The first thing you probably notice about Sgt. Abraham Ford is his mustache. Because it is awesome. But you will be noticing a lot more about him when season 5 of The Walking Dead kicks off on Oct. 12. We already know Abraham is intent on getting Eugene to Washington D.C. in an effort to stop the zombie plague. But readers of The Walking Dead comic know there is much more to be revealed about the character, and according to the man who plays him, Michael Cudlitz, we will see it revealed soon enough. We chatted with Cudlitz to get his take on joining the show in full, revelations about Abraham’s past, the big mission to D.C., and what else we can expect in season 5. (Click through both pages to read the entire interview.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You went to your first San Diego Comic-Con as a member of The Walking Dead this summer. What was it like to sort of see all that fandom up close?
MICHAEL CUDLITZ: It was amazing. That energy, at one point, during our panel, Norman turned around to take a selfie — he wanted to get a selfie of him and the audience. He didn’t realize it at the time, but they had brought the house lights up. Just seeing those 6,500 people, that sea of people — you really can’t see when you’re up on stage. You can really only see 15-20 rows back when the lights are on us. When they brought up those house lights it was pretty much all at one level. It’s just mind blowing, seeing them all go crazy. We walked the floor too. Me, Steven, Andy and Scott Gimple threw on our Spider-Man masks, which seemed to be the mask of choice to hide under this year.
Yeah, Daniel Radcliffe was Spider-Man too. Now, fans can basically just accost anyone in Spider-Man masks to see if there’s a celebrity underneath.
Now we’ll avoid Spider-Man masks and it’ll be something else next year, I guess.
Let’s talk about you on the show because you were the newbie last season — you start in the back half of season 4, but you really only got to work with Steven from the original cast for most of it until the end there. What’s it like now being sort of fully integrated into things?
You bring up a really cool point. I did not feel like I was fully integrated yet. In retrospect, if I could choose a way to enter, that would be the way to do it, with Steven, so you’re not sort of blasted by the entire cast at one time having to figure out. Look, it’s a large group, there are a lot of personalities. All amazing people, but it’s a large group. Anyone in that situation is going to feel not just the pressure of meeting everybody, but, you know, you’re coming into a show that’s arguably the largest show in the world right now, taking on a pretty substantial role, as far as the comic book world — one of the comic book fan favorites, a character that exists and that people have preconceptions about and expectations about. So there’s a lot sort of riding on entering.
So, in retrospect, completely thrilled with coming in that way, working with a smaller group and being able to sort of phase in. The rest of the group could see my work completely finished. I’m sure they talked amongst themselves to get a feel for what I was bringing to it, what my expectations were. Like you saw last year, they all wind up in the box car together, that’s when we all really started working together. It’s really fantastic. I said on the panel last year I felt like a guest invited into the house, and everyone was very gracious and they allowed me to sleep on the couch. This year, they built me a room.
I love this character from the comics. He’s a guy who’s very wrapped up in this mission he’s basically sort of given himself to get Eugene to Washington. Tell me about why Abraham is doing this. Is this to give himself a sense of purpose in a world where a lot of purpose is often lost?
You’re a fan of the comics so I can sort of tie into that directly. Not only the world is lost, but everything for Abraham and his specific world is lost. This is the only thing left he has to live for, and it does have purpose, and it does have meaning. It has so much meaning it is literally the single-most important thing in the world that has to be done. Why no one else can understand that is sort of confusing to him. We get into it early on with Steven and his quest for Maggie. You mean to tell me that finding the person you’re in love with is more important than saving the world? If you really look at that question, there’s nothing more important than saving the world on its face, but if the only person left in the world that you love is still out there and you might be able to find them, would you try? What is worth living for if the only person you love and care about in this world is no longer with you? Which plays into his mission as well, and it’s a very sort of curious paradox that drove him to what he’s doing now.
You mentioned that past in the comics, which is a pretty tragic past. Is that something that we’re going to delve into a little more this season?
We’re going to be definitely examining his past and certain things are taken directly from the comics, as Scott has said, and certain things are paying homage to the comics. I think people who are fans of the comics and people who know nothing about it will be equally satisfied with the reveal of Abraham’s past and what is driving him. We’re definitely going into all of the characters, what drives them this year. It’s really, really ambitious.