As the final few minutes of last week's "Infected" — the second episode of Season 4 — hinted, the new illness threat for the prison dwellers on "The Walking Dead" is likely to turn into a polarizing personal drama in this Sunday's "Isolation," after Tyreese discovered that someone had burned to death his sick girlfriend Karen, along with fellow infection sufferer David.
Watch the scene:
"The Wire" alum Chad Coleman, who plays the shocked and heartbroken Tyreese, recently talked to Yahoo TV about where the season is headed, the tough childhood experiences that inform his portrayal of the beloved comic book and TV character, and about the other comic book character he's itching to play on the big screen.
1. The first two episodes of the season seem to preview that Tyreese will be front-and-center all season ... true?
Oh, absolutely. That was the plan, to bring him in slowly in Season 3 and then really give him the ball, in Season 4, as a series regular. That was what the writers had planned, and everything they said they would do, they're doing. It's awesome.
2. Tyreese had a nice romance going with Karen. How much is that going to impact the rest of the season?
That's a huge step. It's one thing to walk with that humanity and have others' best interest at heart, but it's something else to risk a relationship and that kind of vulnerability. With the protection and the care he has for his sister and other human beings, that's great, but to put your heart out there is a whole other level to it. I love seeing that, because actually, that's as risky as anything else. It speaks to him desperately trying to move on, trying to move forward. She's a pretty woman. She's beautiful and just a beautiful human being. We need that. You see everybody still rooting for Glenn and Maggie. It's nice to see others be able to negotiate that path as well.
3. Season 4 started off so hopefully, so peacefully, but that turned out to be very short-lived. How would you describe the overall tone of the rest of this season?
Everybody's making an honest attempt to create a community that's sustainable, one in which there are things you can begin to appreciate on a smaller level … some sense of normalcy, and hope that we can build a new world, and it starts here. What are the things of value? How do we relate to each other as human beings, in the sense that everybody can identify with and sign on to? People collide anyway, but in these grave situations, and based on what we all have been through, we would hope to be able to put aside pettiness, which really shouldn't exist. We should have a deep appreciation for being at this prison.
[But] you're going to get punched in the gut. It's unpredictability in an epic and gut wrenching way. You're not going to see what's coming. When you see it, it's just going to have you reeling, in a much more epic way. It's bigger. It packs a wallop. It's relentless.
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4. Tyreese is a very powerful character. He's clearly not afraid or unwilling to do anything that needs to be done, but he's also the voice of reason. He's very thoughtful about evaluating how far something needs to be taken before that action is taken, which is such a very subtle attitude to portray. What is your inspiration for that?
For Tyreese, I would have to say it's somewhere in his past. He's seen a lot. He's been exposed to people of wonderful character and morality. I would say you take that in juxtaposition to … I don't know. Maybe he grew up in the inner city, where egregious violence was all over the place, and he just saw that there was no payoff to that. Maybe, being an ex football player, he had a coach, someone like a Tony Dungy, who was able to just reach him and pour into him that kind of pragmatism and that kind of humanity, the value of it. We don't know for sure.
For me personally, it's inherent in me, just my own story, just the level of compassion that was shown to me as a little kid growing up in foster care. Ever since I was five years old, I've never understood why people were mean to each other. I just didn't get it. I didn't get it. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia. I'm telling you, at one point it was the murder capital. I just never understood. I know it feels horrible when people are mean to you. I always just had this thing. I always wanted to get along. It just feels 10 times better getting along with each other. Fairness always mattered to me. I couldn't stand that everywhere, in school, in the Boys Club, there was always somebody trying to intimidate you. It just never sat right with me.
5. It has been such a big part of the comic storyline that Rick and Tyreese form a pretty close friendship. Is that something we might be seeing more of this season?
You might. Anytime I get the opportunity to work opposite Andrew Lincoln, I'm all in, so I hope so, but nothing comes easy. Nothing comes easy in this world. It really doesn't. Everything that you get, you're going to earn it.
6. You were Robert Kirkman's first and only choice to play Tyreese. What was that like to have the guy who created this whole universe say, "Hey, this is the person who should play this role. I created this role, and I'm telling you, this is the guy"?
Huge. Huge, and incredibly humbling, because I hadn't met him. When I was doing the research, I was looking at the content of the comic book. I wasn't researching the creator, so I didn't know what he looked like. He's so humble. He's this big guy, this big wonderful bear of a guy, and he's there on set and just going like, "Hi, I'm Robert." (Laughing) I said, "How are you doing?" And somebody said, "Hey, you know that's the creator." I'm like, "Dude, you're the reason I'm here. You're responsible for me being here!" Yes, that was huge. I was floored by that.
I was also fortunate enough to be able to work on that groundbreaking HBO series, "The Wire," and he's a fan of that show and felt like, "That's the guy," and went to bat for me. Just recently he was telling me the story of how he just kept saying to AMC or whoever else that [said], "Well, we need to see other people" ... "Yeah, yeah, you can see other people, but that's the guy. Yeah, you can see other people, but Chad Coleman. You don't have to see other people. It's Chad Coleman." And it just means an incredible amount to me.
7. Switching gears, your recurring character on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," Z, popped up again earlier this season in "The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award." How did that role come about?
Originally, I auditioned for the guys for a new pilot they had coming out, a new pilot for Fox called "Boldly Going Nowhere." And that was a bad omen. (Laughing) Shouldn't have gone with that title, because it went nowhere. We didn't get picked up, but that's how I was introduced to Charlie, Glenn, and Rob. We formed a friendship, and they were like, "Come on, man. Come over here and do a couple episodes of 'Always Sunny.'" So then when I initially did it, a few seasons back, the character caught on. People seem to really dig it, so they bring me back in.
Coleman on the set of "Always Sunny":
8. Do you particularly enjoy that kind of role when you're playing such a serious role on "The Walking Dead"?
Oh, definitely. We are our instruments. A piano has how many keys and can play how many notes, and most instruments can play how many notes? That's how I feel as an actor. Whenever I get an opportunity to play a different note, it's really, really sweet.
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9. Your name has also been mentioned a lot recently as a possible lead for a Luke Cage movie, and you've said you would definitely be interested in that, especially if it's done in that same kind of smart way Marvel has approached "Iron Man." Anything to report on that front?
No, not at the moment. I'll always man my post, though (laughing), watching and looking, but we have to see when they really get serious about it. And just keep throwing my name in the hat, not unlike the way things went down with Tyreese. There was an online contingent who was voting for me [to play Tyreese], as well as Robert definitely letting them know what his wishes were. So we'll see if we get that groundswell going [for a Luke Cage movie] as well, see if the people want to put it out there like that online.
Watch a preview of Sunday's "Walking Dead":
"The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.