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AMC’s The Walking Dead introduced a long-awaited fan favorite Sunday in Tyreese, a former football pro who stumbles onto the prison where Rick and his group have set up shop.
But he doesn’t come alone — bringing his sister, Sasha and the remains of another family in husband and wife Donna (RIP) and Allen as well as their son, Ben. After Carl rescues the group from a walker attack and leads them into the clear, he ensures to his group’s safety when he locks the newcomers up in their own cell. The move doesn’t go over well with Sasha but her big brother, Tyreese, steps in and sees the prison for what it is: a potential sanctuary.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with The Wire‘s Chad Coleman to discuss playing the beloved character from Robert Kirkman’s long-running zombie drama, how he compares to his comic book counterpart and what’s ahead when The Walking Dead returns in February.
The Hollywood Reporter: Had you read the Walking Dead comics before your audition?
Chad Coleman: I have some knowledge of the comics but I was told not to worry about it as a lot of what we’re going to do is going to be a lot different than the comics and when we need to reference the comic, I have the material available.
THR: How much of the comic character’s back story will be included? How much do you know about him?
Coleman: He’s an ex-football player and is a humanitarian. He’s someone who really values human life and is going to do what he can to maintain the sacredness of that. In this hyper-violent, post-apocalyptic world, he’s determined to hold on to his humanity and that’s pretty compelling. Having to negotiate that and to what degree he’s willing to exert force and things of that nature.
THR: What’s his relationship like with his sister, Sasha?
Coleman: It’s a very loving but she’s very much her own woman and is very comfortable with her convictions but Tyreese is still the big brother it’s a push and pull relationship with the way they go about things. Family is truly everything in this world. Once this thing happened everyone realized that all we have is each other. Whereas in this world it can be warm and fuzzy but we’re not really paying attention, here attention must be paid in the post-apocalyptic world because trust is huge. So who can you trust? You hope you can trust your family.
THR: Compared to some of the other families on the show — Carl and Rick, Beth, Maggie and Hershel, Daryl and Merele — where do Sasha and Tyreese rank?
Coleman: It’s an interesting mix. You saw in the opening of Sunday’s episode that Tyreese has to put her in check; she was unable to see the value of where we were and her focus was on something very real — how human beings treat each other but Tyreese’s focus was on protection and preservation of life and not looking gift horse in the mouth. At the prison, the goal is to try to sustain life and to try and rebuild.
THR: What about with Allen and Ben?
Coleman: They’re another family and we attracted others who were about the preservation of family as well. You’ll see it may get a little contentious, we’ll see (laughs). The best played drama is in family.
THR: Showrunner Glen Mazzara told us Tyreese’s group is the remains of a larger group — where did they come from? What’s their agenda?
Coleman: They were in bunkers down in Jacksonville and came out and everybody was trying to make their way to Atlanta and the CDC thinking that was the way to go and we picked up a number of folks along the way and had our battles as well. We had 25 folks and it dwindled down. That will be addressed. When you see us out there in the woods, they’re at their wit’s end. As much hell as Rick and his group has gone through we have, too.
THR: How will Tyreese’s arrival impact Rick?
Coleman: I can’t say too much, but it’s fireworks, shock and awe — which is par for the course for the show. It’s going to be a fun ride.
THR: What’s the nature of Tyreese’s relationship with Carol? In the comics, they’re an item, with Michonne eventually breaking them up.
Coleman: I can’t say too much but from a personal standpoint, I’d love a love interest. I’m game for that but I can’t say who or how that’s going to unfold. I’d definitely be very much game for that or something interesting and complex where he has to work through something with his character or a sense of who he thought he was, or a reveal to some part of himself that he needs to deal with. Anything along those lines would be really cool for me.
THR: How will Tyreese fit in with everyone at the prison?
Coleman: A lot of it is being acted upon, people get right off the bat that he’s strong, intelligent, and compassionate — those are all great leadership qualities. And he’s a patient man. He’s got all the leadership qualities but the last aspect of that is how to negotiate what’s coming at you. So we’ll see (laughs).
THR: In the promo for the February return, Carl suggests to Rick that he reconsider his place as the leader of the group. Might that be something Tyreese could take over?
Coleman: That I can’t say, that’d be stepping into waters above my pay grade and I can’t really intimate anything like that. That’s pretty heavy, but stay tuned. Personally as Tyreese, I’d love that. But I can’t say that that is going to be a reality.
THR: How does your experience on The Walking Dead — which has now completed production on season three — compare to the Wire?
Coleman: This is the second time that I’ve had an opportunity to experience something so rare where we are a family and I’ve been invited in the family with Sonequa Martin-Green, Daniel Thomas May (Allen) and Tyler Chase (Ben) and from top to bottom, they’re the most authentic, open, loving, intelligent, dynamic and creative people I’ve been around. It does harken back to The Wire and Sonequa gives me a lot of “stuff” about it (laughs). This is rarified air and that was rarified air. s he’s always saying every five minutes this is rarified air and that was rarified air.
THR: When The Walking Dead gets its expected fourth-season renewal, could we expect Tyreese to be a part of that?
Coleman: (Laughs) I’ll be with The Walking Dead for as long as they’ll have me. I’d play Tyreese at 80 if they allowed it.
Are you looking forward to seeing more of Tyreese’s back story? Hit the comments with your thoughts. The Walking Dead returns Feb. 10 on AMC.
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