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The Walking Dead season 6: Ross Marquand previews Aaron's 'call to action'

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Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

He was the stranger danger recruiter that got Rick and company to trust him and come join his community of Alexandria. And it’s been nothing but trouble ever since. So what’s in store for Aaron when The Walking Dead returns for season 6 on Oct. 11? And where will he fall if sides are drawn in an Alexandrian civil war? We spoke to actor Ross Marquand to get his take and teases on what to expect in season 6.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, what’s it like not being a newbie anymore?

ROSS MARQUAND: It feels great. I think so much of last year was getting over the nerves. You come into something and you want to make sure that you’re focusing on the work more than anything and not being a fanboy geek on set. Because I think there is that temptation to go in there and say, “Oh, my gosh, that’s Andy Lincoln!” And I think there’s a real pitfall in that, and there’s a real danger in going down that road where you’re more amazed by the characters and being on set than you are doing your job which, you know, I’ve been able to do on other sets a million times over. But since it’s a show that I’m such a fan of, it was a little difficult, I’ll admit.

It only took, you know, a couple of weeks for me to really get into that, but truthfully the nerves of being on one of my favorite shows still hasn’t really subsided. It’s still a very surreal and very wonderful feeling, but now I feel more comfortable. Now I’ve gotten to know almost everyone in the cast extraordinarily well. We spend a lot of time going out to dinners and spending time at each other’s homes, and that’s helpful for me as an actor to work across them because I can understand who they are as humans better, and then that will bring a certain color to how we perform together.

Most of your scenes last season were with Norman [Reedus]. Are you getting to work with other people a bit more this season that you didn’t get a chance to work a whole lot with in season 5?

Definitely. Right off the top of my head is getting to work more with Lauren, and that’s been a lot of fun because I’ve always gotten along really well with Lauren and she’s so great because she cracks me up in ways that very few people do on set. She’s just a goofball. I’ve said it before, but this show really does require a certain degree of levity because if you’re too tight you’re going to act poorly. It’s going to seem like melodrama, and your body will tense up and you’ll get injured.

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What you can say about Aaron moving into season 6?

I think Aaron, as well as many other Alexandrians, are beginning to realize just how high the stakes really are now. Before Aaron was accustomed to going out and recruiting, going on scouting missions and then supply runs as well, so he was able to see a little bit more of what was going on outside of the walls than the rest of the Alexandrians, but now he’s really seeing that the danger has come literally to their front door. And it’s an internal civil struggle within the Alexandrians and Rick’s group.

There are certainly factions fighting against each other and they’re unsure of what to do and how to move forward after this terrible event that’s happened at the end of season 5, and I think Aaron’s response to it is very much a call to action. Aaron is realizing that the old way of doing things, which was very naïve and very idyllic — it was not putting enough emphasis on preparation. It was not putting enough emphasis on defense, and it was not putting enough emphasis on long-term planning in terms of how do we really protect this beautiful sanctuary that we have here?

At the very beginning of season 6, and then throughout this season, you’ll see a shift in Aaron where he goes from being polite and very deferential to really kind of taking a stronger leadership role and deciding, this is what we need to do. We need to back Rick. We need to be more active, and we need to get really honest and serious with ourselves about how we defend ourselves. And part of that is being willing to make those tough decisions that are going to be very difficult for some of the Alexandrians to swallow, but ultimately will help save lives.

Clearly, however, this town still does have some issues and they’re not necessarily all on the same page here.

They’re all in agreement that something needs to change. There are people who after this incident want Rick and his group to leave. There are people who see the value in a strong lawman who’s going to come in and, enforce some sort of law, which is a strange concept for people because, you know, what does law mean in this day and age? There’s no law anymore. There’s no society anymore, so how is this former lawman supposed to be respected? And why should they follow him in this society which has been doing just fine on their own for the last two years?

So a lot of them are struggling with that, but I think as time goes on, especially with all the threats coming at them — whether they’re walkers or humans — they’re going to find that they have to be unified because if they’re not, people will die. And, of course, you know, people do.

Check out a video below of the cast talking about which of them would die first in a real zombie apocalypse. And for more Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.