On Rockmond Dunbar’s series 9-1-1, there are all kinds of crazy natural disasters—but even that show isn’t as wild as Aftershock. The scripted podcast involves an entire island emerging off the California coast following a massive earthquake, and Rockmond’s character is one of the people caught up in the fallout.
I recently spoke with him to discuss how he became involved in Aftershock, reuniting with his Prison Break co-star Sarah Wayne Callies for the project, and if his years spent playing Michael Grant on 9-1-1 helped in approaching the podcast’s epic premise. You can start listening to the series here.
Brittany Frederick: How did you get involved with Aftershock at the start? Was it through your connection to Sarah?
Rockmond Dunbar: I have quality friends. Sarah’s a quality friend. She brings quality, she’s a great storyteller, she’s a stand=up human being. She asked me to do a favor and of course I said yes.
BF: Performance-wise, what did that mean for you to work with a creator who’s not only a fellow actor, but is someone that you have that previous relationship and rapport with?
RD: It’s going to be complete. There’s going to be a thought process behind it. There’s going to be purpose behind it. Most of the time when you work with some people who haven’t played both sides of the camera, the purpose gets lost. With Sarah, the purpose was there and it all worked out and was a great marriage.
BF: What was the recording experience like?
RD: It was really short and sweet for my character. I popped on for one studio session and then a very arduous studio session in my car. (laughs) We had to get some lines in, and I was busy at the time and I couldn’t get to a studio. Kids and all these different things played a part in it, so I had to record a couple lines in my car, and it actually turned out really good.
BF: Were there parts of Aftershock that you got particularly excited about?
RD: I really love earthquakes and I have an affinity for them. I’m a California native, born and raised in Northern California, and [I’ve] been through a lot of earthquakes and they’re life changing. Pulling on those emotional strings to recreate a devastation that comes into play was a lot of fun, so hopefully you believe every moment. Look out for those moments where the earthquake starts and be surprised with how it ends.
BF: Did you approach the project any differently acting in a solely audio medium, as opposed to doing a TV or film project like 9-1-1?
RD: Not for me, because I’m not a Method actor. I consider myself to have great emotional recall; if I attach myself to a project I more than likely understand the emotional journey the character is going to go on. So I’ll just pull from my resources and make it happen. With podcasts it’s a lot different [logistically]. There’s a lot of cuts, lot of editing, lot of massaging of dialogue that you really can’t do while you’re on camera. It desensitizes the project a little bit when you’re not in front of your counterpart doing the lines, but it all works out and it all plays together really well.
BF: You’ve played a lot of pretty tough characters, whether it’s that show or Prison Break or Terriers. How does Aftershock match up against some of those past roles?
RD: There is no comparison. They’re all different in their own right. Of course, the [biggest] difference between all of them [is] the majority of the time we were on film; you got to see the action happening. You got to have takes. With this one it’s just straight audio, so you have to convince the entire audience that you are going through this moment right now with your boys.
BF: 9-1-1 is a show with massive disasters like a blackout and a tsunami. When you’re on a show where weird things like that happen regularly, does that make you more ready for something like Aftershock?
RD: Oh, yeah. The stranger the better for me. I have a really dark sense of humor. I love something scary, thrillers, quirky movies. If you’re going to pop up an island after an earthquake off the coast of Los Angeles? I’m all in. I’m all in for that.
Aftershock is now streaming on Apple Podcasts and wherever you get your podcasts.
Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.