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Saturday, 3 October 2015

Z Nation pt 2 - Interview with 'Doc', actor Russell Hodgkinson

Believe it or not, I’m a man who is rather prone to making the odd error or two when it comes to certain decisions in my life. For example, I am genuinely one of those deluded individuals who believed that Betamax and not VHS would dominate the video market and so invested in a top of the range model without hesitation, which naturally turned out to be a costly mistake. In addition to that, some years ago I was offered the chance to buy a bucket full of cheap shares in a certain electronics company, but instead I declined. A month later the bloody Ipod was released and my potential shares in Apple went stratospheric. Bugger. If that wasn’t enough I once made the mistake of watching the remake of The Wicker Man……..and I’m still trying to get over that particular catastrophic blunder of decision making.

Earlier this year I almost added to my extensive list of blunders by dismissing Z Nation, after watching the first couple of episodes, as nothing more than cheap and cheerful facsimile of The Walking Dead. How wrong I was........ and for a number of reasons. Yes, Z Nation may have more than a passing resemblance to that certain Zombie Apocalypse show set in Georgia. Yes, there may be one or two characters that share similar attributes of those found with Rick, Daryll et al. Now I love TWD, you all know that. In fact judging by the amount of times that I've watched my favourite ever episode about the escape from Terminus, I think it's safe to say that I probably love TWD more than any grown man should do. However, I would be the first to admit that if the show lacked one particular element, it is humour. Sometimes TWD, for all its brilliance, is quite simply unrelenting in its unforgiving bleak tone. Yes, yes I know that some of you might be wondering just where the hell the humour could be found in an apocalypse. Well funny that you should ask...........

It seems, judging from the comments I’ve seen out there in the Internetland, that one either loves or hates Z Nation. The ones that hate it seem to have (as I almost did) dismissed it as an example of some light and fluffy Syfy channel offering eager to jump on the seemingly never ending Zombie bandwagon. However, those of us who have grown to love the series have recognised it what it truly is: an exciting post-apocalyptic tale that refuses to take itself too seriously. Whether it’s the regular periods of light-hearted humour, the occasional genuinely exciting moments or the fine ensemble cast, the show is simply saying “Hey, just because it’s the apocalypse, it doesn’t mean that we can’t have any fun.”

Plus, the show has Kellita Smith………I firmly believe that it's only a matter of time until a real Zombie apocalypse takes place (well fingers crossed anyway) and I find my natural place as the heroic leader of a surviving band of humans. In the event of my saving humanity there is one thing that will be nigh on number 1 in my 'apocalypse to do list'  - and that is to make well and truly sure that in my group there are at least one or two kick-ass sexy ladies who are handy with swords, machetes etc. I know, I'm shallow and superficial, but I never said that the apocalypse would rid me of those qualities. So Kellita, or the future Mrs 5D. The Fifth Dimension blogger is simply perfect, well, I’ll leave it at that. After all, I have enough restraining orders to deal with at the moment.

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to interview actor, David S. Hogan who had a guest appearance in episode 6 of season 1, the fabulous episode that is 'Resurrection Z'. You can read the interview RIGHT HERE if you are so inclined. Thanks to David I was able to contact one of the core cast members, Russell Hodgkinson who plays arguably one of the most popular characters of the show, the inimitable 'Doc', purveyor of the finest pharmaceuticals that the apocalypse can provide. Russell kindly agreed to not only chat with me about a few things Z related, he also provided me with some most excellent on-set photos.

So just who is this Russell Hodgkinson chap? Well according to IMDB;

Russell was born on Homestead Air Force Base and grew up on Florida's gulf coast. He became a father at age 17, passing up a Theatre Arts Scholarship to join the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division. Peace time provided a unique opportunity as he soon began performing regularly at the esteemed Fort Bragg Playhouse. By the end of his enlistment he had earned his Actor's Equity card and headed for New York City, where he spent the next two liberating years. In 1986 he joined the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Sassafras where he patrolled the Hawaiian Islands performing Federal Aids to Navigation. During off duty hours he studied at the Honolulu Film Actor's Workshop and was soon transferred to Long Beach, California where he met his wife, actress Shelley Poncy. In 1992 they moved to Louisiana, where the couple became fixtures on the New Orleans stage. They relocated to Seattle in 2003, luckily missing Hurricane Katrina. Russell resumed his theatre career and soon became a familiar face in the Independent film scene. In 2014 he landed the role of 'Doc' on the SyFy original series 'Z Nation'.

So once again, the interview bit...........

Q) In the 'meticulous' research that I've done on you I see that you have a personal history that's far from your typical actor. So how did you fall into an acting career?

A)  One day after school (7th grade), I was waiting for my friend Tammy, who was auditioning for 'The Wizard of Oz'. The drama teacher saw me sitting in the hall and asked if I wouldn’t mind reading the Scarecrow’s role because there weren’t enough boys. I auditioned, made the teacher laugh and she offered me the role. I was hooked. 

Q) Were you a fan of Zombies or the horror genre in general before landing the part of Doc in Z Nation?

A) I was never a fan of the horror genre, although I did love ‘Carrie' and ‘Poltergeist', but typically not my thing. I have grown fond of the zombies though...and I'm on a first name basis with some of them now!

Q) How did you get the part?

A) I had a horrible first audition. I went home and tried to forgot about it. I figured they would probably cast an LA actor anyway.  A week or so later I was asked to submit a self-taped audition, which I did...on my iPhone. It was way better.  I thought, wow, I’m perfect for this. When I was offered the role, I knew my life was about to change. I cried a little bit. I still have the audition on my phone. I’ll never delete it.

Q) For those unfortunates who are unfamiliar with the show, explain who your character is and what you like about him.

A) I play Steven ‘Doc' Beck, a self professed "amateur pharmacologist” He is a former counselor in a drug rehab center who has been in recovery for about eight years. It's no surprise that the stresses of the apocalypse have caused several much deserved relapses. He is called ‘Doc' because of the knowledge he has gained watching re-runs of ER. A trusted member of the team and a pacifist by nature, he has no problem unleashing his inner ‘bad-ass' when necessary. I enjoy his kindness, sense of humor and optimism.

Q) I'll admit that at first I made the error of unfavourably comparing Z Nation to The Walking Dead, until I 'got' what you guys are trying to do. Does the comparison to TWD annoy you?

A) When you consider that one episode of 'The Walking Dead' costs about 3.4 MILLION dollars and ours costs roughly $700.000 an episode, then comparing the shows seems absurd….Our show is also light-hearted and fun with a clear cut mission. I'll refrain from comparing actor salaries, It may send me into a deep depression.

Q) We're just coming to the end of season 1 here in the UK & it's clear to see how the group are beginning to bond on screen. How has it been for you to experience that growing process as an actor of an ensemble piece?

A) I have been a stage actor for over 30 years, so I understand the importance of ensemble work. TV is no different in that regard. I love being part of this show. We have found our sweet spot with each other (crew included) When we lose a member of the team it hurts. We are a family.

Q) So time to spill the beans. Who in the cast is the joker, who's the giggler, the one who forgets their lines etc etc?

A) We all wear our characters pretty close to the bone. What you see is pretty much what you get. We all have our moments, but I think we feel incredibly supported and loved…at least I do.

Kellita in charge - damn right
Q) What nuggets of clues can you give us about what happens in season 2 & beyond?

A) It’s definitely a wild ride from start to finish. Not only are the stakes higher, but the characters are too, thanks to Z-Weed!!!!, (marijuana grown using dead zombies as compost). We are also introducing many new ‘types' of zombies as well as some wonderful guest stars and a new member of the team.

Q) Erm, Kellita Smith...... You can give me her number, right??!!

A) Kellita has made it known that she is looking for a "sugar daddy", but there are height requirements that must be met.  How tall are you?

Q) If you had a choice, which director would you want to work for?

A) They’ve all be great, but I have a particular fondness for John Hyams. We have worked with him the most. He also gets extra points for being a great daddy. I love to hear him talk about his kids.

Q) What are the future plans for Russell Hodgkinson?

A) Future plans include a trip to the dump, a garage sale, completion of my basement remodel, and then finding a foreign exchange student to move in and help with all my technological challenges

I have mixed feelings about this interview. On the one hand I would like to thank Russell for giving up his time and providing me with a wonderfully entertaining insight together with photos of his Z Nation experience. On the other hand, being just 5'10" tall means that I apparently have bugger all chance of making Kellita Smith fall for my undoubted charms. Oh well.

Russell Hodgkinson's IMDB page can be found at

You can follow Russell on Twitter via his handle of @hodgmahal

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