Ross Marquand, who plays Aaron on AMC’s The Walking Dead, talks about gearing up to fight back and what might surprise fans about Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
Q: The Mid-Season Premiere ends with the survivors surrounded by an armed group of strangers, but Rick has a smile on his face. Will the audience be as excited as Rick to meet this new group?
A: Most definitely. One of the great things that the team does is create fully fleshed-out worlds. I think you’re really going to get to know a lot of communities this second half of the season, and that is very much going to excite people about the future of the show and where it’s headed.
Q: Aaron has become an integral part of Rick’s group. What do you think he sees in Rick and vice versa that has allowed them to become allies?
A: At the time Aaron found Rick [and his group], they were at the end of their rope. They were essentially starving to death, they had run out of water and food, and found themselves in some pretty dire circumstances. He found him at his lowest and they could have torn each other apart, but instead they came together, and Rick showed great leadership and survival skills. That’s what Aaron needed in his community. From the moment he met Rick, he acknowledged that potential. Rick really sees a leader in Aaron… and I think that’s a useful place to be because so many of the Alexandrians are so unwilling or unable to fight and that’s something that needs to change if they’re ever going to have a chance to rise up against Negan and his men.
Q: What keeps Aaron going and wanting to fight?
A: In the second episode that Aaron appears in, he has this great quote about how he was working for a NGO in West Africa. He was working with all these warlords and drug lords who were constantly pointing guns in his face. So, he’s used to men like Negan and people who are out of their minds, who use violence as their main source of cultural exchange and power. For him, the apocalypse is not all that much different than what he already knew. The apocalypse, in many respects, is a little bit easier because at least with zombies, you know the speed at which they’re going to come at you, and you know what they’re after.
With a mad man like Negan, you don’t know what you’re going to get from minute to minute. I think for Aaron, it’s very essential that there’s a return to balance and stability. That’s what fuels his faith, and he’s not afraid to fight for it. I think that’s the difference between him and Morgan. They can both see the goodness in people, but Aaron isn’t afraid to kill someone or ostracize someone and push them out the community if he needs to. He’s done that several times in Alexandria, and now he’s becoming a bit more “free” with bullets. [Laughs]
Q: Is it exciting to know it’s time to fight back?
A: Absolutely. I started as a fan of the show years before I ever got on it. I am excited because, while I think it was super important for us to see this shift where Rick becomes this very frail leader who can’t do anything because he’s worried about sabotaging his safety and the safety of his family, it’s nice to see that story come back around where he finally says, “Nope! Enough is enough. This is it.” This will only continue if we allow this psychopath to continue to inflict violence without consequence. It will only end with our own demise and we have to do something about it. It’s exciting as a viewer and an actor on the show to see where the story will go from here.
Q: Do you still feel the same way about villains like Negan as when you were a fan?
A: Now, it’s just more heightened. This is the ultimate true fandom. I get to be a part of one of my favorite TV shows, and that’s an interesting place to come at it. Early on, I realized you can’t focus too much on your appreciation of the show because, at the end of the day, it’s a job and you have to fully commit to the world you’re living in. If you fully immerse yourself in the character and world, you can convince yourself of a great number of things, and that’s a cue I’ve taken from Andy [Lincoln] time and time again. I love working with him and watching him work because when he shows up, he believes everything that comes out of his mouth. It’s intoxicating and totally infectious. When I act with him, it’s not very difficult. In that regard, we’re very blessed to have a guy like Jeffrey, as well, who does get the character, who does fully immerse himself in that world and who brings out this wonderfully sardonic and unhinged character to the role of Negan. It’s a pretty fascinating portrayal of this iconic comic book villain.
Q: What might surprise fans the most about Jeffrey Dean Morgan?
A: He’s kind of a goofball. That’s how I characterize a lot of the cast. There’s a heaviness to the show already, and you don’t want to compound it by being heavy in your day-to-day life. He and Norman [Reedus] are great friends and they’re always joking around, so it’s nice to see that camaraderie from people that you wouldn’t expect to be friends in real life. [Laughs]
Q: Aaron has taken extended trips outside of Alexandria with both Rick and Daryl. What was your one-on-one time with Andrew and Norman like?
A: I was talking to Andy about our scene [at the walker-infested lake] and we talked about the fact that it was probably the first time that Rick let his guard down with Aaron. Even though they’d shared so much up until that big scene, Rick is a very guarded guy – and understandably so. He’s very wary of new people, and I think that was the first time that they got to finally know each other and understand each other in a big way. I think the same was true with Aaron’s time with Daryl. Daryl’s a really good judge of character and I think he spotted early on that Aaron was a good dude and not someone trying to screw over the group. I think they both found how dependable they could be in each other’s lives – both Aaron and Daryl and Aaron and Rick. They realized they will save each other and risk their necks to help them achieve what they need to achieve. With just being able to be there for someone in times of emotional and physical turmoil, you’re probably going to be able to trust that person quite a bit more. I like those types of scenes for that reason.
Q: Have you been pranked by Norman yet?
A: Oh, hell no! And I’m so glad. He and Andy are always doing that stuff. He got those glitter bombs, and I can’t stand glitter. That’s my biggest pet peeve in the world. If glitter is anywhere near me, I get real uncomfortable. There’s no getting rid of it. It’s there for years!
Read an interview with Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
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