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Cassady McClincy as Lydia, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 15 - Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC Cassady McClincy as Lydia, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 15 - Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

The Walking Dead

Lydia, Negan steal show with shades of TLOU’s Ellie and Joel

Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

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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

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.

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Better Call Saul

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez talks Better Call Saul’s Bagman (Interview)

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Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez as El Jefe and crew - Photo provided by Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez
Photo provided by Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez

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 [Nir Regev]: 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 [Gilligan] 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 [Goto], 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 [Bob Odenkirk] – 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 [Bob Odenkirk] 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 [Bob Odenkirk] 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 [Bob Odenkirk] 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.

Thanks G-Rod!

Thank you!

Behind the Scenes Shot of El Jefe’s Crew on Better Call Saul’s “Bagman” – Photo provided by Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez

Follow Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez on social media on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and his official website! Discover all of G-Rod’s acting roles on IMDB.

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!

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AMC

Negan, Daryl scene brings danger back on ‘Look at the Flowers’

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Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 14 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC
Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Negan and Daryl’s standoff felt like a lost treasure from Season 7’s glory days washing up onshore. Delightfully unpredictable.

This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10 Episode 14 (“Look at the Flowers”).

Picture Negan caught in a tug of war between the sweet nectarine taste of freedom and signature bureaucracy of morality. Going from accused captive on his final march to the gallows to bestowed the title of Alpha. Rope removed from neck, a sudden insurrection switching his presumptive executioner on trial instead. Whisperers kneeling like The Saviors of yore before the might of Lucille’s bearer. An opportunity to rebuild TWD’s great antiquity from the ground up. Breathing new life into Sanctuary by pumping its heart full of fresh residents.

Negan confesses to relishing his lengthy, unauthorized parole granted by one Carol Peletier. A tongue defending against a sword will always be a flimsy substitute for another sword. Now, that Negan owns the calvary, denial is no longer necessary. Denial is for the weak. Should Negan surrender his leverage, all that awaits him are voting tribunals and paperwork. His chief recommendation: Gone a-wall. Evidence of his valor: Missing-in-action. There will be eyes judging his every movement as intrinsically vile even with proof of improved character.

Negan can reach for the key dangling in front of his ‘barred’ memories right at that second and reclaim his crown. Freedom swings back and forth in front of his eyes, a clock’s pendulum. Fully bejeweled, Easy Street. Daryl kneels in silence as the moonlight dances over his tattered vest’s wings. Live or die. Full circle, transported right back to the scene of the ‘crime’ where he took a swing at the leather jacketed one. Danger permeates the air, the will of Lucille. For the first time in a long while on The Walking Dead, true unpredictability reigns again.

Negan asks one of his newly recruited Whisperer henchman why he’s holding the ‘badass shotgun’ instead of the Alpha… Once the handoff is complete, it’s clear Season 7 Negan’s spirit reemerged only temporarily. Negan and Daryl team up to vanquish the Alpha followers with relative ease. What could have been one of the show’s greatest comebacks has the brakes put to it, instead of thriving ala The Governor’s return to the prison. Negan preemptively abandons a newly formed reclamation army in favor of civilized red tape back at Alexandria.

A narrative fit for an entire future season: Negan rebuilding the Saviors through his Whisperer influence is put to rest before it started. No internal war between Negan and Beta establishing a Negan/Simon redux-like reverie. The bigger picture. Thus, a lead episode highlight is only held back by not keeping Negan’s original spirit alive for at least a couple more chapters.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan – The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

“Look at the Flowers” firmly establishes that although Negan is capable of heroic deeds, he’s absolute dynamite as a ‘bad guy’. Being a ‘good guy’ comes with rules and regulations… Negan shines consistently in the absence of both. Leave the iron anchor behind and let the man be as bad as he wants to be. ‘That is the look Negan I wanted to see!’

All that being said, the scene is one of the high points of Season 10. Capturing the magic elixir formula that made Negan such a force to be reckoned with in the first place. Uncertainty.

Be sure to read The Walking Dead #TBT: Negan asks Daryl ‘Who are you?’

Missed an episode or looking to reflect on a scene past? No problem! Purchase episodes on Amazon today.

More TWD Season 10 coverage is available on The Natural Aristocrat’s The Walking Dead category section.

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AMC

Ezekiel broke the bro code when he picked up Carol at Daryl’s place

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The Walking Dead Season 10 - Daryl Dixon [Norman Reedus] and King Ezekiel [Khary Payton] - Photo Credit: AMC
Photo Credit: AMC

What kind of guy goes to another man’s riverbed tent to pick up his ex-girlfriend? King ‘Hide Your Carols’ Ezekiel, the ex always on the prowl for tragedy to strike before sending a 2 am feel out text.

This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10 Episode 11 (“Morning Star”).

No scruples. Ezekiel is the type of guy to test waters by liking a girl’s Facebook photos 24/7 before texting ‘HYD?’ right after she has a fight with her boyfriend. Always queued in the shadows, waiting to pounce like his tiger Shiva before him at the right moment. Grinning from ear-to-ear in anticipation of hearing something has gone wrong, so he can make a move to ‘comfort.’ Why Daryl Dixon was reduced to being ‘the bigger person’ and telling Ezekiel, ‘he’s always respected what he’s been through’, post-coitus with Carol was just strange. It’s okay to be angry sometimes or even hold grudges like Daryl once did at Rick’s decision to spare Negan.

It didn’t feel realistic. Can you imagine Jessie Anderson getting back with Pete Anderson (had he lived) and Rick Grimes exchanging pleasantries? How about Lori sleeping with Shane again? Would Rick tell Shane how he’s always respected him right after the act? What is this ‘The Bold and The Beautiful‘ or one of the most savagely brutal shows in the history of television?

Why does Daryl have to ‘respect’ Ezekiel after he sleeps with the person Daryl presumably loves and seems to want a relationship with? There was no Governor type psychology/larger plan to be found in the scene… Really, you felt sorry that things have come to this. How would Season 1-2 rebellious Daryl Dixon look at Season 10 Daryl Dixon? Daryl seemed to be a Morgan-like clone on “Morning Star”, just happy to see everyone else be happy. Even at his own expense. Judith stitched together a new wing for Daryl’s vest on tonight’s episode… But he might as well have been completely de-feathered and wingless after that Ezekiel conversation.

There’s a range of pieces that don’t add up as of late on TWD, like why Negan didn’t just take out Alpha right then and there in the Season 10B Premiere, for example. Negan, the man who choked Simon to death with his barehands to finish a pure Rome-Gladiatorial style fistfight… Suddenly, can’t take out a vulnerable, unarmed naked Alpha and decides to sleep with her seemingly out of fear. In fact, recently Negan seems practically subservient, larger scheme in mind or not. Do you remember what Negan whispered to Rick Grimes after his first visit to Alexandria as a parting shot? Now the man is letting Alpha literally mutilate his wrists with a stick.

Eugene opting for a long distance relationship when he finally made Rosita jealous enough to want a kiss. Forgoing the opportunity so he can keep talking to a person he’s never actually met by radio. Literally after working to obtain Rosita’s affections for countless seasons. It just took almost all other competition to ‘drop out’ for Eugene to get a chance, true love right there. Now the peak has arrived, Daryl complimenting Ezekiel after he sleeps with Carol. Maybe it’s time TWD moved away from the ‘ships for a while and went back to basics.

Be sure to read Daryl and Ezekiel’s talk felt like a stiff handshake from a girl’s boyfriend and more TWD Season 10 coverage in The Walking Dead category section on The Natural Aristocrat.

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