Fear the Walking Dead’s Jenna Elfman talked to The Natural Aristocrat about June and John Dorie’s passionate relationship and her on-screen chemistry with co-star Garret Dillahunt.
Acting Dedication: Elfman also discussed meeting a real life Head of Trauma in Austin, Texas to get fully immersed for the role of June.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: How does it feel to be at the center of every Fear the Walking Dead ‘shipping conversation on Twitter? I mean, the fans absolutely love the June/John Dorie relationship. They’re in love with John pretty much, how does that make you feel?
Jenna Elfman: I get it, I’m in love with John Dorie too! (smiles) June loves him and cherishes him. Garret [Dillahunt] and I get along great. Ever since we first met, it’s just been effortless, acting together. I really enjoy it. It’s one of those things you luck out with sometimes with an acting partner, you know? I think we have that.
Is it more captivating for you as an actress to be more of an unreliable character where you don’t know if June might walk away from one script to the next?
I get excited, I just love the storytelling and I trust what they’re going to do. They write fun stuff for me. I love what they’re writing for me, and I’m really really committed to it and enjoying doing it. I love the trajectory they have happening. I dig it a lot. I’m always very excited for the next script.
Do you prepare any differently as an actress from when you first came on Fear the Walking Dead as Laura?
Well, when I read the script I’m always just looking for “Where are the moments of change?” in the script. In every scene, which character is changing and how and what is the impetus of that change? And I really make sure I understand the storytelling in that way. The overall theme and the message. What are the characters’ agreements and what are their problems? And so forth.
I think, maybe now that June’s point of view is very clear and she’s very committed to what they’re doing, I guess I’m approaching this season slightly different. Really because June kind of has a new constitution for herself. But it’s all the same kind of script analysis and character analysis.
Did you visit nurses and doctors for acting research and inspiration?
I met with the Head of Trauma in Austin (Texas) and I had him walk me through. Obviously, there’s triage and trauma nurses and trauma doctors, there’s a clock ticking on life or death. It’s a different sort of mentality of the things you’re looking for. I wanted to know what am I paying attention to? The heart rate, the breathing, the pupils, the skin color, all the things.
If I do this, what would happen? If I do that what’s important to her in that moment with that particular injury? What is she thinking about? I just had him walk me through the whole thing. It was interesting because before he was the Head of Trauma, he was a battlefield surgeon, and so a lot of the stuff he was walking me through was very similar to this scenario that the characters find themselves in. It was very helpful.
You had an amazing line in Fear the Walking Dead’s Season 5 Premiere where you were treating a patient, ‘Well, I’ve never done this in a truck stop before! Only at a trauma center.’ Do you ever get to riff on the lines at all or do you read straight from the script?
No, it’s not me. If I have questions [on the script] I’ll contact the writers, I’ll sent them an e-mail and ask for clarification or something. But no, I don’t change the lines or anything. Unless I ask them to clear it up ahead of time.
What does it mean to you as an actress to get a spot on this show?
It was very thrilling for me, I really wanted to start a new chapter in my career. Something new. I’d done drama before but I’d never done anything like this. They just offered me the role like eleven days after I kind of reconciled myself to what I wanted to do next. So, it was perfect timing and openly accepted by me!
Your character has changed names the most on Fear the Walking Dead! How does that feel, do you ever get confused yourself?
(laughs) No, but I think it just shows sort of an evolution about trying to find yourself, and needing to heal. once again. Luckily, the John Dorie effect… (smiles) You’re able to kind of heal and become yourself. I think this season, we see this beautiful June in full bloom. A new version of herself but connected to her truth.
Be sure to check out The Natural Aristocrat’s interviews with Fear the Walking Dead cast members Austin Amelio (Dwight) and Colman Domingo (Victor Strand) during New York City’s Split Screens Festival at the IFC Center.
Nico Tortorella told The Natural Aristocrat that while ‘playing a version of myself’ as Josh on Younger was “cute” & “fun”, ‘I wasn’t being challenged as an actor’ like as Felix on the upcoming The Walking Dead: World Beyond. Embracing the darkness of Felix’s backstory, the horror genre is where Nico feels most comfortable as an actor.
The following question was asked by The Natural Aristocrat® during a press roundtable for The Walking Dead: World Beyond with Nico Tortorella, Annet Mahendru, and Julia Ormond.
Interview with Nico Tortorella:
The Natural Aristocrat : Nico, I watched you portray Josh on Younger, so I have to say the darkness of Felix’s backstory and your lines in The Walking Dead: World Beyond are quite a jarring departure.
On yesterday’s press day, Alexa Mansour (Hope) mentioned you’re always saying that ‘you’re the Rick Grimes of World Beyond’. What is it like going from romance as Josh on Younger to the brutal darkness of Felix on World Beyond? It’s quite a transition. I mean from MILF Hunter to Zombie Hunter!
Annet Mahendru: (laughs hard)
Nico Tortorella: MILF Hunter to Zombie Hunter! (laughs) Well, I’m actually more familiar with this genre than I am with the rom-com genre. I have been on Younger for a long time but that’s a 22-minute show with eight series regulars and I only work maybe one day a week, for a couple months of the year. But I mean if we’re talking Scream 4, Odd Thomas, The Following, I’m more used to the darkness.
As a person, I have no problem stepping into the darkness. I spend a lot of time there. I can face it quite regularly. This actually feels like a more comfortable genre for me than the rom-com. The rom-com was like a relief when it came because I’d been working in heavy material for so long.
It was like, ‘I don’t want to have to kill anyone or I don’t want to worry about being killed.’ Let me just go and be sweet & cute for a little bit… But as an actor that only goes so far! I’m not really challenged on Younger, I’m playing a version of myself and it’s fun, it’s cute but this… It’s like okay, I get to act again you know, for real!
I get to step into the darkness, and it’s somewhere where I’m actually comfortable.
Annet Mahendru as Huck, Nico Tortorella as Felix, Aliyah Royale as Iris – The Walking Dead: World Beyond _ Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC
Annet Mahendru as Huck, Nico Tortorella as Felix, Julia Ormond as Elizabeth – The Walking Dead: World Beyond _ Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC
Be sure to watch Nico Tortorella as Felix on The Walking Dead: World Beyond series premiere over at AMC on Sunday, October 4 at 10 p.m. ET (9 PM Central).
– TWD fans, read a non-spoiler review of The Walking Dead Season 10 Finale and test out your trivia knowledge with Who wants to be a Carollionaire? – Carol Peletier Quiz and How well do you know Melissa McBride? Trivia Quiz
– Younger fans, be sure to read Will Liza say ‘I Do’ on Younger Season 7? on The Natural Aristocrat®!
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about playing an unknown cartel’s ‘El Jefe’ opposite a shivering Jimmy McGill in Better Call Saul’s iconic, 5-star “Bagman” desert shootout.
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez praised Better Call Saul’s co-creator Vince Gilligan as a visionary, with a sharp eye for the tiniest of details in our interview. Every second mattered in the Gilligan directed “Bagman”, featuring G-Rod’s crew abruptly stopping Jimmy’s $7 million-dollar sunswept, victory lap drive into a life-altering nightmare. For the first time on Better Call Saul, Jimmy’s silver tongue was unholstered to no effect. It shot blank, after blank, after blank. No word Jimmy could say was the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle.
G-Rod’s ‘Jefe’ saw the abogado as nothing more than collateral damage, signaling the universal ‘cut off his head’ motion after confirming the money was all there. G-Rod walked The Natural Aristocrat through the intricate foundations that made Bagman’s shootout unforgettable. The moment when Jimmy McGill had to pay steeply for the actions of Saul Goodman, lives interwoven irreparably forever.
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez gives signal as El Jefe to take out Jimmy McGill / Saul Goodman on Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” Screenshot Photo Credit: AMC
This interview contains spoilers for Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 (“Bagman”).
Interview with Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez on Better Call Saul:
The Natural Aristocrat : The shootout in “Bagman” is one of Better Call Saul’s greatest scenes. Arguably Top 2 alongside Jimmy’s speech to Kristy Esposito in my opinion. The entire moment has very little dialogue outside of Jimmy, building on explicit intimidation and chaotic silence. What was it like being the leader ‘Jefe’ of the scene?
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez: When I first got the call, I was so excited that the episode was going to be directed by Vince because he gets so invested in every single shot! All the details. That’s something that anyone who’s watched his work on Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad appreciates. I knew why they chose me for this role because they wanted to really dig in from all angles and provide the audience as much coverage as possible. So, that the audience could appreciate the intensity of the situation that Jimmy was in.
That’s why they wanted somebody with a stunt background, that had an action background. If you had to focus on not only providing that coverage and getting those angles that made that scene so intense, it would be that much more difficult to get an actor that you had a double. That way they could really just focus on Jimmy or Saul, I think it was Jimmy in that moment.
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez approaches Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) as El Jefe on Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” Screenshot Photo Credit: AMC
They opted for a stunt actor so they wouldn’t have to worry about those angles, they wanted someone who was going to sell the action, obviously safely. We were going to sell all the action safely. I knew going in when I read the script, I knew it was going to be intense and that Vince was going to go above and beyond. I was already visualizing from paper to the day that this thing was going to be very expensive. We were out there for two weeks, and I think that originally it was slated for around eight days.
At one point, the stunt coordinator Al , came up to me, “Hey Vince wants to get more of this. Would you mind sticking around for another 2-3 days?” I was like, “Let’s do it!” It ended up being two weeks out there in the scorching sun. (laughs) It’s so amazing the way Vince works, he wants to really dig into every single action. Vince told me, “I’m visualizing this guy really wants the money. He gets pissed off, goes this way, and then gets shot by Mike (Ehrmantraut).
Were you disappointed your character gets shot? I mean it was an amazing moment when you picked up the bags but also the Jefe’s exit from the series.
I loved everything about the scene! Of course, I would have loved to have lived through maybe a couple more episodes but I knew what we had to do. I knew what Vince was trying to get across. When I get sniped while running off with the money, it was funny because Vince was like “G-Rod you’re going to run this way, you’re thinking damn it, I want to leave with this money! And then you get sniped here.”
I kind of showed him how I would lay into my death, and he goes, “Yeah but you really want that money! You’re not letting go of that money, you’re hanging on to that money with your hands into your death.” Me and the stunt coordinator looked at each other for this five second moment, looking back at each other, then back at Vince. Because I knew what he was getting at. He wanted me to keep my hands on the money bags and then face-plant on concrete, on pavement.
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez as El Jefe attempts to run away with the Money Bags – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC
Did that hurt?
Oh yeah, I had to do it a total of nine to ten times. If you look at it, that’s a little dirt sprinkled on top of actual concrete pavement. Under the scorching sun, 110 degrees, whatever it was. So he looks at us and says, “Can you make this happen?” And we both go, “No problem!” (laughs) I knew what was coming! If you’re doing stunt work, it’s not going to be one take typically unless it’s going to be a hard reset where you’re going to swap in a whole vehicle or something like.
Vince told me, “I really want to feel that life steps outside of that body suddenly, and then you face-plant.” I had to really use that core strength to sell it while staying safe. To make things more complicated, Vince wanted me to land facing a certain way so the camera could capture my face, “There’s a tattoo I want the audience to see on your neck.” Think about it, you’re ‘dying’ and you have to really focus on all these intricacies. (laughs) Vince said, “Oh by the way, I don’t want your leg to land twice on the bag. I want the bags free and clear of your leg!” I was like, “Okay, got it!” (laughs)
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez as El Jefe takes Car Key from Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC
That sounds like hyper-attention to detail!
Oh it’s incredible! He is unbelievable and he is thinking of every single detail. It’s funny on one take, they were aware that I was deathly scared of tarantulas. And they were out there, they actually caught one. Word got to Vince that I was deathly scared, and on one take I died and there’s so much gunfire. You know these are real guns, we’re just shooting blanks. I have earplugs, so I didn’t hear them yell ‘Cut!’ and I’m not moving because I’m dead. At one point, Vince got closer and louder and yells “G-Rod tarantula!” And you better believe I got up immediately! (laughs)
The way everything was shot and the way Bob Odenkirk works is phenomenal. The guy really knows how to elevate a scene. There was a moment where we did a hard reset, a good 30-minute reset, they had to clear his shirt of dirt and such. And Bob jumped right back into it on the ground, crawling to the car like that! I thought, “Wow this guy logs back in so quickly!” A good thirty minutes, Bob just takes a sip of water. Within a split second when Vince said “We’re going hot. We’re going to spit fire” Bob is dialed back in. It was truly amazing to see that kind of sharp talent. I think we can both agree and appreciate, that he had to really step up. Jimmy had a situation that Saul had put him through. And now it’s Jimmy who’s got to deal with it.
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez in shootout as El Jefe while Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman crawls on ground – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC
He had to really sell that Jimmy is in a f****d up situation and really elevate it. So, that the sense of fear would really come through. We know the guy is talented but to do it so quickly after over a thirty-minute reset process that pulls you out of it, to dial it back in two seconds is just amazing to see.
I thought there was so much incredible body language in this scene. You could practically watch it on mute and it would still come across. First when you grab the key out of Jimmy’s hand… And especially when the ‘Jefe’ gives the universally understood signal to ‘cut off his head.’ What went into crafting that major moment?
When I signal Kenneth Trujillo (Matedor) to kill in a way that Vince wanted to deliver, “Less is more”. The ‘Jefe’ goes for the money, he breaks a smile, he’s thrilled, can’t believe it. You’re done with this guy. You’re done, just signal your guy to kill him, what are you going to do? Vince gave me a bit of creative liberty there, which is where that motion you’re talking about came from. I say Épale which means “Hey!” in Spanish over in Venezuela, where I’m from. Then I’m back to the money.
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez as El Jefe signals Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman’s fate – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC
It’s cool that they kept that in because I’ve had Venezuelas reach out to me and say “Oh you must have been a Venezuelan cartel!” Because we don’t really know anything about this mysterious cartel other then I’m the Jefe of it.
How do you feel about Stanley Kubrick style ‘take as many takes as needed until it’s perfect’ directing as an actor?
I love it! That’s what you saw with Vince and this scene. When you’re looking at a setup that takes thirty minutes just to get Jimmy in the right angle when he’s walking to that rear view mirror… Just to get that 1-2 seconds shot of that angle. Taking in 30-45 minutes of resetting to shoot it not once, twice, three I think it was four times, you’re thinking alright this guy has a vision.
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez as El Jefe signals Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman to get out of the car – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC
He wants to have an arsenal of coverage, so when editing comes around, he has it all and then some! That was cool to experiment. I started my career in this business in ’09 and I have yet to see somebody who’s out to create that arsenal of coverage like Vince.
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez motions Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) as El Jefe to get out of the car on Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” Screenshot Photo Credit: AMC
I’ve read that you originally wanted to be in the U.S. Border Patrol before becoming an actor, and acted out a literal audition in a job interview for it. Is that true?
Yep, and after that you could hear a pin drop in the room. You know, it’s this big formal setting, with three senior level, big, armed border patrol agents. They’re been in it for ten to fifteen hours, and there’s a circular clock on the wall. It’s a pretty typical government room, all white walls and a table. So this guy looks at me and says, “Okay. Well, we’ve never had that before.” And he looks at the other guy.
“Typically when candidates do when we give them this scenario, they explain what they’re going to do. You have opted to show us. Okay, just give me a minute.” He confers with the other two guys and my heart’s f*****g racing. They might actually call a psych ward to have me taken out of here.
Then they turn to me, and the middle guy in charge says “After conferring, we’ve all decided that was a great job. Very unique. And you passed!”
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez – Behind the Scenes on Better Call Saul’s “Bagman” – Photo provided by Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez
What ultimately made you decide to pursue acting after passing? I assume being a U.S. Border Patrol Agent was your dream at the time?
I walked out of there, and I’m like, “What just happened in there?” I had a self-analysis that night, and realized, I enjoyed the storytelling. I enjoyed that most of all! I reached out to an artist crew and started auditioning for student films and they were like, “Man, your look is amazing!” I was like “What the f**k are you talking about?”
I always thought I just looked like a regular dude, I didn’t know I’d be perfect playing bad guys. I thought, let me explore this a bit further and I auditioned for Burn Notice and Graceland. I had all these passion directors calling me up saying I love your look! And I was like, “What the f**k is this man?” (laughs) I was like let me capitalize on this bad guy thing and the storytelling.
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez – Behind the Scenes Shot on Better Call Saul’s “Bagman” – Photo provided by Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez
What kind of weaponry training did you have over the years? It’s noticeable off Better Call Saul alone that you’ve obviously had experience and know how to hold a weapon realistically. Do you spend a lot of time at gun ranges in preparation for potential roles?
It’s constant, I own firearms and it’s our responsibility as stunt performers and stunt actors. Obviously, my passion is first and foremost acting but I’m always going to be in a situation acting-wise where I’m holding a gun, throwing punches, or something. My background is in Karate, Gōjū-ryū, so it’s my responsibility to keep my entire arsenal skillset ready and fresh. So, when I walk on to a set on a day like that day, they’re going to notice how I hold a gun… And the audience sees this guy knows how to handle a gun!
In the behind the scenes clip of “Bagman” you posted on Instagram you’re singing the lyrics to a song, what was it?
“In the Still of the Night” by The Five Satins, released in 1956. That got a couple of chuckles because you’ve got these two guys, ready to rollout for a shootout and listening to this.
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Minutes before last night’s shootout…WTF these guys aren’t so tough 🤷♂️🤨😂 #CartelBoys #NewAlbumDroppingSoon #BetterCallSaul #RIP . . . #stuntlife #goodtimes #throwback #actorslife #amc #stunts #ilovemyjob #livingmybestlife #classiccars #ford #stuntman #nevergiveup #instagood #instadaily #picoftheday #bettercallsaulamc
Behind the Scenes Shot of El Jefe’s Crew on Better Call Saul’s “Bagman” – Photo provided by Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez Promo Picture – Photo provided by Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez
Be sure to read Saul Goodman Vs. Jimmy McGill: What’s in a name? on The Natural Aristocrat!
Cassady McClincy gave her best acting performance to date on “The Tower” as she and Jeffrey Dean Morgan made a strong play for the roles of Ellie & Joel on HBO’s upcoming adaption of The Last of Us.
This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10 Episode 15 (“The Tower”) and The Last of Us.
Is it time for Negan to trade in his vintage leather jacket for an olive-green plaid shirt in-between seasons of The Walking Dead? Lydia’s chaotic outburst at the father figure who ironically made her an orphan tonight was magic. A frenzied tearjerker with the same intentionally unrefined edges that once made Rick Grimes’ breakdown ‘snot’ memorable. Vicious, raw screaming at the man who took away both Lydia’s mother and right to self-sacrifice at her hand. Cradled, sheltered, and snatched from fate. Just as Joel did to Ellie at the conclusion of The Last of Us.
The type of father/daughter on-screen chemistry Cassady McClincy and Jeffrey Dean Morgan share is a rare sight. Negan pleading with Lydia to hit him, desiring nothing more than to lean down to present an unguarded mug was one of the show’s more powerful visuals. What do you say to an abused teenager whose mother you just pushed past death row? Lydia, rejected the guilt-filled plea initially. Opting to pierce Negan where it hurts the most… With words of truth. ‘You just wanted to be a hero to them but you’ll never be one!’
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, Cassady McClincy as Lydia – The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 15 – Photo: Jace Downs/AMC
Though TWD’s audience has seen a youngster losing a parent before with Carl Grimes, it was to an extent, mostly bottled up by Carl postmortem. Here we see the full spectrum of emotions from detachment, disgust and unbridled rage to complete shock, vulnerability and sadness by Lydia. Rockbottom.
The last remnants of Lydia’s innocence, of her childhood, forever gone. No chance of making her mother or father’s heart be filled with pride ever again. Not even the faintest, unrealistic daydreams of her mother’s starry-eyed happy tears at a college graduation or wedding. Every day forward will be spent alone, even when others are there. Instead of being gently guided, Lydia is shoved into the mud of adulthood.
Tonight’s TWD just needed Gustavo Santaolalla’s “All Gone” (No Escape) to complete the moment…
Be sure to read Lydia’s mistreatment proves Second Chances are Fashion Statements and more TWD Season 10 coverage in The Natural Aristocrat’s Walking Dead category section.