ABC has a new show Tuesdays at 8 on ABC! Downward Dog is all about Martin, the lonely and philosophical dog of Nan (Allison Tolman, Fargo) who says what every dog is thinking, thanks to the dry and calm voice of Samm Hodges who also happens to be the creator of the series. I got a chance to chat with Allison and Samm about Downward Dog. I also got to watch a couple of episodes and let me tell you – animal lovers will adore this fresh take on the “talking animal” idea.
5 Things You Should Know about ‘Downward Dog’
Martin is a Shelter Dog
Ned, who plays Martin is a 5 year old rescue dog from Chicago. Samm says they think he is a hound mix, but definitely a mutt.
Allison: In the pilot he had just been rescued and had just started being trained. He was jumpy. I mean he was a rescue dog and had rescue dog anxiety.
Samm: But that was always important for us in the dog is to have him not be this like kind of showy, kind of pure bred. And also for his character, he think he’s very important. He thinks he’s the most important being in the world, but it’s important for us that he’s very like just a regular old dog.
‘Downward Dog’ Started As a Web Series
Samm Hidges and Michael Killen created a web series for Animal Media Group 4 years ago.
Samm: Michael had done a lot of stuff with talking animals, um, with the Chihuahua, the Chihuahua, the Taco Bell Chihuahua. So, he like was well versed in how to make animals talk and not look like they’re just licking peanut butter off of their faces. I was a very unlikely collaborator with him, I kinda looked down on the talking dog things. I had a little darker tone. But one day he was like,’ you just try to write these monologues’.
Samm Became The voice of Martin Purely By Accident
Samm: I wrote the monologues and then we were trying to cast for the voice and I just did a read not for myself to do it but just to be like something like this. And then Michael ended up using that read as the dog, and so that’s how I kinda got shoehorned into that role.
Allison Tolman is more of a Cat Person
Although Allison expertly plays a loving “dog mom” she is more of a cat person. In fact, she has had her cat Annie for 17 years. She often Instagrams her cat’s antics along with her day-to-day with her TV dog (which are pretty hilarious).
Allison: I’ve had my cat for 17 years. She’s the longest standing relationship of my entire life, and I grew up with her. I’ve had her since I was 19 years old. So, the like transformative power of like loving an animal and being in charge of this little life truly has affected the person that I am, because I grew up with this cat. I was a baby when I got this cat.
Sometimes The Animals Decide The Story
Sometimes – oftentimes – the animals will not stick to the script. Ned is untrained so this brought a whole new meaning to “improvising”.
Samm: So, in Episode 2 I remember they had the script changed. The dog doesn’t always do what you want him to do on set. He lays down in front of the door Allison like pushed the door open. Like that totally changed — he did that so well, that changed that act break for sure.
Allison: One of the most awesome side effects, I think, of having this dog who was not a well-trained dog when we started shooting is, like very much his own man, is that it is — it’s like being with like a natural talent. Like there’s a lot of Ned in Martin. And he improvises in a way. And so, even when I don’t have a human partner to work with, I have something to work with ’cause he doesn’t do the same thing every time. He doesn’t do exactly what you want him to do every time. He jumps down off the chair that you put him in and you keep rolling and you see what happens. But we had some really fun stuff happen, because he’s his own dog. He really is his own man.
Look for an improvised scene involving a burger in Episode 4 on June 6th!
Downward Dog premieres TONIGHT (5/17) on ABC