The Walking Dead: Exclusive interview with Savior Gavin, Jayson Warner Smith

Gavin (Jayson Warner Smith) in AMC's The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 2 The Wellphoto courtesy of uploaded by Cass
Gavin (Jayson Warner Smith) in AMC's The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 2 The Wellphoto courtesy of uploaded by Cass /

Negan has tasked Savior Gavin to manage an outpost that collects from King Ezekiel at The Kingdom.  Gavin is played by prolific actor Jayson Warner Smith.  I had the joy of visiting with Jayson to learn more about Gavin and the many other “roles” Jayson plays in life!

I was super excited to meet Jayson on a cool Monday afternoon at Land of a Thousand Hills coffee house. I was running a couple of minutes behind schedule with my nerves getting the best of me.

You see, as intrigued as I am about Jayson’s character of Gavin on The Walking Dead, I knew him first as the completely abhorrent sociopath Wendall Jelks on SundanceTV’s Rectify.  As I later shared with Jayson, I was not in any way scared of him because he played such a despicable character, but rather in awe of meeting an actor so talented to be able to make Wendall so believable.

But nerves changed to fangirl excitement as I pulled into the parking lot to see a tall, handsome man clad in burnished brown leather from head to toe walking into the coffee shop leaving his motorcycle parked behind.

Jayson Warner Smith, actor
Jayson Warner Smith, actor /

Ever the Southern gentleman, Jayson treated me to a double espresso and we sat down to talk. Let the stories begin!

Who is Gavin?

Jayson gave me some insight to share about Gavin, his audition road with The Walking Dead, and how he thinks he got “stuck with Jared”!

Jayson actually auditioned for several different parts on The Walking Dead before being offered the role of Gavin.  Imagine Jayson as Grady Hospital’s Dr. Edwards, one of the Wolves Morgan first encounters in the woods, a Savior guarding the satellite outpost, or as Paula’s man Randy who assists in holding Maggie and Carol hostage. Sure enough, Jayson read for all of these parts as well.  But he is very pleased that they settled on him for Gavin.  Here’s what he shared about his character.

Gavin runs an outpost for Negan.  He explains that as long as his character “produces” (as he urged King Ezekiel to do in episode ‘The Well’), he and his group of Saviors can live fairly free of Negan’s actual presence, not having to see him on a regular basis.

Jayson likened this idea to a line in Fiddler on the Roof where the Rabbi says “A blessing for the Tsar? Of course! May God bless and keep the Tsar… far away from us!”

Gavin is indeed content for Negan to stay far away as well.

Of course, this still means they have to follow his rules and provide for him. This is where things get a little tricky for Gavin.  He understands what is expected of him and follows through, but definitely is not happy about the high cost at which Negan’s regime operates.

Jayson shared “What I like about my character is that Gavin doesn’t like it, he’s like the nicest Savior, but then [in contrast] I’m stuck with Jared!”

Of course we know Jared (played by Joshua Mikel) as the much more aggressive Savior who took “free shots” at The Kingdom’s Richard.  Jayson said that he and the other actors in his group even made up their own fictitious backstory for Jared, suggesting that he must be Negan’s nephew. Ha!

Related Story: Meet The Walking Dead's Jared, actor Joshua Mikel

Jayson even asked Scott Gimple “Why haven’t I shot this guy [Jared]?” Unfortunately, he did not get an answer.  But aside from talking about Jared’s character being such a punk, Jayson did take time to share very nice sentiments about Jared actor, Joshua Mikel, even calling him “Mr. Renaissance” in reference to his other talents with music and art.

Speaking of other talents . . .

Jayson has quite a variety of other talents in addition to being an excellent actor.

Having extensive acting experience both in the theater and on film, Jayson teaches acting at Robert Mello Studio in Atlanta, GA. His program is called “Acting for the Camera and Stage”. And for you Stranger Things fans, you will be interested to know that two of his students are part of the recent Netflix phenomenon. Shannon Purser who played cult favorite, Barbara, and Randy Havens who plays the super ‘stached science teacher, Mr. Clarke, are both students in Jayson’s acting program.

Jayson is now also trying his hand (or would that be feet?) at stand up comedy.  He recently completed the Highwire Comedy Co. stand up class with Joel Byars.  He pointed out that the writing portion is the greater challenge for him.  As an actor, he can deliver the comedy all day long, but learning to write comedy material is a new skill that he enjoys tackling.

Speaking of comedy, Jayson came up with a clever name for Gavin’s band of merry thugs on The Walking Dead.  It turns out that several men in the group had names that start with the letter “B”, including Blaine Rincon and Brian Porter. So, Jayson gave his group the name “Killa B’s” and the name stuck.

Jayson and the “Killa B’s” also had some shared laughs over the Chevy Suburban you see them driving when they come to collect from King Ezekiel.

I use the term “driving” loosely because the vehicle wasn’t actually very reliable and on several occasions just wouldn’t crank. Jayson and I shared a good laugh talking about his group talking big and bad about coming back for more supplies from King Ezekiel, only to have their car not start! Yep, you guys are really intimidating.

Jayson is also a motorcycle enthusiast and has traveled cross country on his bike.  I had the pleasure of checking out his smooth ride in person.  I asked him about his helmet marked with signatures all over it.  He explained that he had people sign it at stops along the way of his trek from coast to coast. What a cool way to journal your journey! Jayson also produced his very own motorcycle documentary Learning to Fly – you can watch it, here.

As if all these talents were not enough to impress, Jayson has shared his knowledge of cocktail making on social media. Gay Martina is an avid fan of Jayson in The Walking Dead, Rectify, and his many other works. She “hosts” a  #fridaynightdrinksclub on Twitter for fans to raise a glass of any kind and say cheers to fellow fans. Check out this instructional video Jayson posted for the occasion.

Where else have you seen Jayson?

Aside from seeing him as Gavin on The Walking Dead, many fans will also recognize him from a multitude of other projects.  Furthermore, he has shared the screen with several fellow The Walking Dead actors in many of those projects.

As mentioned earlier, Jayson plays a major role in the story of Rectify.  He plays death row inmate Wendall Jelks occupying the cell next to the show’s protagonist, Daniel Holden, played by Aden Young.

Jayson Warner Smith - in the SundanceTV original series "Rectify" - Photo Credit: Tina Rowden
Jayson Warner Smith – in the SundanceTV original series “Rectify” – Photo Credit: Tina Rowden /

We have seen Wendall in a total of 8 episodes all occurring in the first two seasons of the series now in its fourth and final season. While not having graced the screen on Rectify for a very long time, his performance has been so impactful that the lead characters (and viewers) continue to be haunted by him in a very real way.

I have previously written about the many actors that have worked on both The Walking Dead and Rectify. Jayson and I compared notes compiling a laundry list of such actors including Linds Edwards, J.D. Evermore, Ted Huckabee, Stuart Greer, and Ann Mahoney.

Jayson and Mahoney shared the screen on a third production as well, 99 Homes, where Ann and fellow The Walking Dead alum, J.D. Evermore play husband and wife. Oh, and remember that quick-witted Savior that threatened Abraham, Daryl, and Sasha in The Walking Dead season 6? That was actor wonderful actor Christopher Berry who can also be seen in 99 Homes.

Jayson even reached back further into his acting vault to note that he and fellow The Walking Dead actor Seth Gilliam (Father Gabriel) worked on a dramatic reenactment for The People vs. Leo Frank on PBS several years back.

Jayson is also a big supporter of independent film and performed in two films entered in this year’s Sundance Film Festival.  Jayson acted in both The Birth of a Nation and Christine. If I were a betting gal, I’d say watch for these two on the awards season circuit.

You will also find Jayson on screen in American Made with Tom Cruise in the fall of 2017.

Thank you, Jayson!

I am very grateful that Jayson made time to sit down with me and talk about his work, his characters, and the myriad of talents he possesses. He also shared his gratitude for all the fans and how they have embraced him as part of the The Walking Dead family.

Be sure to visit his website at to learn more about him, check out some great photos, and find out where you can see him on-screen or locally on the comedy circuit.

Next: The Walking Dead: Rectify shares actors, poignancy

And if you ever spot him out and about, don’t be shy about saying hello. He is warm, friendly, funny, and a great hugger! For some strange reason, he says he’s never been recognized or approached in public. Fellow Rectify fans, tell me you wouldn’t recognize him?!

All our best to Jayson from!