'Walking Dead' Dissection: Michael Cudlitz on Abraham, His Mission and What's Next
The "Southland" alum previews how his character compares to his comic book counterpart, romance with Rosita, Eugene's secret and conflict with Glenn.
[Warning: Major spoilers from episode 410, "Inmates," of AMC's The Walking Dead, as well as the comic book series it's based on.]
Fans of AMC's The Walking Dead -- and the comic series on which it is based -- can finally rejoice as the zombie drama welcomed three of its newest castmembers Sunday.
Abraham (Southland's Michael Cudlitz), Eugene (Retired at 35's Josh McDermitt) and Rosita (Twilight's Christian Serratos) arrived in the final scene of "Inmates," surprising Tara (Alanna Masterson) after she had killed a horde of walkers and saved an exhausted Glenn (Steven Yeun) from becoming zombie bait. (For a full recap and analysis of what Abraham's introduction means for the series, click here.)
The trio -- well-known to die-hard Walking Dead comics fans -- entered the series with style as the show re-created the 53rd issue of Robert Kirkman's comics that marked the first appearance of Abraham, a former Army sergeant turned sports coach, his love interest, Rosita, and Eugene, the high school science teacher who travels along with them.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Cudlitz to discuss how Abraham's arrival changes the fabric of the series, where the group may be heading next and how the new castmembers will compare to their comic book counterparts.
How did you prepare for the role? Were you a fan of the comics and the series before your casting?
I didn't know the comics at all. When I heard that the show was being done -- I was sent the pilot [before the show was cast] -- I remember reading it and telling my wife that I read about 27 pages with no dialogue. It was awesome. The pilot was fantastic and I was doing Southland at the time and reading it more for pleasure since we didn't know the fate of our show at the time and I didn't know if I'd be available to audition for it or if there was anything in it that I'd be right for. I was a fan and later when I got cast, I caught up and introduced myself to the comics. [Showrunner] Scott M. Gimple told me that Abraham's backstory would closely resemble Abraham in the comics, so that was a great place to start my research. A lot of things happen in the comic that affect how he operates and how he moves through this world and the decisions he makes. A lot of that is ripped directly from the comics, as well as the whole chunk of time where the comic left off and where we meet them now. There are some elements that they've introduced that will make Abraham's backstory that much more tragic.
How similar are Abraham, Rosita and Eugene to their comics counterparts?
All three of those characters are going to seem extremely familiar to those who know the comics. They're almost exact up to the point where we meet them. Where they go from here, we'll all learn that together.
What kind of relationship does Abraham have with Eugene and Rosita? That first arrival seemed like they were very loyal to him.
Eugene is the package -- he's the mission and he has to be protected. I've trained them all to whatever ability they have to be trained to. And Abraham is in a romantic, sexual relationship with Rosita; she's his partner -- Eugene, not so much! (Laughs.)
We know from the comics that Eugene has lied about knowing what caused the zombie epidemic and is leading them to Washington, D.C. How quickly will we learn where these three are going and why?
By the next episode, you'll get all the answers to where they're going and why. You know they're headed for Washington but the audience will learn all that in the next episode as to where they're going, why they think they're going there, what information Eugene has and that Abraham and Rosita believe him. There is no subtlety in it. It's this wonderful expositional moment that's literally ripped out of the comics where you meet these people, learn who they are as individuals and what they need from anyone else -- and you better f---ing be on board, because you don't have a choice!
What do these characters bring to the series? How will their arrival change the fabric of the show?
Between the three, there's this sibling dynamic. They have been traveling in a small group for a while and were part of a larger group and we'll learn more about that later. Something happened with [Abraham] in the military; and a lot of shit has happened to the point that they've been diluted and reduced down to these three. There's this bickering, strange hierarchy and weird group dynamic that we have not seen before. There are a lot of things that when you look at them from the outside make them seem like a massively dysfunctional family. There are going to be some moments where you're laughing at these people and the choices they're making and the way they're handling each other. That's not something that you've done a lot of during the previous episodes of The Walking Dead. There aren't a lot of light moments that happen, but they bring that in.
What can you say about this mission they're on? Do they still have hope for this world?
They have a bigger mission that they're on. They're not locked in this day-to-day rhetorical self-examination of life and what does it all mean. You take one of Abraham's lines from the series and he says, "You know what we're doing here: If it's dead, f---ing kill it." They don't discuss it, talk about their feelings and what they should do or if they should take a vote. Abraham is more like, "By the time you all have your f---ing meeting, I'll have handled it already." They are not a Boy Scout Troop.
He seems like a much different leader than we've seen on the series so far.
Yes. He's a sergeant and he's a very typical sergeant; he's not the guy who designs the entire plan -- he's the guy who will execute an element of it and do it immediately without question. He's not necessarily someone who is going to be the king -- or someone you'd even want to be the king -- he's the guy you'd want as your first, the guy leading a section of a larger plan. Ultimately, he's good for [Rick's] group because there are a lot of reluctant leaders and people doing what they have to do. Abraham is a leader by nature; he's not reluctant about it. There's no question in his ability or willingness to do what he has to do. Because of what happened to him prior to his arrival, he has nothing else left. He's balls-in everything he does!
Glenn and Tara are the first ones to interact with Abraham. What will their next exchange look like? Does he trust new people?
When Abraham first meets them, he sees two extremely capable people who just killed a lot of walkers. Obviously they know what they're doing -- to an extent -- and they're warm bodies. And Abraham needs more people. He doesn't look at them as a threat or not a threat because there's arrogance to him as well. He's never threatened by anyone -- because he could kill anyone. He's ready for them to get on board.
Glenn is on his own mission to find Maggie, while Abraham's group has their mission to D.C. Will this be something they clash over? Abraham -- considering his romance with Rosita -- knows the value of love in this new world. Could that be something they bond over?
Sounds like conflict! Sounds like two groups want two different things! Abraham seems to stop for them but I don't know if Glenn needs him. (Laughs.) Everything you mentioned gets explored. In a way, there's a dilemma with Abraham because he does need and want more people but he can't force anyone to be with him because he's not the boss of anybody. It's a weird dynamic, but he does understand Glenn's loss. We specifically go into the loss that Glenn is experiencing. That's the chink in the armor. There's an understanding that's reached and it's interesting because as an alpha Cro-Magnon dude, there's a lot to Abraham that you'd not expect that the show will be going into. Abraham is someone you want to care about.
The series has a lot of strong and opinionated men right now: Daryl, who isn't in the comics, Tyreese and Rick. How might the four of them get along?
We're going to have to see about that! You've never seen a world where Abraham and Tyreese have existed together.
In the comics, Abraham arrives after Tyreese's death. Should fans of the TV series be worried for Tyreese?
This isn't Star Trek. We didn't have to worry that Captain Kirk might die. Guess what? Captain Kirk might just die on you [on this show]. That being said, I think everybody has to worry about dying every week. You should expect things that you don't expect.
What can you reveal about Terminus? Will the survivors find a new sanctuary this season? Or does Abraham only have D.C. in his sights?
He's on his mission and the rest is the rest. The mission always comes first. It may be helped or hindered by these other elements, but the mission is always the most important thing to Abraham.
He's not looking for a prison of his own to start over?
Nope. He's going to D.C.
What do you think about Abraham? Hit the comments below with your thoughts on his arrival and what you're looking forward to seeing. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.