When we last saw Jerry at the end of Season 8 of The Walking Dead, he had survived the final war with the Saviors and headed back to the Kingdom with Ezekiel, Carol, and Henry. A sedate way to end an insane, violent, emotional season.
We spoke with Cooper Andrews, the actor who plays Jerry, about being the positive, smiling face of the show, and what Season 9 has in store for the people of The Kingdom, Alexandria, and The Hilltop.
Were you familiar with The Walking Dead comics before you got the role?
Cooper Andrews: I was familiar with The Walking Dead from the show. I was watching it when Season 1 came out on Netflix, before Season 2 aired. That's when I started watching, and I was hooked.
Can you talk about being the "happy face" of The Walking Dead? You seem to be the only one in the zombie apocalypse with a positive outlook.
[Laughs.] Someone had to do it! For me, it is honestly a dream role. I like to be happy, and I also like hitting the punching bag — which is another great facet of Jerry. Getting to be this happy character is fun for me because I was raised in New Jersey until I was 9, then Maryland... not to bring race into this, but I always stood out because I was the only Polynesian in majority-Caucasian schools. Jerry feels a little bit like that, the happy guy that kind of sticks out a little bit. But people accept him. It feels very much like my life.
Having a character like that, on a show that can get as dark as The Walking Dead can, it is a treat. What a weird word to use, but it is. It's such an awesome thing, to be this happy guy in a world where I wouldn't expect to see more than two smiles on a person in a year. A character like that shows that, no matter how crappy a situation might be, there is always something positive to look at. In that world, especially, you need that kind of outlook to survive it.
What can we expect in Season 9? Negan has been captured, and it looks like you guys will be facing off against the Whisperers next.
Yeah, there might be... I hope I have nothing to do with them! This is the first time where we see Jerry and Ezekiel in a situation where they're not having to deal with Saviors, and not just protecting their people from walkers, but from people who would do harm, otherwise. They are stronger in a sense, with knowledge, when it comes to fighting all the walkers and zombies. You get to see everyone dig their hands in and create a new world, without the normal fears. I feel like we are the calmest, going into this new planet and trying to figure it out. Either way, that's how I'm playing it!
Is Jerry going to be able to maintain his upbeat attitude, even in the face of all that is coming next season?
I would be scared to see the thing that changes Jerry's disposition. That doesn't mean he doesn't get sad and angry, as we have seen in the past, but it's going to take a lot to make him see the glass half empty. Good luck to anyone trying to ruin that! I'll make you smile with an axe or a joke -- one way, it'll happen!
Do you bring any of your happy-go-lucky antics off-set, between takes?
I'm not so much a goofball that my head is in other places. Whenever I'm on set, I try my best to be on my game, be professional. But I can't help but talk to everybody, go around from crew member to crew member, seeing how everyone's day is going. After being a crew member for over a decade, I would always just want to punch the actor who slowed the day down. I try to keep things moving. But I do have fun. If I do a prank, no one is going to know it is me until I am clear of... reimbursement. Clear of the revenge zone. If there is a prank, I won't admit to it.
The Walking Dead has such a large cast, with everyone spread out over different storylines. Are there any actors that you haven't really worked directly with that you are hoping to?
The thing that is cool about Jerry is that he does get around to a lot of people. I haven't done something with Michonne. I would love to see some sword and axe play at some point -- just to see them take out a few folks, or walkers, in that case. Coming in at the beginning of the war really allowed us to get with a lot of groups. I can feel all these different energies and vibes which, from Season 7, was such a huge change, because now we are working with the rest of the show. There are definitely a few people I would like to work with, but I feel like this season, you might get to see that happen. I love this show. I'm just so excited!
Are you surprised that you have "lasted" as long as you have? People can die at the drop of a hat on this show.
For sure! I don't want to use the word "surprised"; it's more that I am grateful. I am grateful that I get to be this happy character, and that a happy character can live this long on this show. Every episode I get to live, I'm always thankful for. "This is cool! I'm living through this! Let's see what happens." It's just fun getting to be part of it, no matter how long it goes. I got to meet great friends, work with great directors, and tell a story I have been watching since it first started.
The Walking Dead Season 8 is available on Blu-ray this week. In addition to all 16 episodes from the season, there are also three episode commentaries and three new featurettes.
The Walking Dead returns for its ninth season on October 7 on AMC.