Warning: Spoilers Ahead
People are constantly comparing Z Nation and The Walking Dead, and if you’re going to do that, then you will immediately see that Z Nation has one big thing that The Walking Dead doesn’t — a hysterically funny amateur pharmacologist who goes by the name of “Doc”, has a propensity for bad meth, and also a unique talent of getting zombies high on weed. All of the characters get their one-liners here and there, but Doc is the comedic gem of the series and definitely one of the best parts of the entire show.
Doc is portrayed by the immensely talented Russell Hodgkinson, and I had the opportunity to interview the actor this week, and what a delight it was. This guy is as much of a hoot in real life as he is on screen, and it is very clear that Russell is perfect for the role as Doc. Whoever made the decision to cast him is a complete genius. But Russell tells a different story, and at the beginning was convinced he had next to nil chance of getting the part.
“When I heard about the audition I was a bit skeptical. I mean, actors with my zip code don’t land principal roles on television. I knew I was right for the role of Doc, so I worked on the scene and went to the audition. I don’t know what happened, but I felt like I blew it. I didn’t get a callback and started hearing about my friends who did. About a week or so later my agent called to say they wanted me to submit again. This time I was more relaxed and made some bold choices. I figured what the hell, they’re either gonna like me or not. So, I guess they liked me cause I got the part. I was pretty ecstatic, got little misty. Then I started feeling anxious. I’ve always been content staying just under the radar. Now I’m ‘out there’ in a much larger way. I’m not sure what to make of it all or what I should be doing. I don’t have a manager or anything yet. I got my granddaughter to help me with social media stuff like Twitter, but I still don’t really get it. So I decided to take a tip from Doc, ‘It’s like rehab, take it one day at a time.’“
Everybody remembers that infamous shaft scene in “Full Metal Zombie” with Doc and the stoned zombie, right? How could any of us forget. Well, the ironic part is that scene was actually Russell’s audition monologue. And, because of that, after he got the part some of the scene ended up being his own inprov. “I frequently put my own little spin on the dialogue. I don’t change lines dramatically I just ‘Doc em up’ a little. As I recall, the air shaft scene was done pretty much as written, but the director (Michael Robison) wanted more pot smoking. He was off camera saying ‘More smoking! More smoking! Okay now blow smoke rings at him!’ I was like, ‘Hell, I haven’t blown a smoke ring since high school.’ I did manage to get a perfect one to hit the zombie right in the face. I hope everyone caught that.”
While Doc is quickly becoming one of the most beloved characters in the series, the funny thing is we really don’t know much about him at all. Russell talked some about that but did say more will be revealed soon.
“Well, we know Doc fathered a child at age 19. We know he spent time in rehab and calls himself ‘an amateur pharmacologist,’ which is code for ‘drug dealer.’ He likes his drugs and keeps a private stash on hand for emergencies, like the ‘air shaft’ scene, but he is not an drug addict. He is a responsible dude who can be trusted with the mission at hand. We also know that his limited medical knowledge comes from watching re-runs of ER. That’s about all we know of his background. Oh yeah, he does mention an ex-wife in an upcoming episode.”
Of course, with Doc becoming a fan favorite, viewers are obviously wanting to know more about the character’s back story, as well as more Doc-centric scenes and story lines. Well, it turns out Russell has his own ideas of where the writers should go next with Doc, and if only they would actually do it because these are just fantastic.
“I would love for Doc to get a make-over, so ya’ll can see how good-looking he really is. I’m telling you, there’s handsome [guy] under all that hair & dirt, but it’s like gold — you have to pan for it. [Laughs] Seriously though, I would like to develop a deeper relationship with 10K. He lost his dad, Doc lost his son, maybe there’s something to learn from each another. Then of course, I have this great idea. Doc develops a strain of medical marijuana called ‘ZWeed.’ It’s pot grown using ‘dead zombie compost,’ that helps stabilize Murphy’s condition. They somehow find their way to India, meet up with a Zombie Shaman and discover the Meaning of Life — and what went wrong.”
LOL! Now, how great is that folks! Karl Schaefer and Craig Engler, are you taking notes here?
Another great thing that may be in store for our Doc is a possible love interest. I think this would be absolutely fantastic since everyone else on the show seems to be getting some — why should Doc be left out on the action? “Let’s just say, you may be surprised by who gets laid next. It’s kinky too. Stay tuned!,” he laughs. Russell doesn’t say for sure who’s he referring to here, but let’s hope it’s Doc. After all, it would totally suck if the best action the dude sees this entire season is that fake sex scene with Cassandra in “Philly Feast.”
Besides the comic relief and the humor, one of the other things that I believe intrigues viewers about Doc is his humanity, compassion, and how he is really the only character who can connect with others in the group. Heck, he’s even friends with Murphy, and we know how difficult that can be. I asked Russell about this, and he had a very interesting perspective on why Doc seems to have become the human thread of the group.
“He provides some comic relief and audiences have also seen his kindness and vulnerability. I think he’s a pretty lovable guy. Sort of like, ‘The Dude’ meets George Carlin, you know? What’s not to love?,” he explains.
As for Doc’s apparent connection with Murphy, he says, “For one thing, Hammond, Garnett and Warren are leaders. They have military backgrounds, which make them more intimidating. The rest of the group are basically kids. I think Doc and Murphy share quite a few similarities. Doc was also the first one to show Murphy any empathy during that game of cards. Oh, and don’t forget, Doc has a big bag of drugs. Who would you want to be friends with?”
Speaking of that big bag, I just had to ask him about that. What exactly is in the bag, and will we ever find out?
“Aaaah the million dollar question. The contents of Doc’s bag changes as we go along. At any given time you are likely to find pharmaceuticals and street drugs like crystal meth, oxycontin, morphine, tetracycline, vicodin, and aspirin. Also maybe some First Aid equipment, canned goods, a crowbar, revolver, sun-glasses, bandana, maybe part of a Twinkie. [Laughs] The bag is huge, and weighs a ton! It’s like, half a cow.”
Believe it or not, the season one finale is just a few weeks away (where does the freaking time go!). For those who do not know, the title of the finale is “Doctor of the Dead.” When I first saw it, I immediately thought of Doc, but I also became fearful and nervous because we don’t know what that title means. Honestly, after Garnett’s death a few weeks ago, anything with “Doc” and “Dead” in the same sentence or the same title scares the crap out of me. Of course, there is only so much Russell could say, but he did offer up a few details.
“Actually, Doc does a lot of talking in episode 13. I was like, ‘Damn! I got lines, I better get serious (I hear Kellita laughing right now).’ What can I say? It’s way more fun when you’ve got lines. So, you want to know if I’m Doctor Death? Or if Doc dies? You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, so just brace yourself, because it’s epic!”
Well, I’m hoping that ‘epic’ equates to being exciting, shocking, scary, anything that doesn’t include Doc dying, being eaten, or any other crazy crap. And, I will say here exactly what I told Russell — if Doc dies in the finale, we riot! Yes, Karl Schaefer and Craig Engler, you’ve been warned!
While tomorrow’s episode may not be the finale, it still looks super-intense. I don’t even think Doc is in this episode, but Russell did offer up some hints as to what to expect.
“I think the upcoming episode focuses primarily on Mack and Addy. Those two got issues — and it’s about to get real,” he explains.
That is an understatement. A preview of the episode is below, and for those who haven’t seen it, sit down before you watch, have a double shot of bourbon and be sure to brace yourselves — especially if you’re a Michael Welch fan.
Episode 1.09 of Z Nation is titled “Die Zombie Die…Again” and airs tonight at 10/9c on Syfy.
Epic Doc Moment
Episode 1.09 Promo
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com