EXCLUSIVE: THE WALKING DEAD Star Michael Cudlitz On Abraham's Gory Demise, A Possible Marvel Project And More

To mark the release of The Walking Dead season 7 on DVD and Blu-ray, we recently sat down with Michael Cudlitz to discuss everything from Abraham's grisly death to his favourite scenes and future roles!

The Walking Dead's seventh season kicked off with the shocking death of not only Glenn (a character fans of the comic book knew would ultimately meet his maker at the hands of Negan) but Abraham Ford too. The fan-favourite survivor dies after taking an arrow to the eye in the source material so it's fair to say no one could have predicted that Negan's first kill would be the tough as nails military man. 

Michael Cudlitz played Abraham over three years and thirty-eight episodes of The Walking Dead and the impact of his demise was felt right into the show's finale earlier this year. We recently had the opportunity to talk with Michael about everything from that unforgettable sequence to the backlash it faced from fans, his favourite moments in the show, and the possibility of another comic book role.

The five-disc home entertainment release of The Walking Dead: The Complete Seventh Season features hours of never-before-seen bonus features including audio commentaries, deleted and alternate scenes, and nine featurettes looking behind the scenes of the show, delving deeper into the characters and checking in with the show's writers. It's available now on Blu-ray and DVD and season eight of The Walking Dead premieres Sunday October 22nd on AMC. Stay tuned for more on that. 

 

I have to start by asking about Abraham's death; can you take us through what it was like to shoot that sequence?
 
Shooting it was kind of awesome because typically when the show loses characters, not everyone is there on set to witness it or be part of it. With this, we had the majority of the main cast on set the day that we left and to be in that semi circle, the joy of that was in the periphery of getting to see everyone. It was really wonderful being able to see their wonderful work while they were saying goodbye to these characters that not only the audience love but that those in this world love too. To have that sort of send off and get to see these wonderful actors doing that work in front of you, in real time, was really a pleasure. 
 
What was the atmosphere like on set that night?
 
It was good. We knew that we were going to be leaving the show the August before and then the following May was when we got taken out. That's ten months. We had ten months to process it so it wasn't that it was so raw it couldn't be dealt with. Everyone took on the challenge and no one was happy it was happening but they knew the importance of doing it right by celebrating the lives of these characters by showing how everyone responds to their deaths. It was a really cool experience.
 
Did you have to go to any personal lengths to keep Abraham's death a secret?
 
For me, it was basically keeping the red hair, the haircut, the moustache and just trying to stay out of public as much as possible. The good thing about the show now is that the cast is so large that they do these smaller character pieces focusing on a couple of characters in one episode and everyone is off meaning everyone travels and it's not so obvious when one actor is not in town. It was a matter of lying, basically. Not telling anyone what was going on, saving photos here and there from Atlanta and Tweeting them out at times you weren't really there. When I did travel, I'd sometimes put Atlanta as my stopover city even if it wasn't necessary so I could have a layover and walk around the airport. People see you at the Atlanta airport and wonder why you were there and not wonder why you weren't. A lot of seeds were sewn just to confuse people and that's all you can hope for to cast doubt on what they think they might know. It was fun. 
 
As far as last words go, “Suck my nuts” is pretty awesome. Was that a line you had any involvement with and how did you feel about that being Abraham's send off?
 
I loved it! So far as the writing aspect, that was the writers but I thought it was perfect. 
 
What was it like working with Jeffrey Dean Morgan for that scene, especially with him being a new cast member at the time?
 
It was great. I would have loved to have done some more episodes with him and explored the sort of dynamic and dialogue between the two characters. That would have been great. 
 
When did you find out that you would be returning for the finale and was that hard for you after saying goodbye to Abraham and the show?
 
It was actually awesome. I had a lot of fun doing it as I had a lot of fun being Abraham. Coming back was a surprise actually as I found out about two episodes beforehand. It was pretty soon before the episode shot. I didn't know he was coming back; it wasn't like when we shot his death that I knew I'd be there for the end of the season. I had no idea so it was a wonderful surprise. I had kept the facial hair because the season opener was at the beginning of October and then I shot the other scenes in the middle of November so I had to keep it up until the premiere anyway and then I was going to keep it a little longer for when we do the conventions nearer the end of the year, so people would be able to say goodbye to the character. Also, I knew I had no work going on between October and December so I kept it. 
 
Abraham dies in the comics in a very different way so how did it feel to find out that he would meet his maker at the hands of Negan and Lucille?
 
I thought it was a good change. Robert Kirkman was never really happy with the death that he did for Abraham in the comics. He said that in a couple of interviews so I knew it was going to be different and that there would be a much more fitting death for Abraham. It was more of a selfless death rather than a passive death. 
 
 
There was a lot of fan outrage surrounding the fact that two major characters were killed off so quickly and in such a violent fashion. What's your take on that? 
 
I always personally thought they should have split up the two deaths. Two characters that beloved, taking them out at the same time, I think I would have done it differently. I would have given Abraham a little bit longer. Not a lot but a little bit just to get him into “All Out War” and have some conflict with Negan. I wanted to see Abraham as a soldier and then the loss would have been more profound as we would have seen him come into his own. As for the deaths, I don't think those were any more graphic or violent than anything we'd seen before; the only difference was that you loved these characters. That makes it seem much more of a loss. There are a number of deaths I could rattle off that were way more graphic and violent than our deaths. 
 
Characters in The Walking Dead don't often have a lot of time for romance; how did you feel about exploring a new dynamic between Abraham and Sasha after his relationship with Rosita ended?
 
It was great. You talk to any soldier or you see any interview with a soldier about what they do in war and that's what happens. You fight and you have relations if it's possible. That story is older than time; when every day is possibly your last day, you live it. 
 
Is there anything in the show you wish you'd had the chance to do but didn't?
 
I just would have liked to see him operate as a full fledged soldier in a military operation attacking other humans because we never really saw that. It would have been great to see the skills that he had or didn't have. Perhaps Abraham Ford wasn't really all that good at being a sergeant! Anything that would have taken him into that next step. It would have been great to see him come up with a kickass plan that helped move the group forward. 
 
Abraham's death will obviously remain a big talking point for a long time to come but what were your favourite moments as the character?
 
I think my favourite two scenes were one with Steven Yeun in season five, episode five when we were up against the window in a library and it was backlit very reminiscent of a cell from the graphic novel. Backlit black and white basically at night and talking about what it's like to be alive now, what we have to do as basically killing people had become effortless and it shouldn't be like that. The second scene would be with Josh when Abraham says goodbye to Eugene. I love that scene outside the motorhome. It was the culmination of everything leading up to it and all the friction between these two characters; we just see the love that was truly there. 
 
Looking back, what do you hope Abraham's legacy will be in the series?
 
That I don't know. I would say the selflessness of him but there have been a lot of characters who have been selfless. Maybe just a reminder to the characters moving forward that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. 
 
What has it been like for you to meet fans at conventions and see first hand how people feel about both the show and Abraham?
 
It's great. The fans are amazing. They're a pest but they're amazing. It's great to connect with them at conventions when they're able to come up to you and say goodbye to the character. Strangely enough, a lot of them you can see that in their faces they're not lying when they say it's nice to see I'm ok. Michael, as the actor, they do not separate the two. It's not like they're crazy; you are the character and the character is you so when they see you, they say things like it's so nice to see that you're ok. That helps them process this and I know it sounds silly but I know they mean it and it's great. 
 
There are obviously a lot of comic book TV shows and movies out there at the moment; is that a genre you would be interested in returning to down the line?
 
That keeps coming up and people keep saying Marvel characters but I'm curious where everyone else is putting me [Laughs]. I'm curious what everyone else would like to see me do next. We're going to find the right next thing, we're waiting for that right moment and when it happens, you will know. 
 
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