The actor also talks about the darkness in Aaron and an 'epic' new season

By Dalton Ross
October 15, 2017 at 12:00 PM EDT

The Walking Dead

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  • AMC

Everyone has talked about the action that is about to be unleashed on season 8 of The Walking Dead, which kicks off Oct, 22 on AMC. Seth Gilliam compared it to The A-Team of all things. But fellow cast member Ross Marquand prefers a comparison to another 1980s property.

“They’re hour-long action films,” Marquand says of the upcoming episodes. “And that’s just exciting for me being an action nerd because Die Hard is my favorite action movie of all time and there are little moments like that throughout.” We spoke with the actor to get more intel on season 8 as well as what to expect with Aaron moving forward.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You got the crap beaten out of you last season. How bad is Aaron going to get beat up in season 8?
ROSS MARQUAND: Hopefully not at all. I feel like I reached my quota last year and it was enough for me.

When you look at your character, what’s his headspace heading now into war? It’s here, it’s happened, how is he feeling about that?
Last season we saw a character who was still very much on Rick’s side, who believed in even the illusion of diplomacy and we have to pretend at least that this is normal and that we’re going to make some sort of accord with Negan and the Saviors because at the time it didn’t seem like there was any hope whatsoever. They had taken our resources, they had taken our guns, and it just seemed like the only thing left to do was to have some sort of diplomatic arrangement between those two groups.

And I think as time has gone on, especially as Aaron has seen time and time again, even when he and Rick risk their lives and go out on the lake and give them all this bounty and it’s still not enough, and there’s still just this ever-present threat even when you are providing a lot of stuff. I think once he gets beaten up for the second time, something shifts in Aaron and there’s a darkness that kind of washes over him and I don’t think he’s of the same mindset. I think even before the apocalypse when he was working with those NGOs in Africa, he was at least of the mindset that you could reason with some of these people and you could hope for the best.

But now I think he’s squarely at the mindset that there is no hope for any sort of diplomacy. There’s no way you can negotiate with these men. The only thing they understand is violence, and unfortunately, for everybody, I think that they’re all squarely resolved to fight back in a big way, and Aaron is all too happy to join the ranks and to do just that.

I was thinking about how when we first met Aaron, he wasn’t a comedian necessarily, but he had like a lighter side. We haven’t seen that lighter side in a while.
It’s ironic because when I was first cast, Scott Gimple even mentioned how he wanted me to have this sort of have this comedic or lightness to the character for little moments of levity here and there. There just hasn’t been any room for that really. I mean, after that first episode from season 7, it’s just been a downward spiral of just the most maniacal, crazy, violent things that you could possibly expect to have happened. And that’s for everyone, including Aaron.

It almost seems disrespectful to have any moments of real levity, so I think the writers have kind of changed the tone of the show. It is more of an action based season so far I would say, but it’s also more active — not just action based but also active. I think that everyone is very excited about this season because we were playing the sadness of last season so much and it was a very heavy season. We lost so many of our favorite characters, and now there’s this resolve in all of us, and it makes it so much more fun to show up to work and not have to feel like you’re pouring your heart out every single episode.

You say Aaron is ready for war and he’s ready to do this. It’s one thing to put his own life on the line, but war also puts Eric at risk. How does Aaron feel about that?
Aaron and Eric were always the first or second line of defense for Alexandria before Rick and the gang were recruited by them, so they certainly knew how to fight before that. Eric’s only point is not can we fight, but should we fight? Does it make sense to or are we just going into a suicide mission. And I think every time Eric brings up those points, it’s not because he’s not willing to fight or not able to fight, it’s because he’s just doing the math in his head and he’s saying to himself gosh, I don’t even know if the odds are even doable here.

I really respect that they’ve drawn out those characters in such a beautiful way that there is that sort of difference of opinion because it makes for damn good television but also, it’s indicative of how people would truly react in that situation. I don’t think everyone would go in guns blazing when they’re faced with a maniac with a barbwire covered baseball bat with thousands of men surrounding him. There would be some people that would say I don’t know if this is a great idea, maybe we should think this through.

What can you tell me about what you all have already filmed for season 8?
The first four or five episodes are kind of like little mini action films. They’re hour long action films, each one of them, and that’s just exciting for me being an action nerd because Die Hard is my favorite action movie of all time and there are little moments like that throughout. There are these really sort of beautifully nuanced and realistic action moments. For me, that’s what I always like to go for. I like to go for realism interaction, and I think that we’ve struck a really good balance of the fantastical elements of the show with some really great just old school action sequences that I think are going to blow everyone away. I mean myself included. I was there for it, but seeing it all cut together is a totally different thing.

The other thing I would say is that last year was so much about getting to know Negan and his men, which we needed to do. We needed to find out who he was, what motivated all of them and what made them tick, and that was essential for the overall arc of the story. But now that we’ve done that, now that we’ve laid that foundation, it just feels more epic this season. It feels much more like these two worlds have been fully fleshed out and now we’re getting to see the result of all of the terrible things that happened in season 7. I think that last season was a very meticulous setting up of a number of different domino pieces in a row, and this year, it’s not getting flicked over by the person at the top. The domino pieces are getting shot down with a giant cannon, that’s how we’re starting out the season, and it just keeps going all the way to the end.

For more Walking Dead scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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The Walking Dead

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

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