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Downward Dog Isn’t Your Typical “Talking Animal” Show

A screening and interviews with the co-creator and star of Downward Dog were part of the Disney/Marvel hosted #GotGVol2Event.

Ned as Martin, Samm Hodges as the voice of Martin, Allison Tolman as Nan ABC/Kelsey McNeal

When you hear about a new TV show featuring a talking animal, you probably have one of two reactions. You might call the kids in to watch or you might roll your eyes. Spoiler alert: neither response is correct if you’re talking about ABC’s new series Downward Dog.

The show got it’s start as a web series, which I hunted down on Vimeo. Michael Killen and Samm Hodges created the shorts while they were working as commercial directors in Pittsburg. While Michael had a background in talking animals-he created the Taco Bell Chihuahua-Samm was an unlikely collaborator. “I kinda looked down on the talking dog things.” That changed when he started writing the dog’s monologues. He did a read for the dog during the casting process and suddenly he’s the voice of Martin.  

The shorts are what sold Allison Tolman, who plays Nan, on the project. At first she had the same hesitations that everyone did when they were thinking about a talking dog project. “I saw the shorts and I was like, ‘Oh, I get it.’ It’s sweet and down to earth and kind of indie. And then I was really into it.”

There is one major shift from the shorts to the television show. “We realized a dog has such a intimate view of the life of the owner, so it became much more about the character of Nan and him as an angle on her life,” says Samm.

ABC’s “Downward Dog” stars Barry Rothbart as Kevin, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Jenn, Ned as Martin, Allison Tolman as Nan and Lucas Neff as Jason. ABC/Craig Sjodin

They realize the show is a non-traditional love story. “We focus on romantic love or familial love, but nobody really talks about what a profound thing it is to love an animal,” says Allison.

So, do you call the little ones into the living room tonight for the premiere? “It is a show about adults. It’s a show about a woman who doesn’t have any kids,” according to Allison.  “We didn’t want to limit ourselves too much from adult behavior,” agrees Samm. So don’t let those talking animals fool you, this isn’t a show for kids.

Get a sneak peek tonight, May 17th at 9:31 pm ET following the season finale of Modern Family. After that, catch it in it’s regular time slot of 8:00pm ET on ABC.

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.

Keep in touch with Downward Dog on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

As The Bunny Hops®