Gene Page/AMC
October 12, 2015 at 12:00 PM EDT

Hold on a second. Are we actually on the verge of not completely despising Nicholas? To recap, the dude basically left Noah and Glenn to die so he could save his own selfish, cowardly skin. And then once Glenn did make it back alive, Nicholas tried to kill him again by shooting and hunting him in the woods. Terrible, right? I mean, the worst.

But then something odd happened on The Walking Dead season 6 premiere this past Sunday night: Nicholas acknowledged his overall lameness, and now instead of treating Glenn as an enemy, is looking up to his former foe as a mentor. Instead of running away from the fight (as he did in that revolving door of death) Nicholas is running to it. So what is the relationship like now between the two? We asked the man who plays Nicholas, Michael Traynor, when he stopped by Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105).

“In the final moments that you saw the Glenn and Nichols story of season 5, there was this realization,” says Traynor. “And this truth of Nicholas admitting, I don’t have the skills. I’m not capable. But he had always wanted to be. He had hoped to be. He’s probably some weekend warrior doing paintball or live action roleplaying for all we know before the apocalypse happened. And so when he sees these actual true hardened warriors walk though the gates of Alexandria, the truth of who he is just slapped him across the face. That’s why he tried to kill Glenn a few times.  We attack those in our world who force us to realize our worst aspects. And I think after that truthful moment, he’s come to Glenn — ‘You saved my life so now I want to be a better person and I need your permission to let me do that.’ And so it’s this great, interesting dynamic in that I’ve accepted Glenn as this strange alpha — this Obi-Wan. Let me do it. Let me prove to you I can do it.”

And Nicholas is intent on proving it, as we saw in the premiere — even when Glenn tells him not to volunteer for the front lines. “Nicholas is a little bit brash and does what he knows he needs to,” says Traynor. “And that’s put himself in a position where he can help. I really do think that the way they are writing season 6 that there is a real desire to redeem himself.”

He may be on his way. After being told to hang back while Glenn and Heath cleared out a group of walkers, Nicholas proved his mettle by jumping in to help Heath, and then got permission from Glenn to finish off the last one himself. Was that a big moment in their relationship? “Huge,” says Traynor. “Huge. Glenn was trying to limit the damage that Nicholas can do. And once he proved himself to step in and risk himself for a fellow teammate, Glenn realized, ‘Okay, you may be learning the lessons you need to learn. Go do it — here. Here’s the knife. Go be a man in this world.’ And I think that’s a moment that’s going to reverberate throughout the season.”

Only time will tell. To hear more from Traynor on Nicholas’ road to redemption, click on the Soundcloud below. And for more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

AMC’s zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.
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