INTERVIEW: The Walking Dead stars Michael Cudlitz, Ross Marquand and Josh McDermitt
The Walking Dead has returned to Monday night television in sensational style. The midseason premiere of the series last week aired some of the show’s most shocking scenes so far including a Rick Grimes-led battle to save Alexandria from succumbing to the murderous undead, the brutal deaths of Jessie and her family, and a tragic accident involving Rick’s son Carl (not to mention Daryl stepping in with an RPG).
We jumped at the chance to speak to Michael Cudlitz (Abraham), Ross Marquand (Aaron) and Josh McDermitt (Eugene), who were all in London to attend the weekend’s ‘Walker Stalker’, a fan convention celebrating The Walking Dead. Speaking to the trip alongside a group of other journalists, we discussed what is was like to film those incredible scenes in 6.09, their characters ongoing romantic entanglements and which cast members they’d want with them should a real zombie apocalypse take place.
Amazing work on the midseason premiere guys. What was that like to film?
Josh: We’re still getting over it. It’s interesting because this is a show where it feels like every episode, there’s a couple of people that say that was the hardest episode I’ve ever shot, and this episode was an episode where it felt like everyone said that was the hardest episode I’ve ever shot. It was so great to have everybody inclusive and everybody exhausted at the same time. We shot that overnight and over a couple of days, but before we wrapped the whole season we were still reshooting and adding more moments to those scenes. It was a beast of a challenge.
Ross: I think everyone wanted to make that episode the comeback. It has to be strong, because it ends of such a cliffhanger at the end of the first part of the season. When we were backed up against that wall right as the herd breaks and we finally get that moment where Daryl launches that RPG into the pond, the tide begins to turn. I remember a sensation looking down the line and it was about twenty of us up against that gate there. I had a gleeful feeling. It was my birthday too. It was this wonderful sensation. We’re all here together, covered in blood, doing this thing, exhausted – I remember my muscles were hurting for days after that.
Michael: I think we also share the same things that you guys do, we’re all fans of the show as well. It’s not like another show when you see everybody against the wall and you think they’ll get out, you’re saying who is going to die? The stakes are that high and that real for the audience, we know that, we know they think somebody’s going to die this week. Then it doesn’t happen. You get the satisfaction of seeing what you hope in your mind would have happened, and everyone at the end of this week is safe. For now.
How does it feel to have that lack of job security?
Michael: When we sign on, it’s like you will die at some point. I think it intensifies the work, every day is your best day because it might be close to your last day, there’s no complacency, there’s no laying back and going I’ll just ride this out till I retire – you may be dead in two scripts. That’s a very staunch reality. You can’t worry about it. I honestly think a lot of us will be sad when it’s our time to go, but it’s not something we think about.
Josh: If we do that we’re going to let this great thing pass us by and we’re not going to really enjoy every moment of it. We always talk about being a family, these close friendships we’ve formed, I wouldn’t be able to focus on that if I was so worried about when I was gonna leave.
It’s wonderful to see you guys have this tight-knit family on set. What was it like joining that when they were already an established group?
Ross: I remember when I first went on set, the first person I met was Andy, and we I found out within five minutes we had a mutual friend in London, which was very strange. I met these two second [gestures to Josh and Michael]
Josh: I’m sorry [laughs].
Ross: It was a very hot day and on the set in Georgia and we were at this barn. It was one of the smelliest and most difficult places we shot in. They had been shooting a few days already, and I remember both of them came up with very affectionate: “Hey, how are you? Nice to meet you. We heard you’re coming on. If you need anything, please feel free to contact Andy.” – They made it very clear these are smart-asses, and these are going to be my best friends on the show.
Josh: It’s the number one show in the world, it’s intimidating. It starts with Andrew Lincoln, he met us our first day. He wasn’t even in the episode and he drove an hour south of Atlanta to where we were shooting to come out and meet us. That sets a tone straight away, he had nothing to do but come and meet us.
Michael: And most of us are far from home. So we are removed from our families and our friend centre, so these our our families. It’s great.
Speaking of the cast being like your family – if the zombie apocalypse actually happened, which three of your cast mates would you want with you?
Ross: Andy. Andy’s proven himself to be not only a great actor, but physically agile. He’d be pretty formidable, I’d think. I need you [Josh] for comic relief, and you’re [Michael] the brawn. I want these two and Andy.
Josh: There’s something about Melissa McBride that just cracks me up. She might be the first one to go of our group, but we will laugh until she does. I think having Cudlitz and Ross with me would be really fun. All I like to do is laugh and have a good time, and I think if the zombie apocalypse actually happened, you’re just gonna need to laugh.
Michael: I’m going to go with these guys, so I have drinking buddies for the rest of the trip. Who am I gonna add? Chad [Coleman, who played Tyreese], because Chad is strangely unpredictable.
What can you tease about your character’s love lives the rest of the season? Ross, we haven’t seen much of Aaron and Eric for a while. Josh, is there anything happening with Denise? Michael, you’re in a love triangle!
Ross: Eric did pop up last week. He comes to the window and he and Olivia decide to go out and fight with the rest of the Alexandrians. But yeah, they’re still in a loving relationship. Everyone is still shipping Daryl and Aaron, they want that to be a thing. I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen.
Josh: For Eugene, I don’t know that he’s pining for Denise because I think Denise and Tara are starting to become an item. That doesn’t mean Eugene doesn’t like Denise, he still likes Tara. He just likes watching. He likes women.
Michael: I think from what’s been shown, it’s been established that Eugene is obviously attracted to lesbians [everyone laughs].
Josh: He’s one of those guys that will get shot down and not think much of it, and just move on to the next woman. As long as there’s a single woman around, they should look out.
Michael: Law of averages.
(Michael avoided my question about Rosita and Sasha, but fans can read our interview with Sasha actress Sonequa Martin-Green, who shared her thoughts on the new pairing).