SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains information about plot twists contained in the final episodes of the second season of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” You’ve been warned. Now, about that ashen dude staggering up behind you. . .
Like most of the actors on the locally shot AMC hit drama “The Walking Dead,” whenever a fresh script is delivered to actor and native Atlanta Iron E Singleton, he reads it from the back to the front first. The actor who plays survivor T-Dog says the cast now knows was it was like to act on a show like “24” or “The Sopranos.” “I tend to go to the very back and see if T-Dog is still around at the end of the episode and then I’ll read the whole thing to try and figure out what’s going on!” Singleton tells Atlanta magazine. “When we signed on for this job, there was the understanding that any of us could go in any episode. We knew that it was a possibility at any time. These last few episodes, that has hit home with us even more.”
This season, possibly due to a scaled back budget (gray make up, crazy teeth and gory machete-in-the-brain effects ain’t cheap, you know), the zombie apocalypse drama was shot in Senoia, Georgia about 30 miles south of the city at Raleigh Studios and at an adjacent farm a couple miles away. The cast was shuttled from the studio to the farm location each day where our thrown together family of zombie warriors has taken refuge.
Singleton says the more permanent set led to a shift in cast camaraderie off-screen as well. “First season, we shot everywhere from downtown Atlanta and the Cobb Energy Centre, a rock quarry and Grant Park,” he recalls. “We were everywhere. We were separated as a group a lot of the time. It was just three or four of us shooting at any one place at one time. We didn’t really get a chance to create a bond. But what happened on that farm is something magical and special. We saw each other every day. Our trailers were right next to each other. We went out and had lunch and dinner together.”
But as the cast grew closer this season, Singleton says it was a lot less fun as the body count rose and the cast had to shoot actor Jeffrey DeMunn (who plays Dale) and Shane portrayer Jon Bernthal‘s big plot-twist “Dead” departures. Singleton was there in the field on the night shoot when Dale was literally — and graphically — gutted by a zombie attacker. “it was intense,” Singleton recalls. “A lot of droopy eyes, a lot of sad faces. It was tough. There was an attitude of ‘OK, we gotta do this scene. Let’s just get it done.’ There were a couple of times when Jeffrey and i looked at each other, knowing this was the end and that this particular dynamic we were enjoying as actors wouldn’t be duplicated again.”
The two actors have stayed in touch since shooting on the second season wrapped. “You can rest assured that Jeffrey DeMunn is OK,” says Singleton. “I talked to him just the other day. But Dale? Well, Dale is another story. In the short time we’ve known each other, Jeffrey and I bonded tremendously and what he’s been able to help me accomplish in my career is just beyond words.” On-screen Dale and T-Dog bonded as well, particularly in this season’s second episode when the pair got left by themselves while marauding zombies stumble around nearby. “We loved playing that!” says Singleton. “Dale and T-Dog were left really vulnerable at that point. Obviously, there’s strength in numbers and we were left out there by ourselves. It’s only natural that you’re going to have a very real conversation with each other like ‘What kind of a mess is this? Here we are on the side of the road like live bait!'”
This season, T-Dog got an actual name too: Theodore Douglas (which is always beneficial when you’re on a show that doesn’t skimp on snacks for its hungry zombie population). What was Singleton’s reaction? “It was cool. Early on, I heard a lot of complaints from people like “Why is he named T-Dog? Why can’t he have a real name?’ But people have nicknames.” In other words, when you’re thrown into a ragtag group of zombie fighters, there’s not always time for tea and proper introductions. Says Singleton: “For me, it added another layer to this character and it makes people want to know more. On a show like this, that can be a good thing!”
While he’s sworn to secrecy on tonight’s big season finale, Singleton was able to share a few tidbits with his hometown magazine. “You’re going to see that power dynamic shift,” Singleton says. “If Hershel survives, you might see him step up and take on a more crucial role being that voice of reason. What the fans have experienced the last few weeks is nothing compared to what’s coming. Multiple that by 10! It’s incredible.”