In the uncertain world of AMC's The Walking Dead, actor Michael Cudlitz knows one thing about his character, Abraham. He will die. Maybe not in the first episode back on Sunday's midseason premiere, maybe not even this season, but at some point Abraham will go the way of Shane, Lori, Hershel and yes, sadly, Beth.
“I love it. I'm excited by it. Me being a fan of the show and seeing so many people pass on the show, I have no doubt that it will come at some point,” said Cudlitz in an exclusive interview with Blastr. “I think that some of the ones who have been there since the beginning, I think it's harder just from the fact that you have been there longer. They really have created a family out there which they have welcomed me into. But the people who were there first, it's hardest on, I'm sure.”
However, Cudlitz does hope that Abraham has “a longer life than in the comics ... I hope he doesn't die the same way he dies in the comics, because I think that that was ... I don't think his death was respectful to his life. Or representative of his life. Now, too bad. They're going to do what they're going to do. A lot of things happen. I don't think Beth's death was necessarily representative of her life either. But the way they did it from a storytelling standpoint was completely surprising, and in a show that is surprising anyway, this I think went to a whole other level. To sort of accidentally, after all she's been through, after the whole group had gone to get her, after surviving, to be shot accidentally? Oh my gosh. In some ways, it's poetically awesome, as terrible as it is. Some people might feel it's extremely unsatisfying. I think that the answer that might be given is, well, sometimes deaths are unsatisfying. Or what should be satisfying about a death?” asked Cudlitz.
The actor, whose roles have spanned everything from Band of Brothers to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, 24, Lost and just about every other major TV show that's been on since the 1990s, is thrilled with the direction The Walking Dead has taken.
“I think they've also done a wonderful job of keeping everyone guessing. We've let everyone know that this is a show where people die. Very much in the vein of Game of Thrones, it's like, yeah, your favorite guy can die at any moment. Which I think raises the stakes. This is not Star Trek, where Captain Kirk is in peril and the Enterprise might blow up. Well, we know it's on next week, so we know the whole ship doesn't blow up, and we know that he's Captain Kirk, so we know he's not going to die. Well, what if Captain Kirk could die? That changes everything about how you watch that story. Everything. That's what I think that they've done. We're not the first to do it, but I think we did it a little more often than others,” said Cudlitz.
“I think it puts more immediacy to the work. You're not in a situation where you can lay back on your heels ... I think there's a tendency in one-hour television and series regulars to get comfortable. I would say that sometimes they don't necessarily bring their best work. Sometimes you can't bring your best work. That just happens. You can't bat a thousand. But I think that knowing that you don't know what day or what episode is going to be your last, I think that helps bring your focus every week to really deliver on what you have and really take another level of pride on what you do, knowing that the work that you're doing may be laying the groundwork for everyone understanding you so that when you do die, because you will die, you go out with as big a fire as possible. And the only way you do that is by getting people to care about you, or understand you, or empathize or sympathize, however it is you want your character to affect the audience. You're going to really be aware of that the whole journey knowing that you literally are laying the groundwork for your own eulogy,” he said.
And Cudlitz has indeed laid that groundwork, from unrelentingly following the mission to get Eugene to Washington to his devastation when he discovered that Eugene lied about knowing the cure that would save the world.
“I think that it will be very interesting to see where it all goes from here, because now Abraham is in a world that is a little different than the world he was trying to take himself out of. He's seen that there are things and people that are worth fighting for, worth dying for. Love can exist. Hope can exist. Family can exist. Trust can exist. There's all of these things that when he was sitting on the side of the road with a gun in his mouth did not exist. And now he sees that is still alive in this world. So what does he do with that? That's what we're going to see in the next half of the season. That's going to be one of the stories that we tell. How long does it take for him to fully integrate with the group? Does he fully integrate with the group?” he said.
Beyond that, “What is [Beth's death] going to set in motion? What ripples are there? What boats do those ripples push away? How is Maggie going to process that? How is Glenn going to be able to comfort her? Is he going to be able to comfort her? What does the group do next? Just straight-up that answer: Where do we go next? What the hell? No more D.C., no more mission, where are we going?” said Cudlitz.
“There's so much that I can't talk about that is so exciting. I wish I could, because I think the second half of the season has some really, really awesome elements in it. I would say that they're doing a great job of paying homage to the comics. People who read the comics, there's going to be something extra, as always, but even if it's subliminal, they're going to realize and recognize some storylines and some actual cells in the animation that were re-created. I think they do a really wonderful job of that. Just some really awesome character development, characters working together that you had not seen before. It's a great time to be a Walking Dead fan,” he said.
As for his character, “I love what they've done with Abraham this whole season. I love the whole way that they've done it. I love what we have done already that you have yet to see. I think that Scott Gimple tells Robert Kirkman's stories in such a wonderful way. He's not afraid to take risks. He's not afraid to have everybody hate him for a week or two until they get the answers that they need, because there's a payoff to what he's doing. It's extremely, extremely intelligent story writing. Ultimately, it puts the audience on such an amazing roller coaster ride. In the scripts that we get, every time we open them, we have no idea where it's heading,” said Cudlitz.
The Walking Dead premieres at 9 p.m. ET on AMC this Sunday.
Here's a look at the first two minutes of the midseason premiere of The Walking Dead:
What do you think Abraham's odds are of surviving the season?