Avi Nash of The Walking Dead reacts to that Siddiq shocker
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead titled “Open Your Eyes.”
When we first met Siddiq in season 8 of The Walking Dead, he was alone, scared, and confused, but thanks to the generosity and hospitality of the late Carl Grimes, he became a valuable and vital member of the community. However, things began to turn for Alexandria’s resident doctor when he was captured by Alpha and forced to watch his friends be beheaded in front of his very own eyes.
Shaken by flashbacks and nightmares of that horrific event, Siddiq had never been quite right since that tragedy — attempting to tend to his duties as doctor while also tending to his own PTSD and mental health. Frustrated by his inability to get at the source that was making residents sick, and still traumatized by what he was forced to witness, Siddiq attempted to take his own life on Sunday’s “Open Your Eyes” episode, only to be saved by Rosita, who jumped in the lake after him.
Siddiq finally put the pieces of the sickness mystery together, while also realizing that the one behind it was a double-agent behind enemy lines. The person he considered his medical partner and friend in Dante was actually the same man (in a Whisperer mask) who forced him to watch his friends be murdered. But Siddiq never got a chance to share that revelation with anyone as a struggle ensued and Dante strangled the medic to death.
We caught up with actor Avi Nash to get his take on Siddiq’s shocking death. Nash takes us through how and when he found out about Siddiq’s fate, how he feels about the final chapter, what his last day on set was like, and what he’ll miss most about working on The Walking Dead. (Also make sure to read our interview with showrunner Angela Kang about the shocking Siddiq–Dante twist.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When and how did showrunner Angela Kang and the producers let you know about Siddiq’s untimely demise?
AVI NASH: Angela and I were having our standard preseason phone call in April when she let me know the news. But she’s such a masterful storyteller that rather than be sad or regretful over Siddiq’s death, I was thrilled and excited to be tasked with such a powerful arc. We ended up being on the phone for hours as we delved into his PTSD, his fragility, new fatherhood — the writers gifted me with a journey that had all the complexities I could dream of.
How do you feel about the way he went out?
I wish he’d spent more time at a BJJ gym so he’d know that you NEVER give up your back! [Laughs] Look, ultimately, the job of the actor is to serve the story, and in the case of Siddiq, I couldn’t have been luckier. His message of mercy helped resolve season 8, his commitment to family and the Grimes legacy brought the communities back together in season 9, and now, his untimely death — in Alexandria at the hands of a spy — might just be the lynchpin that sets off our heroes in season 10. To have that kind of impact within the narrative of a show this large and historied has been really rewarding.
What was your last day on set and goodbye to the cast and crew like?
Well, some of the tears were saved thanks to shooting out of order this year — it’s kind of funny to die and then come back the following week and shoot daddy daycare scenes with your baby strapped to your chest. But when we finally got to my last scene on my last day — it was the one where Siddiq and Rosita sit in bed — I was just about ready to lose it.
It sort of took everything I had to keep from breaking down, and I’m so thankful I had [Christian Serratos] there with me. Not only is she a fantastic actress, but she has become one of my closest friends and she kept me from losing my s—. I remember just wishing [director Michael Cudlitz] would keep calling for a different shot, or more coverage, or another take… anything to keep it from ending.
And in the end, it was… really emotional. This cast and crew have become my close friends and my family over these past 3 years — they gave my gypsy heart a place to call home and it has been really tough to say goodbye.
We saw Siddiq having all this emotional turmoil and these nightmares and flashbacks all season. What as the hardest part of bringing that trauma to life?
Trying to make sure that his journey wasn’t one dimensional. From the moment Angela and I discussed his crumbling psyche at the hands of PTSD, it was really important to us to craft a portrayal that was honest, sensitive and truthful. PTSD is so much more than just angry outbursts — you are living in a waking nightmare where your memories have no end. Fear, anger, and emotional numbness start to become your only way you to deal with it, but they also lead to great feelings of shame. You feel guilty and alone with what you’re going through, and that makes it so much harder to get out of the hole.
I hope that people can identify with Siddiq’s story, that they can feel seen, and that ultimately, we can discuss PTSD with a little more empathy and help people recover.
If you go back and watch Siddiq’s very first episode, he’s almost unrecognizable as a character in terms of whom he became. What was it like getting to play that evolution?
That’s really kind of you to say! I have to chalk up a lot of the credit here to [Scott M. Gimple] and Angela and the writers — they are remarkably gifted. They are also very collaborative, and as I started to get deeper into Siddiq’s shoes over the years, they were always receptive to ideas and thoughts I had about his journey.
Change is constant, and the joy of playing Siddiq has always been in the mining of the question of, “How can this guy — who from the start had really strong core beliefs of compassion and honor — be changed and challenged and grow as his world gets more complicated”?
Let’s play a little game I like to call “Walking Dead What if?” If Siddiq is okay and Rosita gets healthy, do those two end up getting back together, because they definitely had a moment earlier in the episode?
[Laughs] Everybody asks me that. People are really gunning for a second Coco, huh?! I always loved that those characters had this tragic set of “what ifs” tied to their relationship from the start: What if they had been more than a fling? What if Siddiq had wanted more? What if Rosita hadn’t been with Gabe when she was pregnant? WHAT IF EUGENE WOULD JUST GET THE MESSAGE ALREADY?!
The truth is I don’t know. That said… I do think these characters are of the sort of people who find their way back to each other time and time again over the course of their lives, and that maybe just once, the timing is right and it sticks. But that’s just another tragic “what if”…
What was your favorite scene you got to film from your time on the show?
Ah jeez, there’s too many to choose from! That scene with [Andrew Lincoln] at the end of season 8 really sticks out, when he finally tells Rick what happened to Carl. But then there’s also the speech Siddiq gives at the end of season 9, riding horses alongside Danai and busting her chops, sitting in it with Christian on the steps… The cast of this show is SO good. Getting to play alongside them is just that: play, and there’s nothing better.
What will you miss most about working on The Walking Dead?
The people. Our directors, our writers, our cast, our crew…They’ve become my family.
For more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.