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'The Walking Dead' star Chad Coleman on Tyreese's 'pretty raw' moment

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[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s season premiere of The Walking Dead.]

He refused to kill a zombie. He said nobody was going to die today. But then a dude in a cabin pushed one too many of Tyreese’s buttons and the fury of the gentle giant was finally unleashed. We spoke to Chad L. Coleman about what went down on Sunday’s big Walking Dead season premiere and what it means for Tyreese going forward. (Also make sure to check out our season premiere interviews with Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and showrunner Scott M. Gimple, as well as director Greg Nicotero’s exclusive storyboards for the Terminus raid scene.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I want to start at the beginning, before we go through Tyreese’s evolution in this episode. We start, and there’s a walker coming on, and Tyreese just looks at it and says, “I can’t.” And Carol’s gotta take care of business. What’s the hesitation with him, still, at this point in time?

CHAD L. COLEMAN: I think he’s still reliving the horror of “The Grove” and everything that happened with Lizzie and Mika. And just the overwhelming nature of the post-apocalyptic world. It shook him, you know? It shook him tremendously. That, and still the resonation of Karen, and everything that happened with Carol having to take her out. So, there’s so much reverberating in him right now, he kind of needs a moment without getting one. So that’s kind of what I think that is. You know, violence is, it just seems as if, like, almost no way out. And he wants a way out, and he wants a way out for humanity, more than anything else.

And so we see the episode continue, and then he takes this guy prisoner in the cabin. And the guy’s baiting you. He’s saying, “You know, you’re a good guy, that’s why you’re going to die today. It’s why the baby’s going to die.” What’s going through Tyreese’s mind at this point as this guy is sort of lecturing him almost?

“Who the hell is this jerk? And how the hell does he know so much about me?” But he’s kind of spot-on. You know that scary situation where you meet somebody for the first time and they’re reading you? So that’s going on, and he’s still processing everything and in walks the devil himself. He’s like “I know what the hell is going on and I know what’s up with you.” And so it’s just pushing buttons.

And he finally gets his hands on Judith, sends you out into zombies out there. We know Tyreese knows how to handle himself in a big group of zombies — we’ve seen that before…

[Claps] Thank you very much, thank you very much.

And it led to maybe my favorite moment. It looked like a Kool-Aid ad for a second. You bust through the door like Kool-Aid!

[Laughs] Oh, that is funny on so many levels. That was a very, very powerful moment. And actually at the L.A. premiere when we screened it, everybody applauded, which I thought was really, really wonderful. You can always depend on Tyreese. He’s going to handle business, and when he does, it’s pretty brutal.

Yeah, it was brutal. Tyreese is just knocking this guy’s block off over and over while yelling, “I won’t! I won’t!”

Isn’t that beautiful?

Is that just all the release of everything that he’s kept pent up for so long?

Absolutely, absolutely. And this whole in-your-face notion that it’s gotta be all about violence, all the time. You know, that there’s no diplomacy, that we can’t slow down and make a different decision. It’s just kind of eating him up that everybody thinks you’ve got to go a thousand miles an hour and just kill everything. You know, kill or be killed, and so that eats at him. So it all just comes out. Also, he suppresses a lot, but when you push that release valve, it’s pretty raw. But I love it because he, in the midst of this terrible situation, that’s the only way he can still try to touch his humanity, by smashing his face in but saying “I won’t.” You know, “I won’t be that guy.” And I think Tyreese is completely aware, and his hope is that we’re going to return to normal, so who are you going to be when you get there if you keep just going out and just doing these, you know, grossly violent things? What is it going to do to you? And are you going to be able to restore to your normal self? So, I think that he is keenly aware of that.

But what does it mean for Tyreese going forward, then? Is he now going to be able to engage in some of these new rules of the apocalypse and do some of the things that he has hesitated to do in the past?

That’s an awesome question, Dalton.

Well, thank you, Chad.

No, that really is. It’s a beautiful question. And I think therein lies the complexity, and therein lies the intrigue of taking this journey with him. I can’t answer that for you. Stay tuned.

Ugh! Okay, I want you to tell me about the scene where Rick runs up to Tyreese to be reunited with his daughter, because I’ve been on set, I’ve watched Andy Lincoln work, and even on the most mundane scene, that dude is intense when he gets into character, so I can only imagine what that scene was like for him.

First of all, you know it was an amazing tearjerker, we all know that. But, in response to what you said, my boy, I call him Big Link. Yeah, that’s his nickname. He’s so intense that of course it scared the crap out of the baby. [Laughs] So we were trying to find a way to get all of that in but to make Judith, you know, comfortable. So it took a little while. So he took her for a walk and held her and held her, because he had to rush in. So it’s not like he could just hold her, calm her, “Shoot,” you know. So, cause we wanted that whole deal with him rushing in, that intensity shook Judith for a little while until we finally got her kind of dialed back a little bit. But it was an amazing, amazing moment. And for me, you know, I’m daddy day care, but come on. That’s the most noble thing you could do, you know — deliver this guy’s kid back to him, and, you know, there’s hope for the future. All that good stuff.

And no words between Tyreese and Rick, just a nod.

I love that. I thought, that’s all that was needed. That that was all, that acknowledgement there, I thought it was pretty intense. People get that we got each other right there, so, that was great. And then, my sister, man. God knows it was just great to be able to embrace her again and also, just coming together as a cast, cause it’s great to hang out with them.

What was it like for you to see all the other stuff in the episode that you weren’t a part of? Because you’re filming your story in this little cabin and then we’ve got all the Terminus scenes, which is some of the most violent stuff that we’ve ever seen thanks to Carol blowing up that gas tanker.

Well, I call her Ka-Rambo.

You’ve got all the nicknames today!

I do! She was amazing, man. I was floored by it. The cannibalism? Oh my god! I just kept going, “Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.” I’m serious! I had a buddy of mine with me from high school who said, “What’s wrong with you?” I’m like, “This is freaking me out.” I mean they’re pushing an envelope, man. And those people are the creepiest people on the planet, so it was really, really intense. We put on the gas. I think it’s the best premiere of them all. I was a fan. Look how we’re starting, so guess where we’re going.

Check out our ‘Walking Dead: One-Minute Refresher ‘below. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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