Ross Marquand, who plays Aaron on AMC’s The Walking Dead, talks about the massive battle against the Saviors, plus what Aaron and Eric represent.
Q: Given everything that’s happened since, do you think Aaron should regret bringing Rick’s group to Alexandria?
A: [Laughs] Who knows if the Saviors or the Wolves would have ever found Alexandria on their own, but it does seem like trouble follows Rick and the gang. One could make a case, but I don’t think that’s how Aaron feels. Aaron and Eric tracked Rick and the gang for several weeks. At the end of the day, Aaron’s really good at sensing the good in people and that’s what he saw in the group. Even though it was a risk and resulted in him getting punched within five minutes of meeting him, what’s ensued is a great symbiotic relationship between the Alexandrians and Rick’s group. The Alexandrians have learned how to fight and Rick has learned how to trust again and believe in a future. That’s what Alexandria promises — a return to normalcy and how things were before the apocalypse. I think it’s been a rewarding friendship and bond. A lot of terrible stuff has happened, but I think they would both agree that these are the sacrifices you have to make to maintain a sustainable community in the future.
Q: What was it like filming the attack on the Saviors? Was it as intricate as it appeared on screen?
A: It was nonstop bullets and fighting the entire episode. As a fan of the show, I’m excited to see more of that because so much of last season was about the group getting their dignity and hope stripped away. It’s nice to see them back together again and we’re getting to see these heroes fight together. Victory is never that easy, but we’re seeing these communities come together to win.
Q: Eric is shot in Episode 3 and Aaron immediately apologizes for it. How would you describe the guilt weighing on him?
A: He feels massively guilty. Eric stood up to Aaron and said, “It’s not smart to go in guns blazing or against Negan without the resources or manpower for a certified win.” That’s the point he was trying to make the entire time… He was trying to be the voice of reason. He was all for taking this guy out, but only if they had the resources to make it a reality. Aaron does feel a massive amount of guilt because they finally have the upper hand and things are looking good, but even with that small victory, they’ve had many casualties – the worst of them being the loss of his boyfriend.
Q: Scott tries to console Aaron by saying, “That’s not him.” How does Aaron take that in or make sense of what Eric is now?
A: That was not so much a consolation as it was a statement of fact. Scott was trying to say, “You can absolutely go over to that creature if you want to. That’s not Eric. You need to realize the closure you’re hoping to gain from talking to walker Eric is not going to happen. Your boyfriend is now a zombie.” It’s a heartbreaking moment. I remember shooting that and it was not fun. The tears came naturally because I’ve generally enjoyed working with Jordan [Woods-Robinson] so much these last three years. We’ve been by each other’s sides on and off the screen and it was sad for both Aaron and me as an actor.
Q: Did Eric represent something pure in this world?
A: He does. Their love was very pure. Sometimes people can get very jaded in this apocalypse… like love can’t exist. I’ve always thought that their relationship was a reminder that love can exist even in the darkest of times. I think that presence and love will be sorely missed on the show.
Q: Speaking of purity, what immediately draws Aaron to the baby that Rick found at the Saviors’ complex?
A: This is a child that has not been touched by the horrors and harsh realities of the world just yet. Its concerns are just “Can I get food and will someone change my diaper?” There’s sort of an existential realization as Eric dies and this new life has come before him. It’s a lovely reminder of the cycle of life. He’s in this hurricane of emotion and found this anchor. The battle was won, but he lost his boyfriend so it’s not a real win for him. Gracie is an anchor in these crazy times. He needs to give himself some purpose or some sort of mission because if he lets the emotion overtake him, he won’t be able to function at all.
Q: Is there something to be said about death and birth in this apocalypse and how the survivors are reshaping the world for future generations?
A: Absolutely. We need to be concerned about the future generations and maintaining sustainable societies and communities. That’s the most important thing. That message is repeated because that sustainability has to be protected at all costs and we have to fight for it. We can’t live like dogs. It’s a beautiful speech that Rick gives at the beginning of the season – that no matter what happens, they’ve already won because they’re fighting for humanity.
Read a Q&A with Lennie James, who plays Morgan.
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