Let's pour one out for Abraham Ford, late of The Walking Dead. The ginger-haired military man's tough exterior concealed a soft, squishy interior - both literally and metaphorically.
Abraham's violent death at the hands of Negan in the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead was nearly a year ago, but he lives on in in the heart of actor Michael Cudlitz, who is alive and well (and, on this date, grateful to be in air conditioning.)
To celebrate the release of The Walking Dead Season 7's release on Blu-ray/DVD (the eighth season of the zombie drama premieres on October 22 on AMC), we spoke to Cudlitz about life after The Walking Dead and tried to tease some info from him about the upcoming season. (Spoiler alert: production doesn't share details with the dead.)
How is life after The Walking Dead?
Michael Cudlitz: It's fine. Life is good. It's opened up a lot of opportunities for me. The whole experience has been great as far as being able to connect with fans. I've been very fortunate to do this my entire career, so far as the acting, and I've never had the ability to connect with the fans like I have doing this show. That has been one of the greatest gifts of the show: to see how our work and what we do - what we love to do - how it effects people, and how many different ways it effects people.
My life after The Walking Dead is much more air conditioned. I'm cleaner. My hair is blonder and greyer. A lot less red.
What do you miss most about the show?
The thing I miss most is probably the thing I don't miss most: the people. I miss the people I was working with the most, but I get to see them at these conventions. The cast is so large, and we were so split up that we didn't really see... all of us didn't see all of us all the time when we were in Atlanta. I've seen more of these guys now, traveling around, in between, when we do these conventions and meet the fans, than when I was in Atlanta.
I miss the work, in the sense that it was really great storytelling, but that's something you say about every great job you leave. It was a really, really awesome experience, and leaving the show was fine as well because I knew that was the course of [Abraham]. That's the life span of working on a TV show: finishing working on a TV show.
Did it make you nervous taking the job because Abraham died in the comic?
No, I knew coming on that Scott Gimple was getting closer to the comics when I took the job. I read the life of the character in the comics. I knew in my head it was a two or three year thing, with the pace of the show. And that was fine for me. I looked at it as a great opportunity that would only be a couple years long. I was a fan of the show before I was on the show. I think any actor coming on the show after Season 4, if you're surprised you are getting killed, you are a moron! You're like the dumbest actor on the planet! That doesn't mean you have to like being killed, but if you are truly surprised, you're an idiot!
There was a lot of controversy over the episode in which your character Abraham, and Glenn, died. A lot of people thought it was too violent. What is your take on that?
It wasn't too violent. People just loved our characters too much. There were things way more violent prior to that: Noah in the glass door, basically getting ripped apart; in that same episode, one of those guys that got [impaled] onto those metal pipes and their intestines came out. There has been a ton of stuff that has been - in my opinion - way more graphic, way more violent. The audience reacted so strongly because they loved those characters so much, and because [director] Greg [Nicotero] photographed it so amazingly. He told this story where you fell in love with these characters, and you were brutalized because you felt like it was being done to a family member. That was the worst part about it. I think the only thing you could give us a hard time about is that we told the best story possible in the best way possible, and we were highly effective at it.
I read all this stuff, what some of the reviews were. Someone called it "torture porn ..." I think these are just people who, in my opinion, have their heads up their butts. This is what we do; this is the horror genre. Go watch a George Romero movie. Look at what you are actually watching. Don't do something else for 90% of your reviewing time, then come over for your last little bit because it's a big season opener, then give it some crap opinion because you're not connected to what the show is doing. It's cheap.
Can you talk a little bit about filming that scene?
That scene took two nights to film. Both Steven [Yeun] and I were there for more than 50% of it. Then once we were "dead," they wanted those images on the ground, of the fully destroyed bodies. They had made bodies and heads of us that were totally smashed in, and those were left on the ground. There was a point where having us there doesn't help because our heads aren't really smashed in. There's a point where you want the rest of the cast to be looking at the actual prosthetic pieces. But we were physically there the entire time.
Is it weird seeing yourself - or a prosthetic version of yourself - squashed up on the ground like that?
Yeah. It's funny because my wife, when she saw that, said, "I saw that, and that was brutal. I can go my entire life without seeing that again." The idea of it is cool, but then you see it, and it's like, "That's kinda jacked up."
Did you get to keep any of the prosthetics?
I'm working on that. One of the deals I made with Greg early on is that I wanted a copy of the head. I told him I would pay his shop for the materials and labor to make another copy [of the head], but I wanted to make sure I had one. I told him that because I wanted to make sure they bought enough materials, if they needed another wig or another piece. I wanted to keep it. I have yet to get it, but I will.
Any chance we might see Abraham appear in Fear the Walking Dead?
I don't think so, but I don't know. I don't think those two worlds jive. I think our world is a much more heightened, elevated reality, but I don't know if that show has... I've heard good things about the last season - really good things about the last season. So I don't know if they are headed more in the direction of our show - and by our show I don't mean the success of it, but the heightened reality of it. When I watched the show early on, it was very much based in a much more realistic reality than ours. A character like Abraham walking through that world would have looked really weird. It's a much more realistic world. So I think the world would have to change a little bit or grow into something else for us to be acceptable. The idea that maybe over time we became these types of people, as opposed to just jumping into their world.
What was your favorite scene to shoot, either in the last season, or over your entire run on the show?
Two scenes: One with Steven, where we are backlit, standing at the window, talking about killing people and how easy it has become, and how that is not right. Then also when I said goodbye to Eugene at the motorhome. I also loved my fight scene with [Rick] in the church when I first came on the show. I love that conflict.
Do you ever just go to the set to annoy your former coworkers?
Nah, that's all the way in Atlanta. It's hot and miserable. I see them throughout the year at different conventions and stuff. It's always great to see them.
Do you watch the show now, even though you are not on it?
Yeah. I'm curious to see what is going to happen!
Any predictions for what might happen in the next season?
Nope! I just like watching it unfold. I'm curious what will happen with all the communities, how they're going to come together. Are they going to all move to one community, or stay split up? Split up the manpower? I don't know. It's going to be interesting.
Now that you are done with The Walking Dead, are you working on anything else right now?
Not right now. I'm figuring out what my next step is. I passed on a bunch of projects. Hopefully I'll be able to tell you soon what I'm working on.