Today, I am excited to share a fun success story. Russell Hodgkinson, “Doc”, from the hit show Z Nation has agreed to share his story and some valuable life lessons.
Real People Success Stories
My questions are in bold, Russell’s follow in Plain text.
Can you tell me about your background?
I was born on Homestead Air Force Base and grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida. My first acting experience came in 7th grade, playing the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. I continued acting throughout high school, passing up a theatre arts scholarship to join the Army after becoming a father, in my senior year.
Peacetime provided a unique opportunity as I soon began performing regularly at the esteemed Fort Bragg Playhouse. By the end of my enlistment, I had earned my Actor’s Equity card and moved to New York City. In 1986 I reenlisted in the Coast Guard, joining the crew of the USCG Cutter Sassafras in Hawaii. During off-duty hours I studied at the Honolulu Film Actor’s Workshop before being transferred to Long Beach, California where I met my wife and actress Shelley Poncy.
In 1992 we moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where we worked consistently in local theaters for the next 11 years. After moving to Seattle in 2003 I resumed my theatre career and became active in the Independent film scene. I made guest-starring appearances on Leverage and Grimm before being cast to play ‘Doc’ on the SyFy network original series ‘Z Nation’ in 2014.
What is it like being an actor? What does a typical day on set look like?
It depends on the kind of acting you’re doing. Acting on stage is more gratifying and exhilarating for obvious reasons; it’s definitely the actor’s medium. TV acting can be grueling and tedious with multiple takes and constant interruptions; it’s the editor’s medium. Acting for a film can be fun, but there is no character development, it’s the director’s medium. So, it all just depends. Every day on Z Nation is a different experience with the multiple locations.
For people like myself, who are not in the industry, what is the one thing we do not know about the industry or maybe we, as fans, take for granted?
It’s not as glamorous as one might expect. It’s often long hours under less than desirable conditions, with many days spent away from home and family, but it’s an unbelievable opportunity for any actor.
What is one thing you have learned from being successful in acting?
One thing only huh? I guess it’s the importance of being able to work effectively with many extreme personalities, egos, and temperaments. You will be put to the test.
Is there a mistake you have made starting out that you wish you could change?
Yes, and I won’t make that mistake again!
What advice would you give someone starting out?
If you can find another career that you enjoy as much as acting, you should seriously consider it.
As an actor what are you most proud of?
My ability to continue doing what I love for the last 40 years. Whether it was community theatre for no pay or a hit TV show, it never mattered to me, it’s always been about the work I love.
Looking back on your career, is there something you learned from the industry that you found surprising?
It’s surprising how many people think actors are special. I think the real special ones can often be found behind the scenes.
Do you ever get nervous or forget your lines?
I only get nervous doing live theatre. Forgetting a line is not a big deal when you’re working with professionals who can keep the ball rolling, but it happens.
What advice would you have for people that give nervous giving presentations?
Use it. Nerves are a good thing!!
If someone wanted to improve his or her presentation or acting skills, what you would recommend?
Practice makes perfect. Find the opportunities to do your thing. Observe others doing what you want to do, pick up techniques from them. If you’re desperate for feedback (and have the stomach for it), watch yourself on tape. Yeah, you’re making that face again, don’t do that with your hands…blah blah blah.
Any upcoming projects you are working on?
I’m considering a kitchen remodel and hopefully, I will finish the mural I started painting on my fence.
What does your social media strategy look like? Any tips?
I don’t find strategizing to be useful for me, but I appreciate the fans and do my best to answer questions and post videos now and then.
Any mistakes you see people routinely make with social media?
Of course! People post tons of stupid shit. Far be it from me to point it out. It’s a free country.
Where can people connect with you online?
Nowhere. We would have to meet for coffee, but they can follow me on Twitter or Instagram. I don’t go on Facebook much anymore, it often reveals more information about family and friends than I care to know. I will check in from time to time and answer fan questions though.
Running the business end of things, managing social media and public relations can be a challenge! How do you manage it all? Any apps, books or tips that you use?
I’m reading Mark Mason’s book ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK’. I highly recommend it.
How do you manage time?
I don’t really manage time. I’m an “early to bed, early to rise” kind of guy. That works best for me. Morning hours are the best time for me to focus and take care of business.
You travel to several conventions a year; do you have any travel tips?
Whenever possible, fly First Class!! It’s way better. I’ve done it a couple times and only on someone else’s dime.
What is the best advice you have received?
“Always remember that the Universe is in a conspiracy for your benefit.” Get out of the way and let life happen!
Do you have any advice for people that may feel discouraged about reaching their goals?
Focus on what is working in your life and be grateful for it.
How important is fitness?
It depends on how fit you are.
Do you enjoy working out? If not, how do you get motivated?
I don’t particularly like working out at a gym. I do enjoy hiking and swimming. I feel better when I’m active.
Anything I should ask that I have not?
Yes, if I had one wish for humanity, what would it be? Answer: World Peace
What is the one thing you wish everyone knew?
Zombie bites a vampire; what happens?
- They fall in love, adopt a Chupacabra and open a Bed & Breakfast.
- They get Syphilis.
I would like to thank Russell for this amazing interview! Make sure you check out Russell and the rest of the cast of Z Nation Friday’s on SyFy.
I would also like to thank Dan Hodgkinson at Image Management Group, who I’m fairly convinced works 24 hrs a day, and has been supportive of the blog and the talent he represents.
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