Allison Tolman said that the cast and crew of “Downward Dog” are very flexible when filming scenes with the rescue mutt Ned, who plays the actress’ onscreen pet dog, Martin, on the new ABC series.
“We adjust things on the fly,” Tolman told Sioux City Journal, before sharing that there was a time when producers asked for the dog to walk up and kiss her character, Nan, but trainers told them that it wasn’t just possible. “Instead, they’ll get him to put his head in my lap and I adapt. I don’t think we’ve had to lose anything because of it.”
While they are not asking Ned to do some extraordinary tricks, Tolman admitted to Entertainment Weekly that working with the dog on set still “makes for a much more technical day at work.” “The hardest part for me was that I had to be somewhere emotionally in a scene, and then they wanted him to come up and lick a tear off my check, or whatever, and I would have to get in the space and stay there while they taught the dog what to do, which wasn’t the easiest thing,” the Golden Globe-nominated actress.
The “Fargo” alum added that Ned’s “amazing” trainers become her scene partners, too. “In all those scenes with just the dog, they’re like my acting partners,” Tolman said. “We’re working together, trying to figure out what we need to get out of the scene. Mostly it’s just figuring out to keep treats in my pocket at the end of the day, so when Ned’s bored and doesn’t want to be there, I can keep his attention. It’s a long day for a dog, but he goes back to his car and sits in his crate in between takes. He’s got a pretty good life.”
“Downward Dog,” which premiered last Wednesday, is a story of a struggling millennial, Nan, told from the point of view of her lonely and philosophical dog, Martin (voiced by series co-creator Samm Hodges). A session at dog obedience school makes them realize that even at their worst, they may be the best thing for each other.
According to People, “Downward Dog” hosted a nationwide search across America’s shelters to look for the perfect dog to play Martin. They found Ned at a Chicago shelter, where he had been waiting for a new owner over a year.
When asked why they chose Ned to play the role of Martin, Hodges’ fellow series creator Michael Killen said: “It was Ned’s eyes. We kept coming back to [him].”
Ned was then adopted by the show’s trainer Nicole Handley and went to acting school for six weeks.“It’s illuminating that a dog could learn to act in six weeks,” commented Lucas Neff, who plays Nan’s ex-boyfriend, Jason, on the show.
Because Ned is just doing real dog stuff in front of camera, Hodges said that the biggest challenge for the dog was to embrace his newfound confidence. Because he was stayed in a shelter for so long, Ned was said to be a little restless about all the attention he was getting. Eventually that melted away with Handley’s guidance.
“Downward Dog” Season 1, episode 2 airs on Tuesday, May 23 at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC.