I recently had the pleasure of speaking with movie and television actor IronE Singleton about his upcoming role in the highly anticipated television series The Walking Dead on AMC, which promises to make zombies the new vampire. It premieres with a 90-minute episode, fittingly, on Halloween, Oct. 31.
Viewers may best know Singleton from his breakout performance as the manipulative drug dealer in the critically acclaimed film The Blind Side (2009), which nabbed star Sandra Bullock an Academy Award.
Now, as Singleton takes on a new challenge, playing a human named T-Dog living in the apocalyptic world Robert Kirkman created in his comic book series The Walking Dead. Director Frank Darabont, who was behind the camera in the powerful 1994 film Shawshank Redemption, starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, is one of the latest big-time Hollywood directors to turn to the small screen to bring fans this zombie drama. Singleton talks about his new role, how TV inspired him to act, his passion for reading and of course, comics.
One-On-One Exclusive With IronE Singleton
(This interview has been edited and condensed)
Comic Canuck: I saw the trailer the other day and it looks great, wow.
Singleton: Is that trailer not amazing? I’m telling you. I saw it and I was blown away and I was like, people just don’t know what they’re about to get. I mean they are in for an amazing ride.
Comic Canuck: I showed my Dad the trailer the other day, he’s 64 and he just thought it looked amazing. And he’s going to try and check it out as well.
Singleton: It covers such a broad spectrum of people from one to 98, 99 and 100-years-old. Everyone can be entertained. It crosses cultural boundaries and everything so I think this could be a worldwide sensation.
Comic Canuck: I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I quite enjoyed your performance in The Blind Side as well.
Singleton: You know, that was my breakout moment for Hollywood. I had been doing so many small independent projects and ever since then, God has really blessed me to have had the good fortune of working with such influential and great people in the industry since The Blind Side, so thank you so very much.
Comic Canuck: Oh you’re welcome. With The Walking Dead, what was it that drew you to the project?
Singleton: Well, Mr. Frank Darabont first and foremost because you know, I hadn’t heard of The Walking Dead beforehand because, although I watched a lot of comic book series converted to TV shows and movies, when I was growing up, reading was not really preached a lot in my environment. It wasn’t really advocated much growing up in the inner-city of Atlanta so when I heard of The Walking Dead I was like, okay that’s cool and then they said Frank Darabont was the director and I said okay where’s the script? (He laughs) So I was very motivated to audition for that. At the audition I got the opportunity to meet Robert Kirkman and found out more about the comic book series and fell in love with it also because it’s all so very entertaining and just different. …Later on I found out [producer] Gale Anne Hurd – she did Aliens and Terminator and a whole bunch of other blockbuster movies – was involved. I was like, man this right here, with the people that they had brought in to oversee this show to make sure that it is the best production ever, so that really kind of inspired me as well.
Comic Canuck: So have you had a chance to read any of the volumes of The Walking Dead comic series?
Singleton: I have read certain segments of it on the set. I’ve done so much research, extensive research on the internet.
Comic Canuck: That’s cool. I actually just, admittedly, picked up Volume One a few weeks ago and, man, I was blown away by it. I’d always heard of it and had friends who say, ‘Oh you’ve got to read it, you’ve got to read it.’ And then I finally picked it up and wow, if the show is anything close to it, it’s just going to be incredible.
Singleton: Exactly! There’s so many things that will throw you off also. Like things that you don’t expect, things that you have not read in the comic book series, which is another reason why viewers should tune in because you’re going to get some surprises there also. The avid followers of the comic are going to find out that they will be in for a bunch of surprises as well.
Comic Canuck: Speaking of things that are new to the series that are not in the comic and correct me if I’m wrong, but your character T-Dog is a new character introduced is he not?
Singleton: He’s not mentioned in the comic series. (He laughs) We’re going to have to wait and see exactly who T-Dog really is. I can’t expound too much on it, but yes, from what the comic book followers know about this series, T-Dog has never existed.
Comic Canuck: Okay. Is there any more insight you can give us on the character of T-Dog without giving too much away or any spoilers?
Singleton: When all Hades breaks loose in the show, he’s the voice of reason just like every other character. In an apocalyptic setting certain rules and laws are broken and T-Dog basically gives his input as to why he’s against certain things. He’s the voice of conscience just as the other characters are.
Comic Canuck: I like that.
Singleton: Whenever I’m doing my character work I basically base that character around who I am as a person and what I’ve experienced … Now, every actor has a different approach to how they do their character work, but that’s how I do mine. I take a character as far into my own life as I can. T-Dog goes as far as me making it to college and playing college football.
Comic Canuck: Yeah, that’s fantastic that you can draw from that and I like your approach to it as well. And you’re talking about obviously growing up and your experiences and I wanted to ask you - and you touched on it a bit earlier – did you read any comics growing up or have you read any recently that you can tell us about?
Singleton: Only The Walking Dead right now. I’ve been so extremely busy I haven’t had the time. I’m a big fan of non-fiction so I haven’t even had time to do that because I’ve been working on The Walking Dead … and doing so many other things as far as my music is concerned because I do socially conscious rap and other things like that. So I have not been able to. But I watched, like I said when I was coming up, I just watched a whole bunch of the comic book series that were converted into movies, like Superman and Spider-Man and even – I don’t know if you remember - but Spectreman. Do you remember Spectreman?
Comic Canuck: I think so.
Singleton: Okay, well I might be a bit old school because I’m 35-years-old, so Spectreman and others, were all comic books … and they were converted into TV shows and/or movies. I watched a lot of that stuff because in a sense the TV was part-parent for me. One of my parents; I guess a third parent or something like that. I stayed in front of the TV, which I think is the thing that motivated me to become an actor.
Comic Canuck: You said you’re a fan of non-fiction and I know you’ve been busy the last little while, but what’s a non-fiction that you’ve read or that you love?
Singleton: The biggest one is Inspiration (Your Ultimate Calling) by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer and his series comes on public television and it talks about where we come from and the source that from which we all originated and how we are all one and how we are all connected. We have the same energy that we bring into the world as humanity. But it’s a very spiritually uplifting and empowering book. So that is the one that jumps out at me at this moment, I guess that’s my favorite book. But I have a one man show that I do and it was compared to Eckhart Tolle, which is Oprah Winfrey’s favorite book, The New Earth, they compared it to that.
Comic Canuck: Wow, that’s big.
Singleton: I’m big on non-fiction that focuses on betterment, focuses on empowerment and focuses on becoming a better person.
Comic Canuck: Well that sounds pretty good. And your one-man show being compared there is fantastic.
Singleton: Yeah, it blew me away!
Comic Canuck: What’s it like to be part of such a highly anticipated series?
Singleton: It’s amazing because last year with The Blind Side – it’s only been a year since my first major Hollywood production dropped – which was by the way, one of the biggest movies of 2009. Now here I am this year, in what’ll probably be one of the biggest shows of not only 2010, but I’d say, ever. I’m bold enough to kind of make that type of prediction because this thing is going to be distributed in 130-plus countries and 250 million households. So how huge is that? That’s unprecedented. To be a part of something like this, I know that God is really at work in my career. I mean, and other people may refer to it just as that supreme force, that positive energy that exists in the world. But I know that God is really working here or else I wouldn’t be in this situation. I told one person in particular that when I drove home every day from the set of The Walking Dead, I just thanked God. I got really emotional driving home and just thinking about how huge this thing was and the fact that I was a part of it. It’s uh…It’s mind blowing.
Comic Canuck: And I agree, and obviously from a fan point of view – and I am a fan – I can’t wait to see it. I know there’s a ton of people just chomping at the bit, no pun intended, (he laughs) to see it. Can you describe to us the type of ride you think this series will take the viewers on?
Singleton: Woo! You’re talking about not just drama between the humans and the zombies, but you’re talking about all of the drama that takes place between the human beings themselves, because there’s a lot of tension. You’re running and hiding and ducking and dodging all these zombies, shooting them with this and that. So many different things, but it just you know, it’s a lot of excitement. Between me and in particular [actor] Michael Rooker who plays Merle Dixon, we get into a confrontation and it’s a rollercoaster ride.
Although there’s not much happiness in this world, I mean, you wouldn’t imagine that there is because in this type of world, how can you be too happy? … But we have this subtle humor that’ll make the fans laugh; so there are funny moments. But then there are these moments where you want to cry. You want to scream. A lot of screaming! A lot of screaming, a lot of fear and I want to apologize in advance to all the fans that are going to be traumatized (We both laugh) when this thing drops. … A lot of people may not want to sleep by themselves or what not after this thing airs. Or go upstairs by themselves or something because I know as a kid I watched a lot of scary movies and I know what those movies did to me. Like Friday the 13th and Halloween and all of those, I know how much fear I was in so I apologize in advance for the fear that’s going to be instilled in so many people. Sadness, anger, fear, some laughter, it’s just an amazing rollercoaster ride. People are just going to have to tune in for this treat here.
Comic Canuck: That’s fantastic. Well, we’ll try not to hold it against you if we get too scared. From myself and everyone at Comic Booked I again want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us and I can’t wait to watch The Walking Dead.
Singleton: Thanks very much.
Be sure to check out the latest issue of iaemagazine.com for more on The Walking Dead, the trailer and IronE Singleton as T-Dog.
Looking for more IronE Singleton? Here you go: