have to keep it real and be truthful about that.

Q: We recently heard about the announcement of David Morrissey as the Governor – actually, have you read the comics?

A: I haven’t gotten through the compendium. It’s about this thick.

Q: Oh, yeah it is. But you know how bad a guy the Governor is.

A: Of course. He’s menacing. He’s bad.

Q: So how is T-Dog going to do against him? Are you worried you might be a casualty of the Governor?

A: The Governor – I don’t know about the – if T-Dog makes it that far, then (laughs) …

Q: I’m trying. I’m trying. You’re like Fort Knox here. You’re good! I’m always trying to get information out of you!

A: I can tell! (laughs) If T-Dog makes it that far, that’s a good thing. But like everyone else, we’ve got to fight for our survival. So just like Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker), it’s just another opposition there. Business as usual.

Q: The show is pretty violent, but do you ever think you’re going too far?

A: I’ve never thought we’re not going far enough. I’ve never thought that. I think you’ll agree with me on that – this thing is as gory as it can get. It’s a bloody mess at times. I think we’re in a good place. It’s a fine line. I think we’re doing a great of incorporating key moments and highlights from the comic book into the show, but at the same time, doing enough to keep people guessing. Like you! Constantly trying to figure out what’s going to happen next!

Q: There have been some great intense moment that weren’t in the book, like the Sophia (Madison Lintz) scene where she shows up after being searched for for six episodes, then Rick has to put her down.

A: Yeah. I think that was the most intense that we’ve done from Season One all the way through. It was tough because Madison Lintz who plays Sophia had become part of the family. That’s how we look at it. There’s so much love. The vibes are so great. And she was a part of our family, so to lose her was like we were losing a family member. It was tough for us to snap out of that. During interviews, people have asked me if I’m able to snap out of it and just start laughing and joking with one another. It wasn’t that simple for that. Most of the time, yeah, but not with that scene. Normally we shoot four, five scenes in a day. It took two days to shoot just that one scene.

Q: Are you going to be at San Diego Comic-Con?

A: Uh … with me? If – no, I haven’t heard anything about that because I mean, if, if T-Dog survives, then there’s a possibility, you know. But if not, then I don’t think that T-Dog would be invited.

Q: SO you think you’ll be at San Diego Comic-Con?

A: I don’t – (breaks off, laughs)

Q: Think you’ll get an action figure sometime soon?

A: That would be nice! A T-Dog action figure would be nice, right? That’s the beginning of our petition!

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