Writing for Nerd Bastards certainly doesn’t pay my monthly bills, but it does give me tremendous opportunities to meet many of the talented actors and personalities that I love from television, movies, comics, and all the other nerdy things that make up my favorite past times. That’s the big Nerd Bastards payoff, and this time around I got to talk with The Walking Dead‘s T-Dog, actor and all around nice guy IronE Singleton.
I had an additional surprise when I found out that IronE’s wife Carmelita, was working the phone that morning. Managing IronE’s press schedule for the day. In preparing for the interview, I had been reading and watching any IronE interviews I could find on the Internet. Carmelita often makes an appearance, usually stealing the show right out from under IronE. She’s just as delightful on the phone.
As a life long Georgia Bulldogs fan I had to ask IronE for his opinion on what’s happened to our Bulldogs this year. Their not having a great year, and I won’t bore you with our football talk, except to say that IronE knows his football, and keeps up with his Dogs.
Since I’m pretty sure many Walking Dead fans might not know about IronE’s football background, I did ask him a few football related questions.
You got your college degree while on a football scholarship at the University of Georgia, what position did you play?
I played DB (Defensive Back) for two years. Then that whole big recruiting class Kirby Smart, Champ Bailey, and all those guys, when they came in. I said, “I may need to switch to running back.” That’s when I switched to running back. I got behind Robert Edwards and Olandis Gary. I found my true home, I should have been a running back from the beginning, because I played running back in high school. I kinda got away from it. I liked the contact, I liked to hit, so I stayed on Defense. When I switched back to running back, the game slowed down. The game had never been that slow for me, but when I got back there, my second year at GA. I was like, “I really understand this game,” but too little too late. I didn’t come out highly recruited, and did not get the playing time.
Do you still keep up with former teammates? Have any of your teammates that made it to the NFL reconnected with you after your acting career took off?
Robert Edwards, Cory Allen, and Hines Ward. Hines Ward actually did a cameo in The Walking Dead, Season 3, episode eight(?) or something like that. He has the number on the back of his head, 86. You have to look really hard and pay close attention, you may have to pause it.
When the show first started, fans of the comic books expected Tyreese to show up. Did you experience any backlash from fans who wanted your character to be Tyreese-like?
You know what, I wouldn’t even call it backlash. I didn’t experience backlash. I don’t know about Robert Kirkman, AMC, and the rest of The Walking Dead team, but the fans have been nothing but loving and supportive of everything I’ve done on the show. I would have to say the most backlash like thing I experienced, was not a personal thing. At the beginning, when I was cast as T-Dog, everybody was like, “Wait a minute, where’s Tyreese?” Remember, the show hadn’t aired anywhere. “We don’t want this T-Dog guy, he’s not my Tyreese.” The comic book fanatics that is.
Then when I started playing T-Dog and people got more and more comfortable with seeing T-Dog, then the love just started pouring in. When the death scene came. Oh! When that happened, people from all over the world, the sympathies just started pouring in for me. So never any backlash, but they did express their initial discontent about T-Dog not being Tyreese.
Your character T-Dog seemed to disappear at times during the show, yet the popularity of the character only seemed to get stronger when those times were pointed out publicly. How do you explain that?
It’s [laughs] we as human beings, we love an underdog. I think when they felt, we like T-Dog why not give him more time or whatever. When T-Dog didn’t get the time they felt he deserved on screen, I think that just intensified the love they had for him. I think that’s it. Everybody wants the underdog to succeed, and they considered T-Dog that underdog because he’s not getting screen time. I think that had a lot to do with it .
Your character went out like a true hero, but I grieved more for the stories and scenes that could have been. To me, your character had always been a stabilizing factor. You could count on T-Dog when he was there. Do you think your character was killed off to help destabilize the group, and Rick in particular?
I don’t know exactly, we’d have to give AMC and the execs a call. To ask them what they had in mind for that, but I do know that heroic death scene, it couldn’t have been any better for T-Dog. I am so thankful that they thought enough of me, and cared enough about me, to give me that type of death scene. There’s one thing that T-Dog said at the end. Towards his death scene he said, “This was God’s plan.” and I think that kind of summed up everything beautifully.
A lot of people thought T-Dog died too soon. That there was a lot of stuff he could have done that he didn’t do, but it all happened in perfect timing. Everything happened for a reason. I think that if T-Dog died, then it was time for him to go out. Or else I don’t know if all of that love would have just poured in like it did. If T-Dog was still on the show, it would probably be just, “Hey, there’s T-Dog again.” But because he died so heroically, the fanfare continues.
You’re appearing at The Walker Stalker Con the first weekend in November. What has surprised you the most about appearing at conventions?
I would say the fanaticism, but people warned me. People told me in advance, just a heads up, that people are insanely in love with The Walking Dead and the characters. You know what, I think the fact that, as a Walking Dead cast member, we get like this rock status or something. Like we’re Rock ‘n’ Roll stars, it’s insane. The Walking Dead panels are wall to wall, and people just love The Walking Dead. I knew people loved the show, but not like that.
What’s your Walking Dead go-to story when someone asks you about that experience on set?
I always think about the time I had with Dale, Jeffery DeMunn, who is a brilliant actor. In an ideal world he would have been my father. We had so many meaningful conversations, the man is full of wisdom. We would talk about his kids, because I have kids, and he would talk about his kids, how he showered them with love, and what he exposed them to coming up. Was a total contrast from what I experienced coming up in the projects and all that stuff.
Those moments were meaningful for me, because I never had my father. I saw him twice in my life. So I just kind of pictured him as my father, so I think about that, and he was the only person I had that one-on-one scene with, too. It was just the two of us so we spent a lot of time together talking.
I guess I could think of a moment with everybody, I had a heart to heart with everybody on the set. Daryl, Norman Reedus, Scott Wilson (Hershel) that’s my buddy. When we’re out on the road, go up to the room, have a beer or two, when we’re doing the conventions. Laurie Holden (Andrea), Sarah Wayne Callis (Lori), everybody except for the kids. I didn’t have a heart to heart with Chandler (Riggs), and Sophia, Madison Lentz, because they’re kids and they’re growing and they’re not there in their mindset yet, but a lot of special moments, a lot of them.
You’ve written a book (Blinded by the Walking Dead) about your troubled past and how you came out of it. Did that writing process change any of your feelings about your past or the significant people in your life?
I would have to say no, because if any of those changes occurred, then they occurred years prior to that. I had already come to grips with what I had gone through, what I experienced, why I experienced those things. God put it on my heart back in 2000 to tell my story and I just procrastinated for eight years. Over time I was kind of mentally writing the story in my head. Because I had the one man stage show, I wrote the stage show first, but it was IronE the Resurrected as apposed to Blindsided by the Walking Dead, I had years to meditate. To think about everything I had gone through. To make my decisions about how I felt about everything I had gone through. So the book, I was just putting everything that was in my mind onto paper. It was beautifully written by Juliette Terzieff, she did a great job and for that I am forever grateful and thankful.
You’re doing a one man show, Blinded by the Walking Dead that is touring the South. Can you tell us a little bit about what fans can expect to see in the show? Will it swing by Atlanta?
Not in Atlanta yet, but just outside of Atlanta, my old stomping grounds of Athens, GA. University of Georgia. Go Dawgs! We open in Athens, November 8th. Then we move on to Macon November 9th, and then we have Birmingham November 16th, then back in Americus, GA. December 7th.
We’re still looking into booking more dates, planning our tour, but you can expect lots of laughter, I do some stand up comedy, I do some drama, there’s dancing, I do spoken word, I even do some rapping in there, too. Expect a roller coaster ride of emotion, kind of like The Walking Dead. You know, one moment just when you think, “Oh man, they’re in the clear again and poof there’s zombies.” Something crazy happens. Expect several ups and downs.
There’s something in it for everybody, my message is plain and simple: It’s truth and love. That’s the message I want to put out there. If I could have just get a podium and speak that all day then I would, but I know that people love entertainment. So let me just wrap it up in this big ball of entertainment and get my message out. So people won’t feel like their being lectured to. It’s an entertaining story, with a great positive message at the end. Everybody will leave the theater feeling good about themselves, feeling good about life, feeling good about their futures.
(Here’s a promo video for IronE’s 2008 IronE the Resurrected.)
What’s the next acting project we’ll see you in? I saw that there’s a movie on USA next month (An Amish Murder). What else is in the works?
I’ve had talks and talks. There are projects on the table. I’ve turned down a few. There are others that I’m really serious about, but we’re in the rudimentary phases right now. I don’t want to speak on them prematurely, until I sign my name on the dotted line. I will say that if everything goes according to plan, we could be looking at an Oscar nomination. These scripts are that awesome. The roles that they have me in mind for are Oscar worthy roles. That’s pretty much all I can say about that. There’s two or three of them, so hopefully everything will go according to plan.
Where can fans find out more about you?
My website, everything is IronEsingleton.com. If people just type in IronE, one of the reasons why I came up with that name is because if you Google, IronE then there is only one person who comes up and that’s me. Now my birth name is Robert…
I wanted to ask you… What does your wife call you when you’re in trouble?
When I’m in trouble, Robert Singleton, she says my whole name. She may even say Robert IronE Singleton. I’m like, “Uh oh, I know I’m in trouble now if she says my whole name.” If not, when she’s feeling good about me she says, Robbie. Like my grandmother calls me. Most of the time I have to say she’s calling my whole name, so I’m in trouble a lot.
You can just type in IronE and my Twitter page should show up, my Facebook page should show up, my website, my IMDB page, everything is pretty simple. So if they go there then they can find out what I’m up to, I keep it updated regularly.
You’re also doing a new Walking Dead blog for Robert Kirkman’s SkyBound website…
How cool is that. Robert Kirkman, Brian Huntington, and all those guys over there think enough about me to actually give me a piece of their website. Every Friday, “It’s Friday, T-Dog!” So I let people know what’s going on there as well.
You know you’re going to have a job for the rest of your life appearing at conventions.
Do you think so? That’s good to hear.
It’s your Walking Dead 401K retirement plan…
At first, it had come up before. I was thinking that it had a shelf life of about two or three years after the show ends. Then it’s back to, “Okay, I gotta find a job. I need work,” but now that you’ve put it that way, I’m feeling pretty comfortable right now.
IronE Singleton will be appearing at The Walker Stalker Convention this weekend in Atlanta Ga. (November 1st, 2nd, 3rd). If you’re in the area you should stop by, he’ll be signing autographs and meeting fans, you could pick up a signed copy of his new book.