The Walking Dead’s latest victim speaks

[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “Do Not Send Us Astray” episode of The Walking Dead.]

The plan worked. Negan’s idea to cover Saviors’ weapons in zombie guts and then use those weapons to injure and infect the opposition — thereby causing them to turn and eat their own — inflicted major damage at the Hilltop on Sunday’s “Do Not Send Us Astray” episode of The Walking Dead, and the losses included a member of Alexandria who has been in the community since the very beginning.

Tobin — the former construction chief who willingly ceded his authority to Abraham after leaving Holly to almost die in a walker attack, yet then became a valued member of the community and a boyfriend to Carol — was slashed by an infected knife, turned into a zombie and then began chowing down on his former friends. It was a terrifying — but also thrilling — end for this gentle everyman character that spent four seasons on the show.

We spoke to the person who played Tobin in both life and death, Jason Douglas, about his final episode, and whether Tobin and Carol would have lived happily ever after.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, let’s start with how you got the bad news that Tobin’s ticket was about to get punched here. Was it from reading the script or did someone give you a heads up before then?
JASON DOUGLAS: I had actually gone to downtown Dallas where my wife was having lunch with some people and she had a flat tire, so I was just sitting, waiting for the tow truck. The phone rang and I think it was a Burbank or a Santa Monica number, and I just let it go through to voicemail, not even thinking about who this could be or what it would be about.

Of course, then I checked the voicemail and it was a very chipper and professional sounding [showrunner] Scott Gimple, who of course I’ve met and know from working on set. I could tell this was something different. I did call him back, so we actually had a lovely, long conversation about what was coming. I can’t tell you that it wasn’t unexpected because I’ve been expecting for Tobin to meet his demise, frankly, since I came on the show in season 5. I think I’ve had a pretty long leash.

If I’m picking up what you’re putting down, it sounds like what you’re saying is, if you just hadn’t called Scott Gimple back, you’d still be alive.
I’ve often said that I’m just gonna block his number on my phone. They’re gonna find a way to let you go one way or the other, but no, I was actually happy to have the closure of getting to talk to Scott personally, and it’s a lovely courtesy thing that they do before the script is released to the general cast and crew. You personally have that heads-up going in. It was nice to be able to have that chat with Scott.

How did you feel about getting to play zombie Tobin, because not everyone who dies gets to also be zombified?
Absolutely! Not only did I get to don the full Walking Dead zombie makeup, but I really get to go down in classic movie monster style. I mean, this was something that Jeff January, who was the episode director, and I discussed, was that this episode needed to really feel like Night of the Living Dead or even Frankenstein. The script offered us so much to work with, and I just thought it was lovely. And this is from a personal standpoint, that the writers thought enough of Tobin to say, let’s not just off him in kind of a forgettable way, but let’s really make it memorable — I don’t think I could have asked for a better ending for my character on the show.

How did you work on your zombie shuffle and zombie face? Did Greg Nicotero or someone give you some instructions or tips?
Well, it’s funny because a lot of the guys that actually play the walkers on a regular basis, they actually get training, and those of us who are just on the show as characters who then obviously meet our demise and become walkers, there’s really no training involved. They’re just depending on you to show up and do it. I’ll confess, I was certainly shuffling around in my wardrobe trailer a little bit, just to work on a gait or whatever.

Jeff was really terrific at coaching me because most of what the walkers do is very technical. It’s not easy to do a lot of physical blocking and maintain the demeanor of a walker. The other hindrance is that we’re all wearing contacts — specifically, thick heavy contacts that you can barely see anything through. There’s a lot of technical things that have to happen in order to make those scenes look convincing.

Let’s talk about Tobin and Carol, because clearly they’d started a relationship before she went AWOL and left. What was it like after she came back because we didn’t really see them together at all until this last episode?
Yeah, I think it was tough on the fans to kind of process because so much time in real time passed, but I think in show time, we’re not talking about a long period of time. So there was some awkwardness there. There were a couple of scenes where Carol and Tobin are in the same scene but have zero interaction with each other, which seems kind of strange. I was so glad that we actually were able to wrap that situation up with this final episode. I think we needed to acknowledge, and have some closure on what happened before, and have some understanding about why it happened.

I think when Carol talks about pretending to be somebody, but maybe hopefully thinking that this is what I could be — obviously she’s not just referring to her relationship with Tobin at that time, but also just who she was and who she was presenting to the Alexandrians that she was. Which might have been who Carol used to be, before the apocalypse, but certainly not who she has been, certainly not since losing her daughter.

It’s interesting because Tobin asks Carol, “Do you plan to stay?” and she sort of gives a noncommittal answer there. Nothing really seems set in stone in terms of what she’s going to do. Do you think there was a future there for the two of them, had you made it out of there alive?
I think Tobin was optimistic. I don’t know if it was a future with her. These are kind of approaching middle-aged people who have lived life. They’ve lost people, they’ve lost children, ostensibly with Tobin, and we know that Carol has lost her children. I always felt that with Tobin at least, there was just a respect for who she was as a person and a care about her. Whether or not they had to be romantically linked, I don’t think it was necessary. I think more than anything else, Tobin saw Carol as a companion. I think he was a lonely widower.

For Tobin to ask “Are you going to leave?” I think he’s sort of more concerned about losing his friend again than losing his lover. I also do think that Tobin has become an optimistic person. He’s become someone who is not only able and willing to fight, then sacrifice for his people. He’s also become someone who is a big believer in the more optimistic outlook of the future that Carl was trying to convey to his dad, and that I think Maggie represents, in the terms of the future of Hilltop. I think it’s at least in Tobin’s mind that it’s something that could’ve transpired.

When Tobin and Carol were a couple, would you hear from those Carol and Daryl shipper fans that were upset with you?
I saw a little of that, and I really thought it was funny. Listen, I’ve always said the fans of our show are incredibly intense, and my feeling is that fans are entitled to have any reaction that they want. I don’t try to take it personally. As a fan, personally, I’m not a shipper. I don’t necessarily look at a show and sort of internally demand that these two characters come together. I think if Daryl and Carol come together, that is great, make it happen, that’s fine.

As a fan, I don’t see that as being the most likely ship. I see a Carol and Ezekiel pairing as being more likely. It’s not because I don’t think Carol and Daryl don’t care about each other, I think it’s because they do care about each other. I think they’re actually very close. There’s a certain degree that Carol and Daryl already have each other, and they don’t need to consummate that very close relationship by becoming romantically linked. I don’t think they need to.

I know it’s controversial to say for some folks who were invested in it, but when I see Carol and Daryl on screen together, I see two people who care deeply about each other and would have each other’s back no matter what. I think it’s kind of a beautiful friendship as it is. So for me, strictly speaking as a fan, I don’t need to see them come together as a romantic couple.

How was your second death scene there as you tussle with Melissa McBride before she finally takes you out?
I loved that my last moments as an active character on the show are with Melissa. I love her, and I love working with her. Again, I’m in full walker mode at that point, with the contacts and everything. I was concerned that I was going to do something and injure her in some way, but let me tell you, Melissa is very physical, and she gives as good as she gets. There was no danger of that. I feel like I was in a Brazilian jiu-jitsu match at a certain point. She’s definitely intensely into it and she’s telling you, “You can go more, you can make it harder, make it more difficult, really wrestle.” So I’m like, “Okay. You’re game, let’s do it!” I think it was a lovely moment, and the way it was shot, especially when you see it, you see a certain sadness about what she’s about to do.

They kind of played with time just a little bit so you see her face, and you almost can feel the sense of here we go again, I’m having to not only put down yet another walker, but this is a guy that has been a part of our group now, for however long it’s been. As brutal as it appeared, it was a lovely way to end.

So, write Tobin’s obituary for me. How should people remember this character?
I hope they remember that Tobin was a bellwether for what it meant to be an Alexandrian, and as went Tobin, as went Alexandria. They started out as a group of cloistered people, not very good at defending themselves, really good at getting each other killed, and they progressed. They became the types of people they needed to be in order to survive, but they didn’t lose their humanity and their sense of civilization and dignity.

I think that’s what set them apart from Rick’s group when the first came to Alexandria. I think of Tobin, I think of somebody that finally learned how to put his boots on and fight, as opposed to hiding. I guess I would hope that within the show, the community would remember Tobin as someone who was representative of that spirit — believing in something bigger than yourself and fighting to defend it.

And hey, you got to outlive your comic book counterpart, right? I mean that’s not too bad?
No, it’s crazy! When the tower fell, that’s really when Tobin, according to the comic book, should have gone, so I am so grateful for the long leash. You just feel like, wow, the writers sort of believe in the work I’m doing, but also they think maybe there’s something interesting down the road that they can do with the character. It’s kind of what motivates you to continue to show up, even on episodes where you sometimes feel like a glorified background extra, where you’re just kind of walking along an alley with a gun. You’re not seeing that much, but you feel like, well, there’s something going on here that’s going to lend to creating a more interesting character.

Of late, I’ve been contacted by so many fans of the show, who really are also fans of Tobin, which I’ve found surprising, but they really think of Tobin as an everyman and a way into the show. So many of our favorite hero characters have become almost like mythical and superhero-like, and a guy like Tobin is just like a regular guy — a blue collar guy. He works with his hands. He fights. He’s not incredibly skilled at it, he just does it because he has to do it to defend his people. I think a lot of our fans have a way into the show by identifying and saying, that’s how I would be.

For more Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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