We finally met Garret Dillahunt’s John Dorie on the season 4 premiere of Fear the Walking Dead, and the character proved to possess an intriguing mix of confidence and innocence. A former trick shooter, John can handle his weapon of choice with ease, but the character also has a disarming charm and friendliness about him. A year of solitude has left him craving human company. Apparently, it has also left him with a massive stash of candy.
We spoke to Dillahunt (veteran of Deadwood and Raising Hope, among others) to get the inside scoop on John Dorie, a guy who’d rather shoot off a smile than a bullet, but is willing to do either if called upon. We also asked him, what’s up with the sweet tooth?
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You were a big Walking Dead fan. We spoke right as you were just starting, but you’re now quite a bit into filming. What has the experience been like being on the show?
GARRET DILLAHUNT: I knew I was gonna like it. I liked this character. I had already kind of liked the world, and I wanted to play in it. But I confess, I like it so much more than I expected. I really hate not being on set. I really look forward to each new script as it comes out. I’m learning a lot, which is embarrassing for an older, veteran actor to say. I should always be learning, but I’m realizing that I had sort of stopped. It’s really fun to be rejuvenated that way by this show, and unexpected.
Tell me what you make about John Dorie, because we start off the first minute with him telling a story about a woman who showed up at his door. And then we find out about Laura and her identical pistol. Everyone needs a reason to keep going. Is she his reason?
What’s that old poem or old axiom that I’m going to bastardize here? It’s like in times of trouble, just chop wood, carry water. That’s not the proper phrasing of it, but I do like how in times of trouble and stress, everybody’s focus narrows to the simplest and the most basic sort of necessities, and that’s something that happens to John. I think he didn’t realize how much he missed human companionship, or affection, or love, even just caring for someone. I really wanted to play someone like John, who was capable, and no shrinking violet by any stretch, but not an a–hole, you know? Maybe he’s even held onto a little bit of a sense of humor.
Yeah, I like that lightness to him.
Yeah, there’s innocence. There’s buoyancy, there’s hope in him. But there’s no shirking responsibility. He seems like the kind of guy who’s willing to sacrifice himself for that.
Why is he so welcoming to Morgan when he meets him, because this guy could easily be there to kill him, and at certain points, that’s what Morgan was doing, just killing everyone?
Well, you know, there’s a lot of distance there, too. He’s not a total fool about it. He’s just whacked that walker, right in front of him, and there’s a good 20 yards still, and he could do that again. But I don’t think that’s his first instinct. He’s shocked and surprised to see a living, breathing human being. He hasn’t had a chance to speak to one in roughly a year, and I think he’s just so thrilled by that prospect that he just is like, “Hey, come sit for a while. It’s all good. Please don’t make me shoot you in the hand, or whatever.” I think he’s a good judge of character.
Is it also what you just alluded to, that he’s so quietly confident in his own abilities that it allows him to be welcoming because he knows, as you just said, “Hey, I’m a pretty good shot. I can take this guy out if I need to.”
I think that’s there. That’s what I’m playing, and just because you’re a nice guy doesn’t mean you’re a pushover or have to be vulnerable. But he doesn’t jump to the worst conclusion. You know, that guy was about to kill that walker. Maybe he was trying to save me. You know, “Hey, buddy. Geez, come on in. Have some food. Have you seen my girl?” It’s important, like he’s got some information I might need. You don’t just kill everybody. He hasn’t really been threatened a lot. If he hasn’t seen people in a year, then it’s not like he’s constantly fighting off the bad guys. He doesn’t necessarily have a reason to assume that he’s about to be in trouble.
What’s up with him and the candy he keeps offering everyone?
Yeah, he’s got a sweet tooth, doesn’t he? I was nervous about that at first. I was just like, “How are his teeth not rotting out of his head?” They do have me brushing my teeth in some episodes coming up, which I appreciate. But it’s just a thing about him. I’ve grown to kind of like it, you know? It gives him some pleasure, I think it speaks to the childlike quality of him. It’s funny, I think I’m one of the older cast members, but I’m definitely the least mature on set, so I don’t know if [Scott M. Gimple’s] just noticed that, and [new showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss] have written it in.
I really like the exchange near the very end where Morgan says, “I don’t kill,” and you say, “I don’t kill either. At least I try not to.” Does that sort of sum up his approach to the apocalypse, like, I’ll try to do the right thing, but I’m prepared to also do what needs to be done?
I think that’s exactly it. I kind of think that’s what most people would do. You’d be a little prepared for the worst, but not necessarily assuming the worst. And his life before this, it’ll become clear why he is that way. He’s got other clothes. He’s not just a cowboy. He’s just like, “Well, hell, this is how I feel comfortable, this is what I enjoy, so I might as well. There’s no one else around.” You go a little crazy when you’re on your own for a year.
Now that we’ve got our first taste of this character, what can you say about what’s coming up for him? He and Morgan and Althea have just met some of the old guard in a pretty tense situation.
Well, we’re about the meet the A-Team, aren’t we? We’re about to meet the Clarks. And I think, just like John and Morgan and everyone else, we’re a little shocked by this feral group. I’m sure the fans will be too, and they’re going to want to know how they got that way. And you will find out.
For more Fear the Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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