October 25, 2016

Q&A: The Fallen of the Season 7 Premiere (SPOILERS)

Q&A: The Fallen of the Season 7 Premiere (SPOILERS)

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Q: How far in advance did you know that Abraham would be Negan’s victim? Has this been one of the biggest secrets you’ve ever had to keep?

Michael Cudlitz (Abraham): Next to my wife being pregnant, this is probably one of the biggest secrets I’ve kept. This might surprise everyone, but I knew as far back as last August [in 2015]. I had a conversation with [Executive Producer/Showrunner] Scott Gimple and he said, “We’re not exactly sure how it’s going to fold out but towards the end of Season 6 or the beginning of 7, we’re thinking we’re going to say goodbye to him. We’re not positive. It can go either way.” I’m a fan of the show and I had a sense that we were coming to this part of the story. I’ve seen and said goodbye to some of my favorites, so I knew that coming onto the show, there’s definitely an expiration date stamped on the bottom of everybody. That might not sound kind, but I mean that in the nicest sense of the word. Expiration as in your story has been told and other people’s stories will be pushed forward. Obviously, I was bummed because it’s a great working experience, but it wasn’t a surprise. There were no tears or massive sadness – other than the fact that I was finishing up an awesome gig with really cool people, telling creative stories in a fun way. I had a great time working on the show. This kind of atmosphere and dynamic happens rarely. So, to be able to hang out with these guys for two and a half years and artistically spend time with them was awesome. You’re saying goodbye to the job, but when you have the magic that we had with this group, that’s the hard thing to say goodbye to.

Q: What does Abraham’s death represent to the group now that it’s clear they’re under Negan’s rule?

A: It’s many things. Every individual has their own loss for Abraham. For Sasha, it’s a new love. For Eugene, it’s an old friend. For Rosita, it’s a teacher who was extremely important to her path. It’s a strong leader for everyone else. I think as a group, taking out one of the physically strongest links shows that Negan is literally not f—king around. There’s no negotiation. Rick knows that it’s over, man. In this moment of time, it’s over. The group is reacting emotionally and Rick is broken down completely. The only way he can look at it is in a very logical way – that if he f-cks around, this guy will kill his son and more people in the group until he kills them all. Rick’s mission has always been to keep everybody alive. So it’s the idea of him realizing that, in a lot of ways, it’s because of his 

Q: Do you truly believe Negan chose him purely based off his random game of “eeny meeny miny moe”?

A: I think he saw him as a strong person to take out. I think in the middle of it, Abraham basically said “f-ck you” to him by standing up to him. As much as he’d want a strong soldier like Abraham, Negan wasn’t going to let that go. He’s very smart in his actions.

Q: What was your reaction to Abraham’s “suck my nuts” comment to Negan right before he dies? Were you proud he stuck that one last quip in there?

A: [Laughs] Hopefully, it has the impact as intended. The placement of it is interesting and I love that even in death, he’s very aware. I think he’s truly Abraham right until the end.

Q: What about Abraham’s “peace” sign to Sasha? Was that his way of saying goodbye?

A: I will take credit on this. We were trying to figure out a way to have a connection and a goodbye between Abraham and Sasha, but the problem was that they had already shot and aired the last episode where they showed the point-of-view of him never turning away from Negan. He never turned his head, so in order to put that in there, we would have had to mess with time and with what the audience had already seen. There was no honest way for us to have a moment with Sasha and Abraham that we so desperately wanted. Scott had written in a look to her and then he called me said he had to take it out. So, we were debating on what to do and it just wasn’t working. On the day we were going to shoot, I had the idea – or the epiphany as it were – to show her that peace sign without taking my eyes off Negan. She’d know it was for her. I remember doing it and asking, “Did you get it?! Did you guys get it?!” [Laughs]

Q: Did you film that scene of Rick’s fantasy about the group sitting down and eating dinner together before or after your death scene?

A: I don’t remember if we did it before or after, but I feel like it was after. The interesting thing is when you see an episode air, it seems like it’s just one moment in time but it’s not. We jump forward in time, shoot certain segments and then go back and shoot other segments. I was out there for the first three episodes and then four weeks later, I went back out to shoot a reaction shot and I had to be a part of the death again. So, it doesn’t happen the way it does for the audience and the impact for us is a much more elongated process.

It was all a part of saying goodbye. One of the cool things was that knowing that I was leaving the show loaded loaded the scenes with Abraham breaking up with Rosita because we knew that was going to be one of the last times we’d work together, even though it was in the middle of Season 6. So us “breaking up” was also us saying goodbye and not working with each other anymore. Abraham sending Eugene off and Eugene choosing to go off in the motor home was me saying goodbye to working with Josh [McDermitt]. Those scenes got better, I think, because of the circumstances and we were able to load the emotion into the subtext of what was going on. It helped inform the weight of what we were going through and ultimately helped make the scene better.

Q: What’s it like on the other side of the show now? What are you looking forward to seeing in the new season from a fan’s POV?

A: I’m looking forward to seeing how they justify telling the story from this point forward with any sort of pushback from our group when they’ve already shown that Negan will kill anyone. I’m curious to see if the group will fight back and how they’d do that without risking everyone getting killed. Or does everybody get killed? I haven’t been around. I mean, this could be the bloodiest season ever and we could lose very motherf-cker on the show! [Laughs] Also, seeing what lasting impact my character has had, how he’s referenced, any information he’s parted, and the pain or anger people have and might use to respond.

Q: Let’s end on a lighter note: What was the most fun moment you had on set during your years with the show?

A: For intense as the scenes are, there is a lot of lightness in between. I do remember the moment I really arrived on the show. By “arrived,” I mean as an actor who felt comfortable with this big group. I had done the scene with Andrew [Lincoln] in the church in Season 5 where Abraham takes the school bus and Rick stays behind. We were loving the confrontation and it was very heated. We were leaning more into the physical conflict and they were trying to pull us back from that, but the scene kept pulling itself into damn near physical conflict. We just kept getting into it and in-between takes, we kept it really intense. I didn’t really know Andy yet, so the crew thought we were going to just start beating the sh-t out of each other. [Laughs] When we finished up the scene, Andy smiled and gave me this big hug and was like, “Yeah! That’s how you play!” It was the best moment ever. That’s the stuff you take with you for the rest of your life.

Q: Glenn’s death scene is straight out of the comics. What was it like to portray such an iconic moment that many fans know about? What was it like emotionally to film that scene?

Steven Yeun (Glenn): For me, personally, I didn’t want anyone else to take that death and I don’t think anyone intended to give it to anyone else, to be quite honest. It’s such an iconic moment and I knew it was necessary to happen. When I was in it, I was just kind of doing what I was supposed to be doing – just dying and trying to do a good job at it. [Laughs] Who knows if I got even close. I don’t know what it feels like to die, but it was a very unique experience [to film] and a pretty affective moment for me, too. After I took some steps back from it, I really started to process what it was, what it meant, and what it means for me in terms of how much I might have been connected to Glenn.

Q: Michael Cudlitz (Abraham) mentioned knowing way in advance that his character would be killed off. What was the case for you? Was it hard to keep secret?

A: I actually knew from the beginning of Season 6. [Laughs] It was cool. I think I saw the natural progression as it was happening. I talked to [Executive Producer/Showrunner] Scott [Gimple] at the beginning of the year, during our meeting, and I said, “Listen. If this is going to happen, just let me know so I can prepare.” It all worked out that way. It got gnarly near the end because when you mentally cross that threshold and say to yourself, “OK I’m done with this particular chapter now,” to then hold onto it for another full year is pretty rough.

Q: Do you imagine Daryl feels some of the blame for Glenn’s death since his outburst is what caused Negan to claim another victim?

A: I think Daryl did what anybody would have done in that moment – which is fight back – and it just happened to be that it came with other ramifications. I suppose Daryl is the type of person that would shoulder that type of blame. That seems like something that could be in his wheelhouse to feel, but I don’t know if he’s supposed to be blamed for that. That doesn’t seem right to me. He’s a good person and I don’t think he likes to live with things like that.

Q: Glenn’s struggle to say goodbye to Maggie even in death was so heartbreaking…

A: I tried to play it as sincere as you possibly could in a moment where you are just glitching. I think Glenn was fighting to find words and “Maggie, I’ll find you” was a callback to another experience and another time when he really was trying to find her. Maybe it was a subconscious thought or maybe something he held onto for a while that was his driving force, and when he got smashed in the head, it just brought it to the forefront. There are so many ways to look at it.

Q: How does Negan compare to other villains you’ve encountered first-hand on the show (the Governor, Gareth, etc.)?

A: It’s an interesting way to look at the progression of the world because Negan is the culmination of the world at this point. I think the Governor was a culmination of the world at the point that they were at, and it’s the same with Gareth. I think every villain that comes is representative of the temperature of how insane the apocalypse is at the time. You look at the Governor and there’s a sense of order to him with a little bit of dictatorship. When we get to Gareth, there’s a chaotic aspect. With Negan, he’s pure chaos, controlled within one entity. This is the world they live in. It’s ruined them, and that’s where they’re at now.

I got to know Jeffrey Dean Morgan a little bit last season, but we also spent some time together here and there in Atlanta. He came onto this show and knew what he was potentially about to do, and he did it with such grace and honor for those that were going through it. He knew what was going on and was so great to me. Jeff is a class-act dude.

Q: You’re one of the few current cast members who has been on the show literally from day one – the pilot episode. What’s the hardest part about saying goodbye to this project after all these years?

A: I would say that’s essentially the hardest part – you spend so much time with these people, you’ve worked so closely with them, you’ve learned so much and you’ve shared so many incredible experiences. The hardest part for me was saying goodbye to what I knew as reality for seven years. What’s great is that it also formed such amazing bonds that it kind of transcends physically going to work there, but I am going to miss Atlanta and the crew. It was just a wonderful experience.

Q: What’s it like on the other side of the show now? What are you looking forward to seeing in the new season from a fan’s POV?

A: I feel like it’s going to be breaking new ground. The deaths of Glenn and Abraham signify a turning of the tides for what we’re used to seeing. I think that’s going to bring about a whole other section of storytelling that we haven’t gotten to do on our show. I’m excited to see what happens.

Q: Let’s end on a lighter note: What was the most fun moment you had on set during your years with the show?

A: There are so many moments. I don’t know if there’s one singular moment, but I think working with Andrew Lincoln on one of the first days where we got to be covered in guts was a very iconic moment for me. All the scenes with Lauren [Cohan] and Scott [Wilson] were really wonderful. Anytime we all got together and got to do massive scenes together were always very electric and powerful.

Q: And what was your favorite moment as the character?

A: I think the pharmacy scene and the chair scene at the Governor’s compound was the beginning of a different type of Glenn. I think he was coming to terms with who he was and what he was able to do and that life was worth living for. I think meeting Maggie was the beginning of that and protecting her in dire situations was a manifestation of those feelings.

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