Warning: This post contains storyline and character spoilers for this week's episode of The Walking Dead.
The losses keep coming this season on The Walking Dead, but the arrival of TWD comic book favorite Aaron — played by Ross Marquand — offers hope, not only that Rick and his friends have found a trustworthy new friend, but maybe that there's even a new home, an actual sanctuary (RIP, Gareth), in their future.
Marquand, who Mad Men viewers may remember as the face of Paul Newman in Season 6's "The Flood," talks to Yahoo TV about where Aaron is leading Rick's group, shooting that grueling "zombie car wash" scene, and bonding with his co-stars over Matthew McConaughey impersonations.
Aaron is the first gay character introduced into the series, and that's been a big topic among fans, since there was speculation that Daryl might be gay. Do you feel any extra responsibility? He and his boyfriend Eric are introduced in this episode in a really sweet scene.
I think you hit on something there; I think there is a responsibility. Whether I'm playing a gay character or a straight character or any other type of character, it's important that we acknowledge the fanbase and make sure that it is the most honorable depiction of these characters within the world of the comics, and within the world of this show, because they expect certain things and we want to portray them honorably and believably.
Hopefully, the overarching feeling that people get from Aaron and Eric is that they have a great deal of love for each other. It's a relationship like any other. Even during this very trying time in this awful existence that now everyone is forced to be a part of, what really matters at the end of the day is relationships and how people communicate with each other, how people love each other, how people find new ways of discovering hope in a world that seemingly has none. That, I think, is the thing that I'm most interested in conveying: the love and the relationship that is clearly present there.
When Judith started crying the minute Aaron walked into the barn, it was clear this wasn't going to go smoothly for him, and that he might be on the receiving end of Rick's punch, just like in the comics.
[Laughs.] Right, right.
What was your experience filming that scene, with it being your first official introduction to everyone?
I hesitate to speak of myself as in the third person, but I went into that scene not only as Aaron, but as Ross, and since I'm coming to a new environment as an actor on that show that I am very anxious to become a part of and very anxious to honor and respect, I used that for Aaron. I channeled all of that nervous energy into the character. I just said, "OK, use that, because in this scene you may very well end up with a bullet in your head, or at least a machete."
There's a great deal of pressure on Aaron to remain cool and calm while also explaining why he's there. There's no logical reason for this clean-cut, affable man to be coming to them out of nowhere in the woods and then all of sudden giving them this pitch that, frankly, especially based on their previous experiences, seems too good to be true... especially once he showed them the pictures of the community he's offering. It almost seems like something comical, because how could a place like this exist in this day and age and this time that we're living in?
You mentioned Aaron's appearance. Were your co-stars jealous that you were walking around in these nice clean outfits, and they're walking around covered in dirt and blood?
Not at all. In fact, one of the things that I've learned about almost everyone who works on that show is that they love being covered in dirt and having the freedom to have sweat stains and have blotchy skin and dirt on your arms. Because there is a pressure, usually as an actor, to look a certain way and dress a certain way. There's no pressure to look glamorous when you're walking through the zombie apocalypse.
OK, so were you jealous of them because you weren't getting your hands dirty yet?
Absolutely, yeah. That was a real joy, as the episode goes on, that Aaron gets dragged kicking and screaming at some point, and he really is kind of run through a test as an initiation into their group. He certainly has to go through a lot of trials to gain their trust. Even at the end of the episode, there's still a great deal of uncertainty about who Aaron is, whether or not he can be trusted, and also what sort of realm is he introducing them to. Is it a good place? Is it a place that they actually will have longevity in? Will they acclimate, or will they be ostracized?
Using his word — which Aaron also uses in the comics — he's "auditioning" for them as much as they're auditioning for him.
You did get to play in that great car scene: the zombie car wash.
That's what we called it, actually, on set. Because we shot that... it was a 14 or 15-hour day. By halfway through it, I don't remember is it was Steven [Yeun] or Andy [Lincoln] that came up with that, but they said this is the "zombie car wash" scene: the four of us in that car, driving through zombies and having various parts of their bodies splatter all over the place.
It was exhausting, to be honest, because you're trying to give as much as you can from an expression standpoint, and having that horror on your face for 12 or 14 hours straight, you begin to hyperventilate after a few takes, because it is rather terrifying to be in that car and see all this stuff unfold around you. It was not a pleasing sight for any of us. But it was certainly one of the most fun scenes I've ever shot.
Michonne is very excited about Aaron and what he says he can offer, until she sees that there are no people in any of his photos. That is suspicious...
Absolutely. That's a red flag for anybody who is looking at those pictures, and it's great that she has that moment in the car where she acknowledges that of all the pictures that she's rifling through, there's not a single one that has the community members that he is describing. He gives an explanation, but I think it's going to be up to them, Rick and the group, to decide if that's an answer they can live with going into the gates.
Before the group shoves off for Alexandria after the RV breaks down, Rick stashes a gun in an old blender. Can we assume that gun had a purpose, and that we'll see it again?
I think with everything on this show, there's a specific purpose for every frame. I can't speak to what that purpose is, because I don't know. But I think, like with all shows on AMC, really, there's not a frame wasted, and there's a constant awareness that people are going to be paying attention to every one of those frames and speculating, so it's important that they are smart about what they put out there.
Have your TWD co-stars asked you to launch into any of your celebrity impersonations on set?
They have. Alanna [Masterson] was the first one who discovered that. She recognized me from one of my videos. It's funny. Sometimes you have to feel out the mood, because not everyone wants, and myself included, to hear impressions all the time. If there's ever a day where people are feeling a little lethargic or whatnot, sometimes they'll ask me to do some of that. I'm happy to do it, because it makes them smile and I enjoy doing them.
Do they have favorites?
I think Christian [Serratos]'s favorite is Kevin Spacey. Steven has asked if I could help him with a Matthew McConaughey... we've been working on that together. He actually is a pretty good impressionist in his own right. It's just hilarious that a show with this somber a tone has a group of people that are as light and funny and sweet as they all are.
So levity is very welcome on the set, with all these intense storylines?
Yeah, I think if you let this material get to you... I remember Lauren [Cohan] was saying that she let it get to her a little bit last year, and it can get to you in a very personal way. It can depress you a little bit. At the end of the day, I think you have to acknowledge that we are all sensitive people. We need to take care of ourselves from a physical, but also a mental standpoint. It's so important to remain light and loose on that set, because otherwise you'll get hurt, for one thing, physically. Whenever you're tight like that, that's always when you get the most prone to injury. But also for your mental well-being, it's just so important to come to set everyday and have a good time, have some fun with it.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.