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Z Nation: Interview with Russell “Doc” Hodgkinson

In recent days, many of us have felt like the world is facing an imminent doom- after all, even the famed Doomsday Clock moved us closer to that dire fate. For myself, I have to make myself take a break from the news and escape into some entertaining fiction, even if for just a few hours. And what better way to make ourselves feel better than with the zombie apocalypse?

Admittedly, my typical go-to for zombie hoards is “The Walking Dead” but even that can feel too close to home of late. So, a (not-so-)guilty pleasure of mine is the zany SyFy action-comedy-horror show, “Z Nation”. The series started three years into a global apocalypse due to a zombie-creating virus. When a less-than-savory prison inmate, the subject of government experimentation, offers the only hope for a cure, a rag-tag assembly of oddball and awesome heroes come together to save humanity. And hilarious carnage ensues!

One of the great appeals of the series, in addition to it’s campy charm, is the cast of genuinely likeable characters. Chief among them, and most definitely my favorite character of the bunch, is Steven Beck, aka Doc, the pot-smoking former psychologist turned hippie-medic, played by the most excellent Russell Hodgkinson.

Hodgkinson grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, having been born on Homestead Air Force Base in 1959. Though drawn to acting from a young age, he chose to pass on a scholarship to study theatre arts to join the Army, having become a young father. However, he continued to develop as an actor, performing widely throughout his time in service. When he and his wife moved the Seattle, his career expanded as doors opened for roles in TV series, with “Z Nation” being his big break.

I had the privilege of chatting with Russell about his role in the show:

Jamie Arpin-Ricci: I will admit that I’m a huge fan of that “other zombie show” and when “Z Nation” came out, I dismissed it. Yet, as I started watching it, I was drawn in completely, for entirely different reasons. What do you think “Z Nation”‘s unique appeal is? How does it stand apart?

Russell Hodgkinson: Well, to begin with, we have a clear-cut mission, it’s not just about survival. We’re trying to save humanity. We are all part of a team (Delta X-Ray Delta) who count on each other. Each episode has a middle, beginning, and end. We try not to drag things on too long. Our show also puts a little fun in the apocalypse by not taking things too seriously.

JAR: Doc is one of the most popular and loved characters in the series. Why do you think so many people are drawn to him?

RH: Doc has been described as “the heart of the show”. He has a good relationship with each of his teammates, he is reliable, trustworthy and can be counted on to provide a bit of comic relief.

JAR: In the season finale, Doc said: “It’s the apocalypse man; none of this sh*t makes any sense.” A lot of people are feeling that way about real life these days. What would Doc say to them in the coming days of a Trump presidency?

RH: Doc might say;  “It’s gonna be an interesting four years”…maybe it’s time to get more involved in the political process. Take time to get to know your neighbor, especially those who think differently than you. Be kind, stay hopeful…and pass the Z-weed.

JAR: Tell us something about Russell that we might never know without you admitting.

RH: I have a secret desire to be a contestant on ‘Celebrity Chopped’….but I’m just not that big of a celebrity.

JAR: Any teasers you can offer for the next season?

RH: Yes, everyone dies!!

JAR: Thanks!

You can catch Russell and the whole “Z Nation” cast when they return for season 4 this fall.

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