Downward Dog: The Show For Animal Lovers

by Sarah Ruhlman

If you love dogs or any animal for that matter you are going to be obsessed with Downward Dog.  During my y Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 trip I got the chance to watch ABC’s newest show Downward Dog and interview Sam Hodges, who is the Co-Creator / Executive Producer and the Voice of “Martin,” the cute, star of the show dog and Allison Tolman, who plays “Nan”, Martin’s owner.

Based on a web series, “Downward Dog” follows the day-to-day life of Nan (Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated Allison Tolman, “Fargo”), as told by her increasingly lonely and philosophical dog, Martin (voiced by Samm Hodges). Nan attempts to juggle her tumultuous personal life with a stressful career, unjustly supervised by her self-obsessed boss. Having her story told from the canine perspective provides a uniquely unfiltered point of view that helps us laugh and cry about what it means to be a human being in the twenty-first century. It’s a show about a dog and the girl he adores, and even at their worst, Nan and Martin just might be best for one another.

In the series premiere airing May 17, “Pilot,” Martin battles loneliness and the need for Nan’s unconditional attention, while she struggles with a breakup and Martin’s recent bad behavior as he reacts to her newly busy work schedule.

“Downward Dog” stars Allison Tolman as Nan, Lucas Neff (“Raising Hope”) as Jason, Nan’s ex-boyfriend; Kirby Howell-Baptiste (“Love”) as Jenn, Nan’s best friend and co-worker; and Barry Rothbart (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) as Kevin, Nan’s boss.

Guest starring Mo Collins as Kim, Maria Bamford as Pepper, DaJuan Johnson as Tristen, Rachna Katau as Gwen, and Ned as Martin.
“Pilot” is written by Michael Killen & Samm Hodges and directed by Michael Killen.

“Downward Dog” series creators Michael Killen and Samm Hodges executive produce with Mosaic’s Jimmy Miller and Sam Hansen, and Animal Media’s Kathy Dzubiek. Showrunners Kat Likkel and John Hoberg also executive produce. The series is produced by Legendary Television and ABC Studios.

How did they get involved in Downward Dog? Well it started with the shorts!

Allison: But then I saw the shorts and I was like, oh, I get it. It’s like sweet and down to earth and kind of indie. And then I was really into it. So, that’s kind of how it came about. 

Sam:  I think in the shorts it was about how a dog’s view of his own life. And then we realized a dog has such an intimate view of the life of the owner.  It became much more about the character of Nan and him as an angle on her life, ’cause he sees all these moments that no one else was there and he’s there for her in these moments of there was very — I was just — was just very alone and to wrestle with it. That was a shift. I think.

downward dog

Are they animal lovers in real life?

Allison: I’ve had my cat for 17 years. Like she is the — 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.  The like transformative power of like loving an animal and being in charge of this little life, like truly, truly has affected the person that I am, because I grew up with this cat. I was a baby when I got this cat.

And I think that’s what really special about it is that it’s a love — it’s a love story that I think is universal for a lot of people because a lot of people are pet owners and love their animals but it’s not something that we really focus on. We focus on romantic love or familial love, but nobody really talks about what a profound thing it is to love an animal.

Sam: I grew up with dogs being my only source of solace. You know, as a kid I mean it just — like that was what the — you go to the dog and, and like my dog’s name’s Smiley. I’m crying to her and was like, no one understands but you, you know.

And there’s that — and so I think that in Martin’s character is really based on what a dog’s experience is. Like dogs experience a lot of emotion, you know, and a lot of like really profound things they can experience, we just found out recently. But it’s kind of like — it’s less asking what is your dog thinking and more saying like what if your dog had human anxiety and existential angst, you know.

(Image: DOWNWARD DOG – (ABC/Craig Sjodin)

Ned, who came from a Chicago shelter looks so real while talking. How do they do it?

Sam: It’s all done in, in visual effects, but what’s, what’s difference is that usually, they’ll kinda replace the entire muzzle, a lot of the face, with CGI. In this case…it is done in post-production, but it’s a lot more naturalistic.

Allison: They shot — like any time he has a talking head where he’s just there, they would set up the shot and then they would have him sit there and the trainer would be behind the camera and they’d like let’s try to look — make him look over here. Let’s try to make his ears move.  After the fact, Samm goes into a voiceover booth and puts a mo-cap stuff on his face so they can capture his entire muzzle.

 If you love animals, you will LOVE this show!

Watch with your furry friend

Tuesdays at 8/7 on ABC! 

DownwardDogABC on Facebook | @DownwardDog_ABC (#DownwardDog) on Twitter | downwarddog_abc on Instagram

ALLISON TOLMAN (“Nan”) | @Allison_Tolman on Twitter | allison_tolman on Instagram

SAMM HODGES (Co-Creator / Executive Producer AND the Voice of “Martin,” the dog)
@sammhodges | sammhodges on Instagram

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1 comment

MUNICA VALITON June 21, 2017 - 7:26 am

LIKE , YOU KNOW….after watching this show..I want so badly to talk like MARTIN…
I think this show is intelligent, witty, the writers are on top of their game…to me a show is about not only what the actors put forth, but more importantly what lines they are actually ..LIKE YOU KNOW…using…
I am picky about my comedy shows, this one is pure , clean and fun ! I look forward to each episode…perfect characters also, the actors have chemistry.
And Martin is adorable…the voice narrated by Samm Hodges ( even his name has impediment with the double mm’s)…who all his life was troubled by a severe speech impediment of stuttering, well that voice is perfect…what an amazing story of how he turned that impediment into YOU KNOW…LIKE…a character…it’s just NARLY…


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