Exclusive Interview with The Walking Dead’s IronE Singleton

Last week, I had a chance to talk to IronE Singleton, the actor who plays T-Dog on AMC’s The Walking Dead. It’s no secret that I had some problems with the constrained setting and pace of the first half of season two, but I thought the mid-season finale was really impressive, and I have high hopes for the remainder of the season. I’d really like to see a bit more focus on T-Dog, who I think is sometimes overlooked.

In our chat below, we talked about zombie makeup, what to expect in the upcoming second half of season two, and University of Georgia football. Don’t forget to watch the mid-season premiere, tonight at 9 PM EST, on AMC.

I appreciate you taking some time out of your busy schedule.

I thank you for having me.

I’ll just start with some Walking Dead questions. I have to say that I was a bit surprised by the end of the previous episode, where we found out what happened to Sophia. I was wondering if the writers keep you away from any plot twists or are you ever surprised by something you read in the script?

We see the script before we shoot it, maybe even weeks in advance. But that right there was something we couldn’t get used to. You know, seeing Sophia walk out of that barn like that… it was devastating… When I first found out about it, Andrew Lincoln told me weeks prior to filming the episode, and it tore me apart. Then, once I got the script and read it, it hit me again, and then when we shot it, it was like that compounded. That was just was a miserable time right there, I’ll tell you that much.

On a similar note, the makeup in the show is just fantastic. Those zombies on the show just look so grotesque and horrible. What’s it like seeing that up close? It must be interesting.

Very interesting, to say the least, especially at the very beginning when we first started shooting season two. We kind of got used to being around them and then it just became part of the routine, but there are certain zombies that you never get used to. Like the well zombie, for instance. That was an abomination. That thing was so filthy and nasty and ugly and every other adjective you can use to describe how horrific that thing was. But you kind of get used to them. You know, you’re just walking around, say “Hey,” give them a wave and hello or something like that.

Yeah, you see one of them standing at the lunch table getting lunch or something…

[Laughs.] You’ll be right behind them, or right in front of them, they’re getting lunch, asking them what they’re going to eat for lunch. “Oh, you’re having the salad? Okay. Can you pass me that ranch dressing?” [Laughs.] It’s just like that.

This is sort of a unique show. I don’t think there’s ever been a serialized zombie survival series before. What drew you to the project? Was there anything about it that you found particularly compelling?

Yes. Frank Darabont and Gale Anne Hurd. Those two, when I found out that they were on the project… I had heard of The Walking Dead comic book series, but I heard there were two powerhouse producers on the team, and I wanted to be part of it.

I know you probably can’t say a whole lot but what might we be able to look forward to in the back half of season two?

Hmm… You know, in your craziest nightmares, what you can imagine in something like that… It’s going to beyond that point. This thing is gonna get insane. Like you’re thinking it’s already been insane. You’re saying, “It’s going to get insane? It’s been insane. How can you top it?” I’ve been saying it — how can you continue to top each episode and the writers continue to outdo themselves. Also on another note, I want to also add that Robert Kirkman, just to kind of go back to your last question… Robert Kirkman, creator of the comic book series and Greg Nicotero were added pluses to the thing. Like I said, it was enticing to know that Frank Darabont and Gale Anne Hurd were part of the project and then also to find out that Robert Kirkman, who has such an amazing following with the comic book series and was so successful, and Greg Nicotero who had worked with George Romeo and Day of the Dead. That made it even better…

Just along the same lines, a lot of the last couple episodes focused on a farmhouse that Herschel and his family were living in. Are we going to see some more setting besides that in the next couple episodes? Are we going to see things open up a bit, and see the survivors deal with some other environments?

Oh definitely. In this upcoming episode, “Nebraska,” you’re gonna see… Herschel’s gonna be pretty torn up about what just happened at his barn and he’s going to venture off the land and maybe perhaps drink away his problems… Rick and Glen are going to leave and try to track him down, and that’s where they’re going to run into the human element, the other humans who don’t have the best intentions, and you’re going to see Rick make some decisions that you would have put past him in previous episodes.

A more general question but I’ve looked at your bio and I’ve seen you’ve done both TV and movies. I would imagine the process of creating a movie as opposed to TV shows is probably somewhat different. Do you prefer one medium over the other? Is one more difficult?

The Walking Dead is similar to movies actually. You know, we have… a lot of the time, we work with three cameras, we do… the crane shot. You know, you feel like you’re on the set of a movie… It feels like we’re shooting a movie every day on the set. In your conventional TV show where you only have one camera, single camera deal, sometimes two… Sometimes I get tired of one, I might want to go to the other. You’re talking about movies, doing movies is more lucrative than TV so if you’re looking at it from a money aspect then I would say that I like doing movies more. But from a creative aspect, doing a show you can continue to build upon your character, you have an opportunity to grow that character… So if you just kind of want to work your craft, I would look at it like that, you have time to do that with a TV show. And even moreso with theater, so if you work your over way to theater, it’s even better… It is the best place to hone your craft. And TV gives you an opportunity to hone more so than movies because movies you’re in and out… You know, you shoot a couple of months, and then you’re out.

On a similar note, it seems like that last couple of years there’s really been a lot of creativity poured into television, so I would imagine it maybe gives actors like you a chance to try different things.

Yeah. TV these days, yeah they come out with some shows. They have some really interesting shows going on and they’re not afraid to take chances, and that’s what I like about TV. I think that’s one of the reasons why a lot of A-list actors and big stars are coming back to TV because of that. And I guess maybe also because of the economy. People aren’t going to the movies the way they used to. But, it gives me an opportunity to do some interesting things.

I looked at your website and it seems like you have a lot of different interests. Acting, comedy, MCing, directing… First of all, how do you balance all of that, and second of all, how did you decide to really focus on acting as opposed to all of those other interests?

I think that’s the reason why, you know, I got my quote unquote break to act because I said, “You know what? I better leave these other things alone for the moment.” Like comedy, rapping, spoken word, all this other stuff, and just focus on acting. I think those other things probably served as a distraction for me, and I said you know what? I need to make it happen, let me make it happen with the acting first and once I start to do that, then I can focus on these other things, once I get a name or some status under my belt, then I can do those other things. But I can’t right now, it’s kind of slowing me down trying to focus on all these different things. So, you know, point well taken. I couldn’t make it happen by focusing on too many things at one time.

I saw you went to University of Georgia on a football scholarship. I was wondering what position you played and if you’re still a Bulldogs fan today.

[Barks like a bulldog, then laughs.] Does that answer your question? I’m a huge bulldogs fan and yeah I went to University of Georgia, played DB [defensive back] for two years, and then when Champ Bailey came in, he’s with the Denver Broncos now and Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator for Alabama [now], had about ten or fifteen other highly recruited DBs to come in that year… That’s when I switched to running back. I said, I don’t have too many running backs to play behind and try to move up the ladder, so I switched to running back after my second year at Georgia.

That was a pretty good experience for you? You enjoyed it?

It was the greatest experience, outside of my personal life, my wife, my family, my kids… that was the greatest experience of my life. I guess you could compare that to the opportunity I got to do The Blind Side. My first opportunity, exposure to Holywood and the industry. But the University of Georgia changed me as a person. That’s when I became a real man. I thought I was a man in the inner-city when I was staying out, as a ten year old, eleven year old, staying out to one, two, or three o’clock in the morning, and you know, carrying a gun and all that stuff as a teenager… I thought I was a man then, but I was a long time from being one. That’s not a real man, but in that world… University of Georgia turned me into a real man. It made me view the world from a different perspective and it took me to a higher level spiritually. I wouldn’t change that for the world.

Do you have any other projects that you’re working on now that you’d like to mention?

Yeah, thank you for asking that. I have a project with Nicholas Cage coming out, Nicholas Cage, Guy Pierce, January Jones, and it’s called Seeking Justice. I think releases on the 16th of March… Right now, I’m in Toronto right now working with Neve Campbell on a project called Sworn to Silence, based the bestselling novel by Linda Castillo and I play a police officer… we’re trying to track down a serial killer. I’m having fun with that right now, even though I sprained my ankle playing basketball a couple of weeks ago… My ankle’s swollen like a grapefruit, so I actually have a doctor’s appointment in an hour and a half to get an MRI. So that’s what I have now, and then of course The Walking Dead, the second half of season two, Sunday… Sunday, starting at 1:30, they’re going to show season two from the beginning all the way up to the mid-season première.

Great. Thanks again, IronE. I appreciate the time you spent talking… I can’t wait to see you on the screen again and I hope your ankle feels better soon.

Thank you so very much, brother. I appreciate you. Thank you for having me, I wish you all the best and much love to you and all of your fans and your readers, and I look forward to talking to you again.

*****

Don’t forget to watch The Walking Dead return tonight on AMC!

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