Tales of the Walking Dead features six original life-or-death, high-stakes stories of survival with an all-star cast of both new and familiar characters set against the undead apocalypse. In Episode 5, we meet Davon, an outsider who’s found himself injured and amongst an Acadian group of survivors. In this interview with amc.com, we speak with Jessie T. Usher about Davon’s journey piecing together his memories, how Davon’s relationship with Nora brought him much-needed light, and what it was like to join TWDU as a huge fan.
Q: There’s nothing quite like an unreliable protagonist—and Davon’s fractured memories make it so that we start the episode off just as confused as he is. When you first read the script what drew you to Davon, and did the mystery of the episode immediately hook you?
A: Absolutely. The mystery of the episode is what kept me going from one page to the next. I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out if I was smarter than the writer [Channing Powell], if that makes sense. I got the script, and I felt like it was going to make a certain turn, but I was really trying to think outside the box as much as I possibly could, trying to outsmart the writer. Then every step of the way I realized that she was already one or two steps ahead of me! That’s what kept me going, kept me interested, and got me really interested in playing Davon. When I got to the end, the only question that I had was "Can I read it in order?" because I wanted to make sure that I got it all right. With every turn, every twist, every reveal, every aspect of the story made me more and more interested. That’s really what got me hooked.
Q: Were you familiar with The Walking Dead Universe before joining the project? We're not sure of the timeline of this episode, but this seems to be a specific group of Acadian survivors that have always been isolated from the outside world.
A: Yeah, I was very familiar with The Walking Dead Universe. I had The Walking Dead viewing parties at my house back in the day and then I stayed heavily involved for years. It was one of my favorite shows! So, I knew it very well. Because I knew it so well, for our director Michael Satrazemis, I think the question was, where does this story fit in in the timeline of the characters that I already knew? Not necessarily if they had ever crossed paths or if there was any type of involvement whatsoever, but more around what’s normal for this character? How much does he know? What has he gone through? Was his experience anything like what I had already seen? We broke all of that down before we got into the thick of things, just so we could place Davon in the right space mentally and with his level of comfort, those kinds of things. We spoke quite a bit about that. At this point Davon wasn’t discovering any part of this apocalyptic world. He was very familiar with it all and I liked that.
Q: So you feel like this was already deep enough into the apocalypse that he had his wits about him and his bearings were straight?
A: Absolutely. What you see with Davon is a lot of confusion on his face because he's experiencing something that is now outside of the box, even for the world that he's familiar with. He's very familiar with zombies, how they act, and the things that they do, so much so that when the one that he’s handcuffed to starts doing something different, it just blows his mind!
Q: The psychological ramifications of the apocalypse and trauma in general are always evident in the journeys of the characters we meet in The Walking Dead Universe. Davon is no exception, but this is the first time we’ve seen a walker apparition of sorts impart advice and clues to help our protagonist figure things out. Can you talk a bit about this very creepy but very helpful manifestation of Davon’s guilt that helps him?
A: Yeah, so essentially what's happening – and I had a lot of questions about this too – with Davon, he suffered such a dramatic head trauma that he now starts envisioning all of this stuff around him. Essentially I visualized him waking up from passing out and just sitting in one place as this all plays out in his head. Since it’s all just playing in his head, it helps to justify a lot of the things that happen in the story that could never actually happen in a real world, even in an apocalyptic world! To him, it's very strange, but I think even Davon starts to realize after a while that since it's in his head he can almost control it and use it as a tool.
Q: Nora and Davon definitely have a connection and their chemistry is palpable, but I don’t think audiences will be totally surprised to see her turn on Davon so dramatically when she thinks he killed Amanda and the missing children. The group think is real with these folks. Can you talk a little bit about building the relationship between Nora and Davon on screen? There are some really beautiful moments between them, even amongst the chaos of the rest of the episode.
A: Yeah, there are some really beautiful moments. That relationship is the only thing that gives Davon an opportunity to slow things down. He's not just constantly tripping over these thoughts and these memories. He gets to a place where he can relax and have a little bit of peace in his mind. Things start to make sense, and the key component to that was Nora. Just in the backstory between the two of them, what Michael and I were discussing quite a bit, was that he was almost putting all of his hopes into Nora. That’s the reason why when things are looking bright that's who he starts to see. Those memories with Nora are the memories that pull him out of his darkest place. It means more to him in a shorter amount of time than it ever would normally because of the position that he's in. Then of course when things hit the fan, the stakes are high because he has invested so much so soon.
Q: Once Davon discovers the true inner workings of this community, he sours on it very quickly as any outsider likely would. At the end of the episode he speaks of hope and a world outside of their walls, but they’re happy to continue their “murder can be mercy” lifestyle so he’s outta there. If Davon’s story were to continue as he makes his way to Montreal and beyond, what kind of adventures would you like to see him embark on?
A: I think what would be nice for Davon would be to find what he thinks he wants, and then to see if it turns out to be what he had always hoped that it would be. I feel like he's been searching for the same thing since the "origin" of his story, whatever that origin is. Maybe if he finds what he’s looking for he’d be willing to just let it go and keep going. I think it would be nice to see him find it or find what he thinks he wants in that world, and then see how it all plays out. Nothing is by accident in The Walking Dead Universe, and when I spoke to Channing, she had such a detailed explanation about every single aspect of the script. It would be cool to keep on going, then we'd get to have some more fun!
New episodes of Tales of the Walking Dead air on Sundays at 9/8c on AMC. Full episodes are available to stream on amc.com (with a cable provider login), the AMC apps for mobile and devices, and a week early on AMC+. AMC+ is available at amcplus.com or through the new AMC+ app available on iPhone, iPad, Android, Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku. AMC+ can also be accessed through a variety of providers, including AppleTV, Prime Video Channels, DirectTV, Dish, Roku Channel, Sling, and Xfinity. Sign up for AMC+ now.