Jayson Warner Smith portrays Gavin, one of Negan’s lieutenants with the Saviors. Gavin is kind of an enigma. On one hand he is a typical Savior, mean, nasty, and demanding. But on the other, he can be halfway reasonable and seems to actually have some empathy.
I thought Jayson‘s performance as Gavin in 7×13 Bury Me Here was spectacular.
I’m so glad Jayson agreed to answer my baker’s dozen of questions. I hope you enjoy his answers as much as I did.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born at Georgia Baptist Hospital (now Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center) in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia . I grew up in the Northwest suburbs of Atlanta in very rural neighborhoods. Think Stranger Things. That was my childhood. Riding bikes and running with my boys. Wading in creeks, catching crawdads, frogs, and lightning bugs. I think that’s what drew me so much to watching Stranger Things straight through in one day.
What was your first acting role?
I played the Chinese Man that sells Chester the Cricket to the boy in the theatre for young audiences musical version of Chester the Cricket. I was nine. We were all kids. Performing for our parents and families.
How did you land the role of Gavin?
I had been auditioning every season for the show. Some years many parts, some years only one. After the show became so popular and everyone was looking for spoilers, the production started using “dummy scripts” for auditions. I’m not sure who all the characters were that I read for but some were Abraham, the doctor at the Hospital in Atlanta, a Wolf, one of the guards outside the satellite station, Alicia Witt’s husband, and many others. I even read for Richard and Jared. By season 5 word had gotten back to me through casting that Scott Gimple liked me and was just trying to find the right place for me. Scott knows what he’s doing and I couldn’t be more suited to the role of Gavin.
Were you a The Walking Dead fan before getting the role?
I watched it so I’d know what was going on for the auditions at first, but then got hooked. I do that with all the shows made here in Georgia but this is the only one that got its hooks in me. That and Stranger Things. I’d given up at the end of season 6 but…here I am.
Did you do anything special to prepare for the role of Gavin, like giving him a backstory of any kind in your own mind, maybe one that would help justify why he was part of the Saviors?
Meh. A little. I spoke with Scott (Gimple) about a few things. Gavin has made it this far so he’s no idiot and can handle himself in a fight. However, this world is wearing on him and now he’s in a management position so to speak. These weekly forays to meet with Ezekiel are the only thing that takes him away from the comfort of his outpost. He has a Delta Force level crew but he is also stuck with Jared. Ooooh, Jared. The thorn in Gavin’s side. Joshua Mikel, who plays Jared, and I did make up the back story that Jared must be Negan’s nephew or something or I would have whacked him by now.
In your interactions with the Kingdom, Gavin seems to be more reasonable than a typical Savior; is this true and why?
Gavin is more cerebral than Simon and rules in a tough but fair style. While he may talk like Negan, he doesn’t rule like Negan, nor Simon. Though he may be reluctant to enforce his way, he will do it. He has done it before and he doesn’t like it but knows it’s necessary. Don’t push him.
Have there been any funny or memorable behind the scene moments?
On our first day, the red Suburban we roll in wasn’t functioning well at all. It wouldn’t crank half the time. It’s hard to looek tough when your sitting there listening to the engine cranking away and then nothing. When we were shooting 710, it was a super hot day. We are out there on that asphalt all day and Khary Payton – King Ezekiel – is in his wig, a black shirt, his black hockey pads and a large black wool coat. He looks cool as shit but he is far from it temperature-wise. They had a cooling suit under all that and after each take they’d wheel over this cooler with a pump and plug it into his suit. They’d mash the button and it was hilarious watching Khary’s face go completely orgasmic as the ice water flowed in.
Note to whoever’s in charge of the cooling suits: @sassypoo NEEDS one of those cooling suits for these Mississippi summers!!
What has been your favorite acting role?
There’s a new film starring Tom Cruise coming out September 29th called American Made. In it I play Bill Cooper. I am one of a group of single engine pilots that work for Barry Seal (Tom Cruise). We worked on the film on and off from June through December of 2015 in Atlanta, New Orleans, and Medellin, Colombia. It has been, so far, the most wonderful acting adventure of my life.
Outside of work, what do you like to do for fun?
Mainly ride my 2001 Triumph Bonneville. I took a 5 week solo trip for my birthday in 2014. Here’s the doc I made about it. https://vimeo.com/123383323
Do you have any new acting roles in your future?
I have one new project that is shooting now. It’s a small horror film called St. Agatha. I’ll work a couple of days in March on it.
Is there anyone who has been an inspiration to you in your acting career?
My middle name is Warner (not my real middle name). It is in honor of Joy Warner who passed away about 8 years ago. She was my theatre mentor when I was young, my biggest fan and cheerleader. I wish she was able to see the things I have been fortunate to do now.
A lot of fans will marathon TWD quite frequently. Do you have a favorite show you could watch over and over?
Is there anything you can tell all us fans about yourself that we don’t know?
I worked backstage as a production assistant at the Academy Awards in 1993 (65th Academy Awards).
We fans appreciate you sharing with us; thank you so much! I know Jayson can’t flash this beautiful smile while portraying mean, hateful Gavin, but, Boy! does it light up those pretty blue eyes. Maybe he’ll cross over from the dark side and join our Survivors to defeat Negan. The only way we can find out is to watch for him on The Walking Dead every Sunday night on AMC at 9/8C. Tune in with me and let me know what you think @sassypoo.