Seth Gilliam, Ross Marquand, and Josh Hamilton Interview: The Walking Dead

AMC’s long-running juggernaut The Walking Dead is coming to an end after eleven seasons. Based on the graphic novel series of the same name, The Walking Dead has consistently boasted some of the highest ratings among all AMC programs since it debuted in 2010. Although a number of spinoff shows already exist, with more on the way, the series finale of the first show in the Walking Dead universe will certainly mark the end of an era.

The Walking Dead’s final season has been a long one, told across three eight-episode installments. The second of the three installments wrapped up earlier this year with a villainous turn by Josh Hamilton’s Lance Hornsby and a desperate defense effort by the show’s long-suffering protagonists. How the show will finally wrap up is a mystery, but longtime viewers will soon have to say goodbye to many beloved characters, whether or not those characters survive the events of the season.

Two such characters who have been on the show for quite some time are Gabriel and Aaron, played by Seth Gilliam and Ross Marquand, respectively. With a conflict between Gabriel, Aaron, and Lance Hornsby looming, the demise of any one of these characters could be imminent. Screen Rant participated in a round table featuring Seth Gilliam, Ross Marquand, and Josh Hamilton, during which they discussed their characters and the emotional aspect of finishing The Walking Dead.

Once upon a time, it used to be, « Wouldn’t it be neat if we could go back and explore some backstories and histories for these characters? » And now, we have a vehicle to do that with Tales of the Walking Dead. We just saw Samantha Morton’s incredible performance as Dee, instead of Alpha. If you had an opportunity to come back and bring a story from your character’s past to life, is that something that you might be interested in? Do you have a story that you’d pitch?

Ross Marquand: I like the idea of having a background. One of my favorite episodes of the show is when we go into Abraham’s background and explore what he was doing right at the beginning of the apocalypse with his family, and one of the things that always stuck out for me as a great character note was in the second episode I’m in. I’m talking to Rick, and he’s basically interrogating me and trying to suss me out, and he’s asking why I feel so comfortable with guns pointed at my face. I say « Well, before the world ended, I worked for an NGO in Nigeria » or something, where he [Aaron] was having warlords point guns in his face all the time. So he was used to violence and all this terror well before the world ended, and I feel like it would be cool to do a miniseries of all of our series regulars, to see where they were immediately before the apocalypse. I think it’d be cool to explore that.

Josh Hamilton: Yeah, I agree. Right before and during, I think, is the most interesting. You want to see how everyone reacts to it, because when you pick people up years into it… humans have such an amazing capacity for adapting to almost anything, but to watch them make that shift is always interesting. One of my favorite episodes is with Negan and his wife sort of dealing with that in the beginning. That’s what I’d like to see.

Seth Gilliam: I’m not sure how interesting a story about Father Gabriel and his church would be before the world fell. It seems like a lot of the character development happens after that event for Father Gabriel, and I think he’s a far more multifaceted and dynamic character as the show goes on. I’m not sure how much of that I would be able to bring forth before the world fell. Unless he secretly has a body hidden in the basement.

Josh, you’re the closest thing I’ve seen to the Governor in multiple seasons. You kind of play his mannerisms a little bit. I see a lot of parallels between Woodbury and the Commonwealth as well, and you kind of have a Jimmy McGill haircut in the show. I was wondering if Dave Morrissey and [Bob] Odenkirk were inspirations for the character in any way, and as well for Ross and Seth, if you see the Woodbury relationship.

Josh Hamilton: I don’t remember talking about those guys as inspirations. The Governor’s so tall. Isn’t he like eight feet tall? I think Dave Morrissey is such an amazing actor, I would happily admit to stealing from him if I’d thought of it. I wish I’d stolen from him more. It’s different, though, because his whole thing with his daughter is so dark and twisted. I feel like Lance’s ambitions and his reasons for wanting to have some more power and do things – they come from a more everyday, normal sort of ambition. I think the Governor had a little bit of a darker backstory.

Screen Rant: I recently spoke to Bear McCreary, your composer, and he said he was in the middle of conducting an orchestra when it hit him that this big part of his life was coming to an end. I feel like the equivalent for you guys might be that you’re in the middle of stabbing someone and you start to feel nostalgic. Did you have any of those moments pop up as you were filming your remaining episodes?

Seth Gilliam: I only had one moment pop up, and that was the last exchange I had with Andrew Lincoln between Rick and Father Gabriel before he left the show. It was a simple line, and I said to Andrew, « You know, this is the last thing that we say to each other. » And he said, « Oh, is it really? » And then we did another take, and it was just way over-the-top dramatic, and he said « I think I’m putting too much into it because it’s the last thing I say to you. » And I said, « Yeah, I’m doing the same. » And that was a few years ago, so I didn’t have any of those moments in these last episodes, but that stands out to me as a funny moment in terms of the last of something.

Ross Marquand: We were killing a lot of things; killing a lot of people, right up until the last night. That’s hopefully not too much of a spoiler. We kill a lot on the show. But I think once I killed my last person, that last hour of shooting, I was like, « Aw, I’m not going to stab someone in the head for a while. That’s kind of sad. » So, hopefully, I’ll get cast in something where I can stab people in the head at some point because it’s fun. It felt good to do that for eight years.

Josh, your character is the villain in this eleventh season, but maybe the deadliest decision he’s made is cozying up with Carol and having a partnership with her. What was it about that character that Lance was so drawn to, and what was it like working alongside Melissa McBride? It seems like everyone in the cast loves to work with her.

Josh Hamilton: [Melissa McBride’s] one of those actors that just makes you better, because she has no pretense. She just is. She’s one of those actors that doesn’t act, she just « be »s. When you talk to her, if you feel yourself forcing something, or putting something on it that’s extraneous, you’re automatically aware of it because she’s so present. She just makes you a better actor.

And in terms of why Lance is attracted to Carol, or drawn towards her, I think he spots right away that she is incredibly capable. She’s someone who can think three, four, five steps ahead, which I think is how he sees the world and tries to navigate through the world. And [he] appreciates it in others. He’s always looking for someone who can do something for him, and he’ll do something for them, I think he’s like a fixer. He’s sort of someone who cultivates relationships with people who can get things done. When she gets the wine for him, I think he’s like, « Wow. She figured out how to get out of the Commonwealth, find wine, and get back in with it. » And I think right away, he’s just like « This is someone I want to work with. »

When you got to season 11, did your attitude about your characters possibly dying change? Did you just want them to go out in a blaze of glory?

Ross Marquand: I thought that I was going to die almost immediately after getting on the show. I never assumed I was going to last as long as I did. I was obsessed with it, because when I first got on the show I had a mountain of debt, and I was like, « Oh, work! I hope I don’t die. » And Josh McDermitt kind of beautifully pulled me aside one day, and he said « You worry so much about whether or not you’re going to lose your job or get killed off. Is that actually going to help you enjoy this process? » And I said, « Well, no, obviously not. » And he’s like « Then don’t worry about it. They’ll kill you off when they kill you off, and there’s nothing you can do about it. »

I think that that advice was not only really great for the show, but also great for how to live your life. We don’t know when we’re going to have our ticket punched, so just enjoy it while it’s there and have a good time. But yeah, it was definitely a scary thought, thinking, « Oh man, this might be the end of the show for all of us. » If that was the case, I’d definitely like to go out in a blaze of glory.

Seth Gilliam: I did not read the comics, I do not read the comics, so I thought that Father Gabriel was a device to get a major character killed off, and that I wouldn’t last more than three episodes, quite frankly. So I just prepared to do three episodes, make my guest appearance, put it on my resume, and move on. I’ve been playing with house money ever since, so whatever they have in mind for the character, I’ve been kind of just down for it.

The Walking Dead season 11, part 3 premieres on AMC on October 2nd.