July 1, 2015 Interview – Jordan Woods-Robinson of The Walking Dead
On Sunday, February 22nd, 2015 The Walking Dead fans were introduced to a new character in the episode titled The Distance. His name was Eric, and his opening scene provoked an immediate reaction among all. Positive, negative, or indifferent, The Walking Dead audience now were left to discover a whole new individual in the ever changing storyline of the most popular television show around. Played by aspiring actor/musician Jordan Woods-Robinson, the new cast member has been through a whirlwind of positive events since joining The Walking Dead crew. Having partaken in a variety of projects from being a regular in Blue Man Group, to 2013’s independent film Missionary, to a role in 2014’s The Hunger Games – Mockingjay – Part 1, to beginning his own digital record studio, Wood-Robinson is a man of many talents. Recently we sat down with Wood-Robinson for a look into his joining The Walking Dead, his time on the set, creating music, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You began your career in acting some eight years ago. Tell us what inspired you to get involved in acting?
Jordan Woods-Robinson – I grew up as a musician in East Tennessee, playing Folk and Country music around Pigeon Forge, which is the Las Vegas of the Smoky Mountain. I did stuff from the age of ten to eighteen, played a bunch, and decided out of there that maybe music was something I was very passionate about, but was going to put it on the back-burner for a while and pursue something else. I went to school for theater in New York at New York University, I got my degree out of there. While I was there, I was introduced to Blue Man Group, which was a show that really resonated with me and I absolutely loved from the first time I saw it. I knew I wanted to be a part of that.
As soon as I graduated, I was cast as a Blue Man within three weeks after graduating college. I traveled around the US with that for a couple of years and then I ended up in Orlando doing the show here. That is where I was introduced to the film and TV market. That was something I had not done before, I never had been an actor on camera. I got an agent, I started going out, getting good feedback, I booked some roles, and the rest of it is history. We have lots of shows that we can go out for, from Miami up to Nashville and Charleston, South Carolina, and everything in between that we are all eligible to be cast on. There are a lot of opportunities down here. That is something I was not aware of from the outside, but now that I am here I am glad I have been a part of it. I have had a chance to work on some incredible projects with big names like Colin Farrell, Anthony Hopkins, and now The Walking Dead. It is cool stuff and it is fun.
CrypticRock.com – That is very interesting how you started with the Blue Man Group. It is interesting because Blue Man Group is a mix between acting and music, so that had to be a good way to break in.
Jordan Woods-Robinson – Exactly, it was a perfect marriage for me because I thought, as a musician, I could pick up an instrument and start playing with it. They have a lot of custom made instruments in the show. When I walked in the training room the first day, it was like Christmas (laughs). I got to see all of these really awesome instruments, and got to play them and figure them out. I am thinking like a musician, but the Blue Man character is communicating through music which is the universal language. It was a great marriage of the two worlds for me to fall into, and I really enjoyed it.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like a great experience. Now you have had a series of roles in television, starred in 2013 film Missionary, and even worked on The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 in 2014. What were these experiences like for yourself as an actor?
Jordan Woods-Robinson – Drastically different, but both awesome. Missionary was a smaller, independent film that was shot in Florida. I was there for a couple of weeks, it was a pretty meaty, supportive role. I had the chance to spend lots of time developing a character, working with the actors, and bonding with the cast, that was all really great. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 was six months of call backs, rehearsals, and travel time. That was before going to the set and shooting probably about four hours for a roll that you only see for about seven seconds (laughs). It was really interesting to see. It was eye opening and aw-inspiring to see the amount of detail that they put into the casting process in The Hunger Games. They knew what they wanted, and even the smaller roles, the ones that are not necessarily getting that much screen time, they still devote so much time and resources to make sure they get everything right the first time around. It was really cool to be a part of that experience.
They are both very different, Missionary was very grassroots and professional, but everyone had a lot of say about what was going on, there was a lot of conversations. With The Hunger Games, it was a big team, they already had a lot of the conversations and were figuring out how to work people into it. I think both were great, but the opportunity to work on The Hunger Games; I loved the book series, I am really happy with the movies, I think they are doing a great job with them. It is a real pleasure to have that on my resume.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, they have done a phenomenal job with the films, they are very adult, they appeal to a broad audience, but everyone can grasp into it and enjoy the story.
Jordan Woods-Robinson – Absolutely, I agree, it has so many undertones. It has a Science-Fiction nature around it in such real ways that I think everybody that watches it can see, “Oh, this is how we potentially could end up if we don’t go down the right path.” It is that type of movie that strikes home with the reader and the audience; you see it for yourself. You also see your own surroundings in the movie and it helps you tap into it much more whether it is preaching a good thing or saying be careful, because this is where you are headed.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly. Most recently you have been a recurring cast member of AMC’s The Walking Dead as the part of Eric. How did this role come about for you?
Jordan Woods-Robinson – This was a fantastic story. I had just gone on vacation and I was on my way to a cabin in the upper peninsula in Michigan that has no electricity. We were on Lake Superior and we were forty five minutes away from any cell phone service. My agent called me on the way up and says, “Hey, you got an audition for The Walking Dead, they want you to come to Atlanta to audition.” I said, “I just went on vacation!” We worked it out so I could go on tape. I had my good camera with me, my wife and I set the whole camera set up in her grandparents kitchen. We filmed the audition there, then I sent it off and said good luck to myself. A week went by, we did not hear anything, we came back from vacation, and I got a couple of notes from Scott Gimple, the executive producer, who wanted to see some adjustments. I did one more round and it came down to the wire. I got a call that I had not booked it, but it was down to two guys, but they went with the other guy. I figured that happens a lot in the business, but it was a good noble attempt. Probably ten minutes later I got a call saying I’m back on the table and to be on standby. Within another fifteen minutes I got a call that I had booked it and that they needed me by 4 PM the next day, it was such a whirlwind (laughs). After I booked it, there were some complications at work where one guy had to go to emergency surgery, and another guy just got of of town. Therefore, trying to find a way to get out of town for the first week to shoot my first episode was proving to be difficult. We finally worked it out. I was given the call that I was able to do it within five minutes of the deadline, it came right down to the wire. It was such a roller coaster of an experience.
The show is incredible; the show has such a following for such a good reason because the graphic novels are amazing. The whole creative team behind the entire TV show are so good at what they do. They are just interested in telling the best story possible and that makes the show really fascinating to watch, because anybody can die at anytime, and the story must go on. The story is king, everybody knows it, and everyone is doing their work to see it happen. With my experience, I showed up on set and had one, basically had twenty-four hours to get to know Ross Marquand, my scene who plays Aaron. We hung out on a balcony, we just talked, and we got to know each other really well, he is a great guy. We share a lot of common interests so it was really easy to become friends with him. The next day we got on set and they called action, and we recorded the scene. It was all quite a win. It is definitely something I’m going to remember for a long time, leading up to it.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like a crazy, but good situation. When Eric was first introduced, a lot of viewers of the show perhaps did not know what to think of him, much like Aaron, but as he reappears with each episode his character is growing. Are you happy with the character development of Eric thus far?
Jordan Woods-Robinson – I am very happy. I think both Aaron and Eric are bringing a story of love and trust to a world that has not seen those things in a very long time. Everyone is kind of broken, trying to remember who they once were, and these guys somehow held on to that, even if it is a glimpse of it, but have carried through into the apocalyptic surrounding. I am really honored to be able to play Eric, both in that he is a character from the graphic novels and that a lot of people have known for a long time. I have been getting all sorts of feedback from fans of the show that are saying that they are really happy with how I am portraying him, and that means a lot to me. I think any human being, once you get used to something in your head, it is difficult to accept a change from that.
All of these people have known Eric from the comics for so long that anything I bring in will be slightly different from what they imagine, but I am getting a lot of positive reinforcement. Getting to work with Ross is incredible, he is such a great actor, really caring, and he is always there for you,which is so important. I have been happy with all of that. Also, getting Ross’s support, which is the first male gay couple on the show, and the first gay kiss on AMC. We did not quite know how people were going to react, but I have seen nothing but support and positive reactions from people which have been really very wonderful.
CrypticRock.com – There really has been a positive reaction to both the characters of Aaron and Eric, people are growing to enjoy them more who watch the series. What do you see as far of character development moving forward for Eric and do you think he, like Aaron, trusts Rick and his group as well?
Jordan Woods-Robinson – I think both Aaron and Eric do. This is all speculation because there is only so much that Ross and I were able to gleam from the comics. Scott Gimple is very adamant about each actor choosing their own path what the character is and trusting us to portray the characters truthfully in our own way. If he needs to, he will help sculpt or provide the scripts in order to further the character development. We think, in our speculation, that Aaron and Eric have lots of encounters and negotiation situations before the apocalypse. I think we are really good at reading people, plus, we also think that Deanna has taken us under her wing and taught us her ways, the psychology behind her decision. I think Aaron and Eric have their finger on the pulse of Rick’s whole group coming in, which is why we could ask Daryl to be the third recruiter. We can tell he also has his finger on the pulse, he can read people so well, and is an excellent tracker. There might be a bit of back and forth until we get things figured out, but I think Aaron and Eric both know that this is a step in the right direction.
CrypticRock.com – Right, Season 5 of The Walking Dead was perhaps one of the best seasons the series has had thus far. Are you anticipating the return of the series in October ?
Jordan Woods-Robinson – I am very excited. It is funny enough, I did not watch until I got cast. I had started at one time, but I had a newborn baby on my lap and I got through a couple episodes. I then thought, “I cannot subject this poor brand new creature to this show for too much longer.” I put a pin in it, and I said I will get back to it when I could. When I got cast, both my wife and I said, “Well now is the perfect time to start watching it.” We set aside time everyday and we instantly got hooked and could not put it down. I agree, I think Season 5 was incredible. I think the writing and the plot development, the effects and the zombie killings, there was very creative stuff going on there. Just the production value overall was top notch and the best I have seen so far. I cannot wait to see what happens in Season 6. I think it is going to keep going and people are going to look forward to it because of the graphic novels, or would not be able to imagine because they do not read the graphic novels. I think it is going to be exciting for everyone, no matter how far they go back with the series.
CrypticRock.com – It is going to be exciting, the series have become such a massive success. So many people are tuning in to watch it; all walks of life, not just people into Horror, but everyone.
Jordan Woods-Robinson – I think this is a show about relationships. My wife does not enjoy watching Horror, but she has gotten so deep into this show because as long as she can get past the zombie killings, she can really sink her teeth into, no pun intended, the relationships, the connections, the love stories, and everything else that is going on watching these people trying to survive together. Yes, that is a huge reason why the fanbase is as vast as they are.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed, a series like The Walking Dead has become such a massive success, and so many people tune in. With the suspense the story brings, many are constantly digging for where matters will go next. For the most part the series has done a fantastic job of keeping the leaks of plot spoilers to a minimum. How difficult is it for the cast and crew to keep the story tightly concealed?
Jordan Woods-Robinson – I think, from what I have seen and experienced myself, there is a great pride between everyone on set and wanting to keep the whole storyline as under-wraps as possible. There are two ways of looking at it, there is one way in saying our hands are being tied and we are not allowed to say anything, but I do not think that is it. I think it is the other way of saying it, is that no one wants to let the cat out of the bag. It is such an incredible experience to sit down and to watch the show with your family or with your friends and be just as excited for them of learning all of these new things happening and seeing where the story is going with all of these twists that are coming off at the next turn. From everyone that I talked to, it is all about this game and being part of the experience of wanting to keep this as tight lipped as possible so that the rest of the world can truly be surprised by it and fall in love with it at the same way we did when we first read the script.
It is interesting, going all the way back to the audition, as an actor, when I received the audition for The Walking Dead, every person would get fake character names, and very loose character descriptions. We are all auditioning as this one character that does not really tell us who we will be playing in the show. You really find out all of that information after you get cast and they send the script. You then say, “Oh, so that’s who I am?” It is a fun game for us too, even from the very beginning of saying, “I am going to commit to this character and I am going to play it the best way I know how.” Then it is up to the creative team, the directors, casting directors, and producers to say, “Yes, that person is the right fit for the character that we need in the show.” It goes back to the very first moment.
CrypticRock.com – That is great, and the element of surprise is probably one of the best parts of life. Everyone wants to be surprised, that feeling of not knowing is really great.
Jordan Woods-Robinson – Absolutely, the loose turn for them are spoilers, but once you know a spoiler you cannot undo that. The best way is to not even hint at it and to let it be. A lot of people that I speak with ask for spoilers, and then say, “No, I really do not want to know.” It is that palpable when your hair stands up and you get all excited about wanting to know what is going to happen. Then at at the same time, when you did learn about it, the floor would fall off from underneath you, and you would not be as excited anymore. That surprise factor is key and so much fun to watch out here.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, it seems everyone involved with The Walking Dead simply love the process of bringing this series to life. In the short time you have been part of the team, what has the working environment been like?
Jordan Woods-Robinson – The people on set call it a family and the fan base call it a family. I had seen that before I got cast, and now having experienced it, I do not think there is a better way to explain it. They are so incredibly warm and welcoming on set. I think that my personal theory is that the show makes each person deal with some pretty dark stuff. Everybody that has been doing the show for a couple of years has had to really delve deep into their psyches, their emotions, to pull some dark stuff out, and I think that leads to more of a comradery when the cameras are not rolling. Everyone looks around without any walls up and they appreciate everyone around them. That has been really heartwarming. The first person I saw on set was Norman Reedus and he was in between scenes, shooting a big battle scene. I had no idea what was going on at the time. I walked up, he saw me, and I said, “Hey man, I’m Jordan here to play Eric.” He walked over to give me a big hug, he just looked at me, grabbed my shoulders and said, “Welcome to the family.” It was such a great first experience for the whole set.
I think that everybody knows how important this show is to everyone else. They want to make sure they are putting out a product that they are proud of as accomplished actors, but also a product that they know makes all of the viewers fall in love with it all over again. There are some incredible moments just sitting around and watching everyone read a script for the first time and watching them giggle to themselves with the conversations that happen. We are getting just as much enjoyment out of this as everybody else. That really keeps the morality on the set when we are in the world of zombies and people not trusting each other in a very dark way.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like a great working environment, and definitely reflects on screen. It seems Eric’s character is fitting in well.
Jordan Woods-Robinson – My character is pretty open. Eric is trusting and trustworthy, but he has been trained. We have not seen any of this in Seasons 5, but who knows if I come back, if we will see it in Season 6. Eric has that open nature to him, but he has also trained; when he needs to, he closes down and protects his family, he will. Eric has been able to hang on to some of that humanity and that trusting, but yes, I think it is a breath of fresh air for the show. I think we have not seen that in a while. I think it is really important for the audience to see it once in a while too.
CrypticRock.com – Agrees, it is definitely a breath of fresh air. It really has been a domino effect with the other characters as well, such as Norman Reedus’ character as well. Now, as we spoke earlier, you are also a musician as a well as an actor. What plans do you have for your music in the future?
Jordan Woods-Robinson – Yes, absolutely, I have got a couple things that I have going on now. The big picture is I am a founder of an online company called SOS Studio. Our goal is to help the emerging artists reach their goal and give them a leg up in any way possible. We have an online recording studio where we actually have a network of musicians with professional home studios. We take freelance work and we help other artists, but all through their our own homes all through SOS Studios. We all team together to provide custom tracks, mixing, and mastering for artists, without them ever having to leave their house. We also have a blog of Do It Yourself tips and tutorials for the emerging artists. I also have a podcast called SOS Studio Sessions which teaches some business to artists. I am challenging artists to think of themselves as entrepreneurs. We want people to know that each of us is our own boss. We are the only person that understands our brand as well as we do, and it is our sole responsibility to reach those levels of success that we want and deserve in careers. This is through talking to other accomplished artists and how they network, self promote, engage with their audiences, stay productive, creative, and bringing them to one podcast. This is where artists can jump in at anytime, where it is really inspirational stuff, or actual tips, as to how they can harness their career and to do it themselves, or when to know how to reach out to people for help.
That is SOS Studios. It has been a great challenge, it started off as a project called Songs on Sunday where I was writing a new song each week. I would write it, record it, and post it on the internet for my audience to listen to. That went on for a while and I got burnt out pretty quickly. I did about fourteen songs, one album, then I took a break and did another fourteen songs. Then I started bringing other collaborators where I brought in a drummer and a mixer. Then my workload dropped, I felt I can bring others in to help. Then I brought more and more people, and I think now we have about forty collaborative people. Now every Summer we get together and do another summer session where we record, mix, and post a new song each week . We actually had one starting up in early June.
CrypticRock.com – That sounds great. What about your personal musical projects?
Jordan Woods-Robinson – My personal stuff, I just released an EP called Crazy and Back on iTunes and Amazon. It is a five song EP. I grew up as a Folk musician, but I am really into Pop Rock such as Coldplay and Snow Patrol. This album was my attempt at Pop Rock, but true to culture of a Folk musician. It has lots of drive to it and lots of incredible musicians played on this, but it also has the droning harmonies and the melody lines of a Folk type song. It was a really cool experiment for me and it was actually something that came out of SOS Studios. All of those songs were recorded during the Summer sessions. They were recorded in a week, posted, and went back to all of the songs I have recorded over the years and I curated all of them into an album. I did a couple tweaks, got them remastered, and put them up. That was a cool experience for me too from all of the work I already had done from SOS Studios, where I can get an album out that I could share with the world. That is my music scene right now. I played in Blue Man Group and I play the fiddle in a couple of bands in the area in Orlando.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like you keep yourself extremely busy. The website is really phenomenal. It is a helpful tool to developing musicians, especially where the internet can gobble up musicians very quickly because there are so many outlets where people can get discouraged, not knowing if they will ever get heard.
Jordan Woods-Robinson – I think it is tough for anybody. There is this whole myth of overnight success, and it just does not happen. Even the people who appear to have been “discovered overnight,” they have put in years of training and working towards their goal. They just happen to get to that point where they have been at the right place at the right time. That is something that has been taken for granted. A lot of people think I am going to upload to YouTube and get famous, and that is not the case. You can, but if you are going to do that you have to know good marketing, you have to know SEO, tagging, you have to be able to network, and promote in a way that people are going to want to share it. You can be that creative entity and just put stuff up, but you also have to be in that incredible business sense in order to be able to put it in the right channels at the right time. I think it can be very discouraging. If there are two rules to all of this; number one, trust your gut, and number two, just keep going, do not stop period. It is going to get hard, but just keep going. That is how you make it in this day and age. That is our goal to be that driving force that helps musicians and other artists keep the drive and maybe get a fresh set of ears and eyes when they look at their own career.
CrypticRock.com – It is a great thing, and the best of luck with that. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror films. If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Jordan Woods-Robinson – That is a good one! I have been in a couple of Horror films. My first film is called Scare Zone in 2009. It was another low budget Indie thing. The cool thing about Scare Zone is it was shot at Universal Studios in Orlando right after Halloween Horror Nights had ended and the producers figured out a way to let Universal rent one of their Scare Zones for our movie. We did not have to build a set, we went to an already existing warehouse and filmed everything inside. I was incredible and we got to use this really cool maze of Scare Zone. The whole movie is very tongue-in-cheek. I am very proud of that movie. It was my first role and I actually played the character who presents the main twist of the movie. Then, The Walking Dead is of course incredible. I love reading Stephen King novels, but I do not think they translate to the screens from books. I love reading Horror. Although, The Shining (1980), for me, was a massive success. I thought it was fantastic because it was getting down to the psychological horrors, the deep underlying that we cannot control, that drives a person insane. I think a lot of Stephen King novels look like made for TV movies. The Shining was top notch. I just love Horror movies; I love being scared.