Warning: This interview contains storyline and character spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 6.
It’s been an interesting summer for The Walking Dead’s Michael Cudlitz, whose ginger-haired (and bearded) Abraham Ford had an especially eventful evolution in Season 6, finding true love and contemplating starting a family with Sasha — before, of course, joining his friends in Negan’s semicircle of doom in the season finale.
Abraham also continued to bring the funny in Season 6, with his query to Glenn about whether Maggie had intentionally gotten pregnant: “When you were pouring the Bisquick, were you trying to make pancakes?” The quip became one of his most quotable lines ever and spurred Cudlitz to start a series of fan-convention food drives, which have resulted in thousands of pounds of donations to food banks across the country.
On the flip side, Cudlitz’s appearance at several Walker Stalker Conventions since the Season 6 finale left us all hanging last April has meant he is asked hundreds of times a day who is at the business end of Negan’s barbed-wire bat. No worries, though … If there’s anyone in The Walking Dead cast who can handle the spoiler-seekers, it’s Cudlitz. The actor talked to Yahoo TV about his character’s arc in Season 6, his other favorite Abraham moments and quotes, Abraham’s complicated love life and hopes for the future, his Bisquick philanthropy, and how, even after hundreds, probably thousands, of queries, he won’t be tricked into spilling the goods about Season 7. And, yes, he knows you think he might be Negan’s victim.
Yahoo TV: Abraham had so many big, funny, and dramatic moments in Season 6. Did you feel like this was his best season ever?
Michael Cudlitz: I think in Season 6, he had the most complete arc that he’s ever had. In the other seasons, I thought there were arcs, but they were arcs that only went over a couple of episodes. This was the most complete change in direction of Abraham’s ship and defining moments that would push him through to where he was headed next. With his ending his relationship with Rosita, with trying to define in his own head what his relationship was or wanted to be with Sasha … Even if he couldn’t be with Sasha, he knew he still could not be with Rosita.
Then relinquishing that almost father role, caretaker role, with Eugene, knowing that Eugene had finally grown up. That wonderful scene in the [season finale], the scene where I said goodbye to Eugene and let him go, because he had finally turned into the soldier that he had always wanted to be. He was able to do something for the group that was completely outside of himself. I think it was a very, very hard moment for Abraham, but also a very proud moment, for him to see what Eugene had become. I think this show does that really well. It shows that people, generally speaking, will step up and do what they have to do when they have to do it.
It’s interesting what you just said about Abraham and Rosita, that even if Abraham hadn’t started a relationship with Sasha, even if he hadn’t pursued it or it hadn’t worked out, that he wasn’t going to stay with Rosita.
Yeah, I think their relationship was one of convenience for both of them. I think there’s a very strong love there, but it has turned into almost a familial love. He’s seeing her less and less as a lover. You see that when he’s lying in bed. The sex is great, he’s not going to deny that, but he sees that she is so much more in love with him than he is with her. I think that hurts him because he feels that she deserves better than him.
The way he broke up with Rosita seemed cold and abrupt, but was it the only way he could get through it?
I think with his skill set, it was the only way he could do it. Look, he tried to say, “I’m leaving. It’s over.” She’s like, “Why? Why? Why? Why?” He just snaps — because he doesn’t have the words. He can’t explain it like I can explain it. It’s not part of who he is. It’s not in his makeup. He falls back to the only thing he can, which is, “If I’m really mean to her, she’ll go away.” It’s brutal. It’s horrible. It’s mean. It’s probably the most wrong thing he could say, but it’s effective.
How long do you think Abraham has been interested in Sasha? Is that why he got in the car with her in the Season 6 premiere, when they’re Pied Pipering the walkers away from Alexandria? Even if you go back to Season 5, at Deanna’s party, when they have that conversation, do you think his feelings go back that far?
I think it sneaks up on him. I think the whole thing sneaks up on him. He may know subconsciously, but on the surface, no. There’s no plan to get in the car, other than he identifies with her and thinks that he can help her. He’s seen soldiers that have gone through PTSD, and he knows what she needs, when really it’s the opposite. He’s the one who’s going through the trauma, and he actually needs her. I think that we subconsciously seek out what we need. In any event, I do not think that he was at all aware that this was what the future would hold at that point.
When do you think it hit him? During their time together in the insurance office?
Yeah. I think it was on the bridge where he realized, it hit him. He literally puts his gun down and confronts death and goes hand-to-hand with death and realizes, “What am I doing?” Up until that moment, he has nothing left to live for, so he really is making reckless choices. He does not care at that point if he dies. Then what he realizes is that it does matter. He has a tremendous amount to live for.
He tells Sasha he’s thinking about his future, he’s going to make some moves, and he does. He breaks up with Rosita, he starts the relationship with Sasha. Do you think the next step in his mind is that he is thinking about having a family with Sasha?
Absolutely. Yeah, that’s the question. He doesn’t know how to use the big boy words all the time, but that’s the question he’s really trying to process when he’s asking Glenn about the Bisquick. The question really is, Did Maggie get pregnant by accident or were you guys trying to get pregnant? He needs to understand why you would try to get pregnant. I think it’s because he actually thinks, “I want to have kids.” He needs someone to help walk him through “Why do I think I want to have kids? This is the stupidest idea I’ve ever had. I’m usually pretty logical about this s***. Why the hell would you want to have kids? I’m going to go to one of the smartest people I know, who is Glenn, and I’m going to ask him, 'Were you trying?’ OK, so you were planning. OK, so I’m not crazy. It’s being confirmed because you’re confirming it kinda … I’m going to keep talking, because we’re going to figure this out.”
He eventually does. It’s wonderful, and it’s disjointed, and it’s completely nonlinear, and he’s a f***ing hot mess, Abraham.
Going back to the Bisquick storyline and Abraham’s instant classic Bisquick quote: You’ve turned that one line into very successful food drives at fan events. Have you sparked literally tons of food donations at this point?
Yes. I think we did a thousand pounds of food at the last food drive … We do them in every city now in conjunction with Walker Stalker Con. I don’t do them at every convention because with Walker Stalker Con, we have a mechanism in place where we go into the city beforehand [and] we find a really highly rated food bank organization, typically one that is a feeder to other, smaller food banks. They come in on the Sunday after we leave, and they scoop up everything that we have collected.
I was approached on social media, where someone had said, “Oh my gosh, you’re going to get so much Bisquick this weekend” at a convention. I thought, “Oh, that’s not good. I can’t bring a lot of stuff back. What am I going to do with this?” Then I thought, “Hey, you know what? Bring it. Bring as much as you want. As a matter of fact, we’re going to see if we can turn this into a food drive, ha-ha-ha.” It was a joke to start off. The first weekend that we did it, it was huge. Every weekend has been bigger since. General Mills is involved. They send 300 to 400 boxes of Bisquick to every event that we do, so no matter what, the food banks in every city are going to get at least that. The fans have done a tremendous job and put in tremendous effort to more than match that. If you go on my Twitter feed, you can see all the boxes on the tables. It’s just crazy. We’ve opened it up to canned foods as well, not just Bisquick, any non-perishables, anything that you would find at a food bank that you could donate. The fan response has been amazing.
What were some of your other favorite Abraham moments and lines from Season 6?
I think the moment, I spoke already on this, the moment I say goodbye to Eugene. And the moment of confrontation with Eugene in the foundry.
“Timmy almost ate your face”?
Yup. “You know how to bite a dick, Eugene.” [And] “That’s just the way s*** is.” I love, I call it my “say anything” moment, when Abraham is standing out in front of Sasha’s house, just standing there waiting for her to come out. I loved that moment. I love working with Sonequa [Martin-Green]. Any of the scenes with the women, just good. And the last scene, in the finale, in the semicircle, everyone just doing terrific work. For those two nights, on their knees, just raw. It was awesome.
I’m not going to ask you because I’m sure you have been asked for spoilers…
Baby Judith. It’s Baby Judith!
But how are you handling that, the constant hunt for spoilers this summer? Do you think anybody expects you’re really going to answer that question?
I don’t even think they hope that you answer it. I think in the back of their minds, they think that you’re going to slip up and say who it may or may not be. I get asked probably a hundred times a day during a convention. Almost every person asks. They usually preface it with, “I know you’re not going to tell me, but who…” “Just tell me it wasn’t you.” Or, “I know who it is. I know it’s Michonne.” Or, “Man, that’s f***ed up. Everyone’s going to go crazy because Daryl is dead.” They want a reaction. You go on the Interweb, and it’s a tremendous amount of speculation and guesses. It’s just like, “No, we’re not telling you anything now. Get over it.”
So how do you respond?
I respond differently because the question is always different in how they ask it. They’ll say, “Who died?” And I’ll say, “Everyone.” They’ll say, “Who dies?” I’ll say, “Baby Judith.” They’ll say, “I know you’re dead.” I’ll say, “OK. OK, you know.” They’re like, “No, no, tell me who!” Guess what? You don’t get to know, and you don’t know. Anything anyone is reporting out there is pure speculation unless they are getting information from someone who is in the cast or who is working for the company. If that’s the case, then they’re f***ing a**holes anyway. You just ruined it for people who don’t want to know.
The Walking Dead: The Complete Sixth Season debuts on Blu-ray and DVD on Aug. 23 from Anchor Bay Entertainment.