The Walking Dead celebrates 10 years of TV history on October 31, 2020. In celebration of this historic milestone, we I nterviewed several actors who have participated in the show over the years. These interviews started to be published in early September and run until the end of October, are being launched daily. When we will end with a big surprise that we prepared exclusively and with great affection for the fans.
Our guest today is Jason Douglas, who played Tobin during seasons 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. The actor told us about his first auditions to enter in The Walking Dead, about working with Melissa McBride (Carol), about Tobin’s trajectory and death, about his voice acting and much more!
Without further ado, check out our exclusive interview with Jason Douglas:
It’s an honour for us to talk to you in such a special moment for The Walking Dead. It’s not just any show that get to its 10th anniversary. Can you start by telling us how was the audition for the show? How did you hear about the part? Did you know the show beforehand?
Jason Douglas: Thanks Rafael, happy to speak with you about my four seasons on the show. I first heard about the The Walking Dead when I auditioned for the first season. I didn’t know much about the show but I knew it was to be helmed by Frank Darabont, whose work I followed and admired. I read for several characters, including Merle Dixon and Otis, the farmhand for the Greene family in season 2. I thought I had good reads, but we actors go on so many auditions that we develop a thick skin and usually forget about it afterwards. I didn’t audition again until season 5, when I read for a vaguely scripted construction site supervisor. The audition script turned out to be written just for the audition—it was a scene that never appeared in either the show or the comic book. And of course this was the role that turned out to be ‘Tobin.’
When we met Tobin he was already the chief of construction and expansion on Alexandria, and Deanna trusted him. Other than that, we know nothing about him. Did you come up with some backstory or it wasn’t as important? Did the writers tell you anything about him to help you?
Jason Douglas: I thought a lot about how Tobin might have ended up in Alexandria, but ultimately the given circumstances of each scene determined how to play it. I was intrigued by the idea that Tobin might have some family either inside or outside the walls of the compound, but this was never really explored on the show. I did feel that Tobin should have a sort of blue-collar everyman quality, someone that the audience might relate to and that Rick’s crew could learn to trust.
Tobin was one of the characters from the comics that made it into the show. Did you know the character? If yes, what do you think are the main differences between Tobin from the show and Tobin from the comics? As a fan, would rather see the story being told exactly the same way as in the comics or do you like to see some new stories mixed in?
Jason Douglas: I’m not sure the comic version of Tobin gives us much to play with in terms of character development—it’s more about what he represents in terms of the Alexandrian mindset toward the apocalypse, which is just to cower behind the walls and just survive. Hopefully you could see a bit more depth from Tobin on the show, via his diplomacy towards Rick’s group, his loyalty to Deanna and the community, and of course his gentle flirtation with Carol.
He was also one of Carol’s love interests, but she ends up running away when things were about to get serious. Do you think this romance would have evolved somehow if he was still alive? How was it to work with Melissa McBride?
Jason Douglas: I’m not sure the writers or show runners were interested in pushing the fling much further. I assume it didn’t play well with a some of our fanbase, because the subject was pretty much dropped entirely by season 7. But I loved working with Melissa, who is a very nuanced, naturalistic performer, and I think we could have made some interesting choices together given the opportunity. And I’m grateful we got to sort of tie things up in my final appearance.
We know sometimes scenes get cut in the final edition of an episode. Did any of your scenes ever get cut or did all of Tobin’s story was on the screen?
Jason Douglas: It was pretty much all there, though the big scene with Carol on the porch in season 6 was initially a bit longer. Tobin had some really nice lines where he reflected a bit on his past life and how much things had changed. I loved that scene and wish it could have all been left in.
Your character’s death was unexpected for most of the fans, with the Saviours dipping their weapons in walker blood, causing infections to everyone they hurt. How was it to shoot your last moments? How and when did you find out Tobin was about to die?
Jason Douglas: I was actually changing a tire on my wife’s car when my cell phone rang. It was a number from Burbank, California, and when the caller identified himself as Scott Gimple, I knew “the gig was up,” quite literally. We’d already started shooting season 8 and were several episodes in. This was two or three weeks in advance of shooting, as I recall.
Looking back at your time on the show, which one would you say was the most fun episode to shoot? What about the most challenging? Why?
Jason Douglas: The shoot for my final episode was my favorite, as Tobin got to go down exactly as I’d always hoped he would, “with his boots on” defending the people he cared about. I got to work once more with most all the principle cast like Andy, Melissa, as well as a few of the fantastic newer additions to the show, including Cooper Andrews and Avi Nash. And of course, I got to spend time as a ‘walker’ in a very cool homage to Frankenstein and classic movie horror.
Do you remember your first day on the set? What about your last one? We’d love if you could share some details of your reception and farewell on the show!
Jason Douglas: The biggest thing I remember about my first day on set was Andrew Lincoln walking by, some distance away. He spotted me, and realizing I was the “new guy,” went out of his way to come over and welcome me to the cast. He was always very selfless in that way, and it really made and impression on me.
My final days on set were quite busy and filled with action, so there wasn’t much time to get sentimental. But everyone seemed genuinely bummed to see Tobin (and me) go. We didn’t do a “cast dinner” or anything like that, but I will say, the catering that day was absolutely over the top.
If Tobin had survived longer on the show, with which characters would you like him to interact with? Is there any actor you’d like to have worked with more closely during your time on the show?
Jason Douglas: Kenric Greene and I always joked that he and I should have an entire episiode devoted to our two characters going on an ill-fated supply run. But I could also see Tobin soldiering up with Ezekiel’s crew.
Tobin was a very friendly and laid-back character. Do you think those traits were part of the reason he died? In your opinion, in order to survive a post-apocalyptic world, you would have to “shut down” your humanity? Or would kindness and friendship still be possible?
Jason Douglas: I think “friendly and laid back” describes the character we meet in season 5. By season 8, Tobin became considerably more of a frontline fighter—he was part of the militia attacks on the Sanctuary and the splinter outpost at the top of the season, and finally was ambushed while aggressively defending Hilltop—boots on, rifle in hand. I think this was the way we wanted the character to be remembered, at the end of a 25 episode arc which began with a more timid version of the character. This sort of fits with the idea that Tobin was a kind of bellwether role, reflecting the evolution of the entire Alexandrian community.
Not only would kindness and friendship be possible in a post-apocalypse world, they would be essential. We’re not mere animals, we’re human. This is where I think some post-apocalyptic imaginings go amiss. I believe we were designed to be in relationship. What we call ‘civilization’ is, I think, inextricably linked to human connectedness and cooperation – we survive and thrive as a species precisely because of these conditions, not in spite of them.
You’ve been in many other shows, playing different kinds of characters. If you could choose one of them to be a survivor on The Walking Dead – either on the good side or the bad side – which character would you choose and why?
Jason Douglas: I played a character in several episodes of “Revolution,” another post-apocalyptic show. Garret was a gritty and ruthless double-agent who would probably fit in well in the role of a Savior or Kingdom lieutenant.
Speaking about other shows, you were also in Preacher as the iconic Satan. Can you tell us a bit about your experience on the show and the make-up process to become Prince of Darkness?
Jason Douglas: This was an amazing creature build by KNB EFX Group, who also do the makeup and FX work for The Walking Dead and dozens of other shows you’ve heard of. They made a casting of my entire face, head, and body and sculpted all those distinctive character features on top. So the final product was a creature suit that I’d slide into, but still needed significant gluing and makeup to bring it all together into a cohesive and seamless whole.
I loved working with all those guys as well as the cast, writers, and directors—the whole team were just terrifically creative. Betty Buckley was a special delight to work with, and I felt like there was an easy chemistry between us since we’d appeared together in a stage play several years before.
You’re also a voice actor. How different is it from acting in front of the cameras? How is it to lend your voice to a character? When did you get interested in this line of work?
Jason Douglas: I’ve been doing the English voices for anime and video games for over 20 years, long before I began to be known for any on-camera work. Anime is particularly fun since you have the contours of a performance already created in the animation, and you’re attempting to create a perfect voice and rhythm to bring that character fully to life for the audience. With voice work, we’re not limited by how we look, it’s all about the voice and performance.
We know the pandemic postponed a lot of projects and The Walking Dead fans are still suffering for the season finale. How did it affect you? Were any of your projects postponed? How have you been taking care of yourself?
Jason Douglas: We’re doing OK, thanks! Lots of projects around the house, and keeping our kids busy. Everything just shut down for the first month or so, so this was a scary time for everyone in the business. I was fortunate to be connected to some filmmakers in north Texas who had a project in the pipeline and were able to make it happen in spite of all the concerns and restrictions. Your readers may be interested in following this film, called “Red Stone,” as it also stars another TWD alum, Michael Cudlitz. I’ve also been able to do more of my voice work from a converted closet in my house, recording anime episodes and even my entire performance as Krieg the Psycho from the new Borderlands 3 game.
To wrap it up: here in Brazil we are particularly fond of The Walking Dead and all of its cast and crew, past and present. Brazilian fans are very passionate! Does this love get to you somehow, through conventions or social networks? Can you send a message to your Brazilian fans?
Jason Douglas: Yes, we’re definitely aware of the Brazilian fans, as we often see those shout outs and comments on social media. I especially appreciate the kindness towards those of us who are part of the TWD story in supporting roles. We’re proud of the work we’ve done on the show, and hope we can keep coming into your homes in the future as we work on other projects. You guys in Brazil are some of the best fans in the world. Much love and peace to you all!