Claws interview: Evan Daigle details playing Toby, season-long arc

Evan DaigleOver the first two episodes of TNT’s Clawsyou’ve had a taste of Evan Daigle and his character of Toby. He’s a young man with certainly some close ties to Dean Norris’ Uncle Daddy, and when you’re close to the show’s resident wildcard kingpin, you better be prepared for a rollercoaster. (Just look at the highs and lows for Uncle Daddy so far!)

For Toby, his story so far is only beginning. Recently CarterMatt had a chance to speak with Daigle about his character, his evolution, and how he realized early on in the process that this was a show that was going to be special for him. Check out what he shared with us below!

CarterMatt – When you first realized that acting was what you wanted to do, what sort of roles did you envision yourself playing?

Evan Daigle – As an acting student, a lot of my mentors and acting teachers tried to get us to perceive what we wanted our type to be, to be able to gear ourselves to be able to reach those goals.

But, I had an acting teacher in my last year of college, Ann Mahoney (best known as Olivia from The Walking Dead), and she gave me a new approach to thinking about it. She told me that if you think too much about your type in the long run, it will be a negative thing in your career. She told us to really focus on your type to be able to break into the industry by playing into a small role that will be your type, and hopefully that will help to get your SAG eligibility. She said after that, you need to work towards showing the industry that you have versatility and to pursue roles that reflect that.

So, whenever I went into auditions, I had an idea as to roles that I wanted to play and what I’d be good at; but, I think we start to see what the industry views you as based on what auditions and characters you get pulled in for. I would get pulled in for a lot of sad, emotionally damaged, sons or grandsons — or, a lot of super-gritty over-the-top characters. When I got the audition for Toby, it was something a little different than anything else that I’ve played. I really had a great time making that departure and playing into this character.

I know the audition process can be so crazy and frustrating at times, but was there something when you first had that audition where you realized that this would be something special for you?

To this day, I’ve probably been on over 200 film and television auditions, and my producers’ callback that I had for Claws stands out as some of the best work that I feel that I’ve done in an audition to this day. I just felt really comfortable with the energy of [creator] Eliot Laurence, the producers, and everyone in the room. Everything really clicked for me. Whenever I got the opportunity to do multiple episodes, I just continued to take everything in and really inform my performance. I fell into a character that I’m really happy with at this point.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but you originally were just meant to be in the pilot.

I originally auditioned just for a co-star role in the pilot. The scenes that Toby was in during the pilot, that was the only appearance from him in the series originally. However, they told me when they were greenlit [to series] that they were going to look what I’d done in the producers’ callback and the pilot. They decided to give me a little bit more and then a little bit more until towards the end of the season, Toby becomes involved in the central plot. I don’t have words for really how grateful and bewildered I am for this experience. I’m over-the-moon about it. I’m trying to do the best work possible, and make the people who believed in me proud.

I’m sure the cast around you for a show like this makes it more exciting — Niecy [Nash], Carrie [Preston], Dean [Norris]. Do you pick their brains while on set?

It’s so funny. I would feel like it would be a major neglect to work with such an amazing cast of veteran actors and not pick their brains about almost everything. They’ve been so mentoring towards me and so welcoming, it’s been amazing.

I sat down with Niecy yesterday in between camera setup, and she said to me ‘alright baby, what’s next for you after this? We wrap next week, so what are you doing?’ I told her that I was moving to California to start auditioning there. She sat there and gave me some of the most invaluable advice about auditioning and life and acting that I could only get from a veteran actor.

Honestly, just working with these actors is such an incredible learning experience. Not only when I’m in a scene with them, but when I’m watching them work together I learn things just by seeing them prepare and seeing how quickly they drop into their characters. If I ever have questions about a character, all of them are so encouraging to me and also Karrueche [Tran], who’s a fairly new actor as well. They’ve taken both of us under their wings and guided us through their experience.

Evan Daigle

Through what we’ve seen you in so far, and on the show as a whole, there’s a ton of comedy, but also some serious and some violent moments. The show’s a little bit like a screwball comedy meets Breaking Bad meets Scarface.

Carrie Preston said it best — to her, Claws is if Breaking Bad had sex with Orange is the New Black while Weeds watched. I think that is a really fun comparison.

It’s interesting that the tone of Claws is sort of thrown around really randomly. There is really intense drama and really intense comedy, working in the same scene. It can be sometimes a little jarring and over-the-top, and that’s what the creators are going for. They’re trying to push the boundaries on what this genre can be and saying to audience members ‘take our hand. I know it’s a weird ride, but if you stick with us you may be really entertained along the way.’

Like you said, Toby’s going to become more and more integral to the story. Without giving anything away, what can you say about how that comes about and his evolution?

I’ll be super-vague and ambiguous about it. Toby starts off very quiet and very shy, but also very expressive. He feels like self-expression is the purest form of liberation. He is very fortunate in his circumstance to be guarded by Uncle Daddy, Dean Norris’ character, to be able to express himself how he wants.

So, with the progression of the season, he goes through a process of self-discovery and self-realization. [His] journey of finding [his] true self and being true to [his] own skin has helped me as a person in my real life, helping me feel better about the way that I want to express myself.

Toby really becomes the solution to one of the central plot problems that Desra (Nash) has. Getting to work with Niecy playing that was so amazing. She’s such an amazing actress.

One of the things that I always love to ask is if you got a script where you didn’t know how the show was going to pull something crazy off, but somehow they did. Did you have that experience?

There’s one scene in particular in episode 4 that everyone is going to see. [After I learned about it] I was absolutely game, I told them I would do it and I would train for it. It is one of the most over-the-top and hilarious things that I’ve ever had to do as an actor by far. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pull it off when I was pitched it, but I think that part of being an actor is saying ‘yes’ to the moment and pushing yourself out of boundaries while still keeping yourself within your own morals. I can’t wait to see what episode 4 has for Toby.

Let’s say the show’s picked up for another season? Are you game to come back for more or to come on as a regular if that’s suggested?

Oh yeah, absolutely. That would be a dream. This show has given me everything. I’m a newbie to acting, but especially a newbie to the film and TV business. This show gave me my SAG card, and it’s been such a blessing. I would be around for as long or as little as they’d have me.

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Thanks to Evan for his time! Remember, you can visit the link here to get some further news now regarding Claws and the story to come. (Photos via Akeem Biggs.)

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