Milton, played by Dallas Roberts, was one of the few people the Governor seemed to trust, but after Milton spilled some secrets to Andrea and barbecued the Gov's walker pit, it's safe to say that his days in Woodbury, or anywhere, could be numbered.
Roberts, whom viewers also know from his gigs on "The Good Wife," "The L Word," and another AMC drama, "Rubicon," talked to Yahoo! TV about how the season finale sheds more light on Milton's mysterious past, why his character finally lashed out at Rick Grimes's enemy, and why he can muster up some sympathy for his apocalypse leader; and he also talked about his (many) other upcoming TV and movie projects.
Congratulations -- you made it to the season finale, which certainly wasn't a sure thing, since Milton had just started to stand up to the Governor.
Yes, exactly. Often the best way to survive an episode is to not be in it. (Laughs)
We're still a little worried for Milton, though, after his bold moves against the Governor. Obviously you can't spoil anything, but will we see Milton in the season finale?
Yeah, you'll most certainly see Milton again. He's made it clear to the Governor that it's going to go one way or the other. Yeah, we'll see which way that is.
What was his main motivation for finally standing up to his pal Phillip? Andrea told him when he said that he belonged in Woodbury that he needed to take some action if he was going to stay. Was that his main motivator, or has he finally just decided that the Governor has gone too far?
It's a tricky line. Milton is seeing the Governor preparing this room for the torture of Michonne. In fact, we went back and forth about that with the producers. Like, if someone came into my brother's house and stabbed his eye out and killed his daughter in front of him, I probably would help him build the torture room and assist in the torturing of that individual.
Milton has lived in an uncomfortable detente with the Governor in terms of the brutality necessary to have Woodbury survive. The Governor is starting to put his personal vendettas above the greater good of the populace. I think that's when Milton decided to go, "Hey, maybe we should get back to the idea we had at the beginning, which was to create this community that's going to survive this situation."
You just touched on something interesting, and Milton is the only character who's really reminded us of it; but although obviously the Governor has gone way over the line, it's not like he doesn't have good reason to hate Michonne. He asked Milton, 'Do you believe there's some of the original life, personality, left in the walkers?' And if you do believe that, then Michonne did kill his daughter. And took his eye out.
Yeah. And she did it by sneaking into his house and by, to my understanding, and just as an audience member -- Milton doesn't know half of what went on between them, except he knows that she did that -- that was a relatively unprovoked attack. He hadn't done anything necessarily bad except for maybe talking Andrea into staying. So, yeah, there is some justification for his wanting to get her back in that room, Michonne.
We know little things about Milton that we've learned throughout the season: that he telecommuted, that he knew the Governor well enough to believe that there's still something good in him. Will we find out more backstory in the season finale?
Yes. That's the fun part about long-form television, is that you get a chance to build over the course of hours and years a relationship with characters. That's much more true to the way you experience people in real life. You meet them at a party, and you hang out for a couple of hours. Then you don't see them for two weeks, and then you meet them again and you see them for an hour or so. You just learn more and more about them. So it's been fun to roll out Milton's story in drips that way.
Was it more fun for you to create this character in this hugely popular show, as one of the few characters who is original to the series?
Yeah, he's not in the comic book, which was liberating in that, you know, people who are fans of the comics, they will pop up on message boards. I don't tend to read a whole lot about this, but it's hard to avoid with a show this popular. They have definite opinions about, like, "Oh, this character would never do that, or this character should definitely do that." Luckily, no one knows what Milton should do because I'm telling them what he does. (Laughs)
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Were you a fan of the comics and/or the TV show before you joined the cast?
Both. I did a show for AMC several years ago called "Rubicon."
Great show, and you were fantastic in it.
Oh, thank you, thank you so much. Miles, my character there, was into comic books. He had assorted comic books on his bookshelf in his office. I started to read comics as a result of that. I wasn't really into them as a kid. I found them as a late-30-something, 40-year-old guy. Just the artistry available is amazing. And then ["The Walking Dead" creator Robert] Kirkman's particular style and the black and white and the bleakness of it, and the tension of it, I found really gripping. Like the binge watching of TV goes these days with DVR, I binge-read the entire comic series up to that point. So it's been fun to be a part of that.
How did your role on the show come about?
It was an audition for "The Walking Dead." It was an audition for a nerdy scientist type who is more comfortable with his books than with people. I put myself on tape with a scene that never existed in the actual script. They'll write these fake scenes to audition people with, because they don't want to give away plot points, obviously. And then I sent it off into the abyss that is putting yourself on tape. And in this instance they called back and said, "We'd love to have you be a part of it." I hit the ceiling jumping for joy and shipped myself off to Atlanta.
What was that like, joining in? Everyone in the cast always talks about how it's a family atmosphere on set. But what is that like, jumping in after it's established for a couple of seasons?
Well, you certainly know that you are entering something that exists and has existed. Three years ago, nobody there thought that this was going to be this big. I'm not sure you could have dreamed that it would be this big. So, for them to all go through that with each other I'm sure creates a real heavy bond. You know that when you step on the set the first day that you are not a part of that family yet. (Laughs) I took my time. Milton exists in the Woodbury side of things. "The Walking Dead," most of it, as I knew it before, they're on the prison side of things. It felt like there was Merle and there was Andrea, but then it felt like me and the Governor and Martinez and those people, we were making our own show across the river.
Given everything that's happened this season with Lori's death, and last week with Merle's death, and just the crazy revelations about the Governor, how insane does the season finale get?
I don't think anybody… It's safe to say with all the previews of [the finale] coming out that the war that we've been building up to, you are not going to leave disappointed about that. The writers are great at their job. And the showrunners, they didn't set you up to not knock it down. They are going to knock it out of the park.
Is it a cliffhanger, or a lot of resolution? Do we get a little of both?
Yeah. I have to choose my words carefully here. But it is something that's going to leave you satisfied and wanting more, if there is such a thing.
NEXT: Roberts on returning to "The Good Wife" and joining "Unforgettable"...
You are so busy right now … what can you tell me about your role on "Unforgettable," which you're joining as a regular cast member this summer?
Yeah. I'm really excited about that. I've been hanging around CBS for a little while with "The Good Wife" and "Elementary" -- I did the pilot of that. Yeah, I'm really excited to shoot in New York and to play a cop, which I've never played before. I'm fascinated by that condition around which the show is based, with [Carrie, played by Poppy Montgomery] and her incredible memory.
And you're playing a cop, or a detective who works with her?
I think he's less a cop-cop and more of a connected guy in New York City with some aspirations toward power, who has basically pitched the idea that, post 9/11, a lot of agencies -- the FBI, and Department of Homeland Security, and Terrorism Task Force -- they were allowed to take over the jurisdiction of Manhattan and New York City for obvious reasons, but that what we've lost is, the NYPD has taken a backseat. And his pitch is that the NYPD doesn't have to take a backseat to anyone. He comes in and culls from New York's finest and creates a major-crimes unit of which Poppy and the people who you have come to love from Season 1, they get assimilated into his all star, his supergroup of New York cops.
You are returning to "The Good Wife" this season, too?
Yes, I just finished shooting the episode that I'll be in. It's always fun for Owen to come and love Alicia and bother her and make her life interesting. That's just one of those extraordinary fortunes that I get to do that part every now and again. I get to lift the veil and turn Alicia into a big sister rather than everything else that she is.
What will Owen be up to this time?
Owen is there … basically, I can't say much about the function that he serves. But it was really fun to play, because he is changing his ideas a little bit during it. It was surprising to me, and hopefully will be to the viewers as well.
And you are also in "Dallas Buyer's Club," the movie with Matthew McConaughey, about Ron Woodroof, a man who illegally imported AIDS medication. Who is your character in the movie?
I play the lawyer for Ron, the Matthew McConaughey character. It's based on true events. He was at the forefront of getting drugs that were unapproved by the FDA in the hands of sick people and making them better. When you do that before the FDA approves it, you've got legal problems. I'm there to help him with his legal problems.
They were pretty significant legal problems, too, right, because he was bringing things in from other countries?
Yeah, he was effectively smuggling drugs across the border. Yeah, so there's some legal issues there.
It's a fascinating story. Have you seen any of the finished film?
No, I haven't seen anything yet. We finished it right before the end of 2012, like in December of 2012. So I'm sure they are still chopping it up and color correcting and doing all the magic things they do with it after I let it go.
The Season 3 finale of "The Walking Dead" airs Sunday, 3/31 at 9 PM on AMC.