If you watched two of the biggest shows on television in 2016, chances are Steven Ogg left an impression on you. The actor, who up until last year might have been best known for providing the voice of Trevor in Grand Theft Auto V or as the creepy locksmith in Broad City, delivered a series of memorable performances while rocking variations on what has since become something of his signature mustache.
In Westworld, Ogg played Rebus, a violence-prone outlaw Host who was initially part of Dolores’s loop and who wound up on the wrong end of more than a few revolvers, as well as, of all things, a bottle of milk. Rebus cut a frightening figure throughout the twisty puzzle box series, but it was Ogg’s Walking Dead role as Negan’s right-hand man, Simon, that better established the extent to which the actor could dominate almost any scene with disreputable charisma. Whether he was intimidating Xander Berkeley’s Gregory at Hilltop or making trouble for the folks in Alexandria, Simon became the series’ preeminent mustachioed menace, outshining even his scruffy, bat-wielding boss on occasion.
News came recently that Ogg’s performance was rewarded with a promotion to series regular in The Walking Dead‘s upcoming eighth season, but before he can bring all out war to the zombie apocalypse, the actor is busy bringing another larger-than-life character (with a mustache, naturally) to television screens everywhere. This time, though, it’s the funny, fresh-scented TV pitchman Bob Givovanni in a new series of Old Spice commercials.
Screen Rant had the chance to chat with Ogg recently about his work for Old Spice, and what fans can expect when Simon returns next season on The Walking Dead.
Tell me about your role in the Old Spice campaign and what that’s all about.
“Bob Giovanni is a fun character that I wanted to play. Obviously he’s someone with a sense of humor and doesn’t take himself too seriously. It’s been fun to do that kind of a character — not that I don’t enjoy the nefarious characters that I get to play. The character is entertaining in conjunction with the things Old Spice is doing at the moment — I enjoy that it is coming from this place of humor. And now, what we are trying to communicate to people is this idea of finding your legend: Getting confidence and gaining confidence that sort of falls under the umbrella of the company’s ideology. I like to get behind the idea of doing your hardest work, finding your legend and confidence, finding your own voice, finding something you love to do, or even if it’s something you don’t love to do, being the best at what you do. And for all of that to come from this place of humor and to be tongue-in-cheek, I think is a nice compliment.”
Do you find yourself attracted to comedic roles in your film and television work, or are you more interested in mining the comedy from what would otherwise be a dramatic performance?
“As an actor I like to do it all, the bigger the range that you get to do, the more exciting. I mean certainly, having done now, you know, Westworld and Walking Dead and those two characters, I am certainly ready to do a Broad City type of show again, which is why the Bob Giovanni character is fun to do. But I think it’s always important to balance that out. I want to keep it varied, I enjoy that some people know me as the crazy character and then some people know me as the big funny guy and some people know me as the real creepy guy that you don’t want to be around. So, I like having those different options, where they don’t know where to pin you down, so that’s the most interesting thing. Keep them guessing is my thing.”
You had big parts on two huge TV shows recently and now comes news that you were made series regular on The Walking Dead for season 8. Without getting into spoilers, can you give me a hint of what we can expect from Simon next season?
“Hopefully [Simon] gets up to some fun. I mean, you know, it is all out war about to happen. No secret that the shit’s going down, so it will be interesting to see where Simon fits into that world, and if he steps up to the plate and becomes more proactive. You know, we haven’t seen him kill anyone or rough someone up. We see him shoot his gun at the end of season 7, but it will be interesting to see what role he’s gonna play in an all out war.”
Tell me a little bit about how you see the character of Simon. He is obviously a dangerous guy, but because of the way you play him, it’s hard not to like him in a way. What do you think it is about charismatic bad guys and the way the audience is conflicted in terms of how they feel about them?
“Well it’s interesting, you never want to try and outdo Xander Berkeley, who plays Gregory. We often discuss this. I don’t think you want to glamorize or make a bad guy appealing, so that it’s a ‘good to be bad’ kind of thing. So it’s interesting when there is a little more… be it charm or something like that going on, because I think, ideally, if the person is not all bad, it’s just showing another side. With a character like Simon, who can be a bit of a bully and likes to peacock… well, people like that there will always be something else going on with them. It gives the audience a chance to ask ‘What is going on with this guy?’ It pulls them in more, like they wanna know more about who he is. I think that’s what makes it interesting.”
Do you think there’s something in Simon that’s competing with Negan to see who can be the more charming menace? Is he motivated by things like that or is he simply following Negan’s lead?
“It’s interesting because of how similar they are. I think that’s going to be interesting to explore because I think being around Neagan is a little contagious, so you kind of end up behaving a bit like him. But at the same time, Simon is his own person and they’re not always together. Negan trusts Simon, so he has a long leash, so I think he goes off and has fun with the idea of being like Negan, but I think Simon is his own man. I think he just has fun being a bit of a bully, ya know?”
That show tends to burn through characters rather quickly. Even though you’ve been bumped up to series regular, do you have to mentally prepare yourself for the eventuality when the producers tell you your character is going to meet his end?
“Well, I always say… look, everyone is going to die, right? Everyone is going to die on the show, at some point. So, I sort of take it like, well yeah, it is what it is, when it happens it happens and of course when it does happen I will probably cry and curl up in the fetal position and say, ‘Why? Why me?’ But it’s part of it. Especially in this world, you know that there is limited time on you.”
Do you have a particular end in mind for the character? What would be the ideal way for Simon to go out?
“The best way for Simon to go out? Probably drinking and stumbling out and getting hit by a car or something like that. Something random, like he wasn’t killed by a zombie, he wasn’t killed by anyone, he was just being dumb. It’d be poetic justice.”
How would you like to see Simon’s story unfold? Is there something you’d like to get to do that you haven’t yet?
“Honestly, the greatest opportunity I could ask for is just to work with as many of the cast as possible. I’d love to have a tête-à-tête with Lennie James, who I just love and I think is brilliant. There are so many amazing actors. I was talking to Norman [Reedus] about that this weekend, actually, and I was like ‘Man, it would be nice if you and I got to sit down’… or even Jeffery [Dean Morgan] … that’s what I love. I would love to get into [Simon’s] backstory, I’d love to have some real sit downs with people, or whatever it is, but sort of take a road trip, metaphorically or otherwise, with another character, that’s what I would love, more of that character development.”
Never straying too far from the Bob Giovanni character, Ogg offered up some more Old Spice Legendary Guys Advice, saying:
“Own your dreams. Sometimes if you have nothing to fall back on, you have no choice but to continue forward. Follow your dreams. Anything is possible if you believe it to be. I performed in the theatre for the first time when I was 12 years old. I travelled and experienced the joys of reading through living in Europe for some years. When I arrived in NYC, I had no working papers and barely a bed to sleep on. I owned my dream, but I continue to dream forward.”
Hopefully, Rebus will be back for the Host uprising in Westworld season 2. But Steven Ogg will definitely be seen again when The Walking Dead returns for season 8 in October. In the meantime, you can check out two of his Bob Giovanni Old Spice commercials below:
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