Fans of The Walking Dead were finally introduced to Michael Cudlitz's Abraham Ford at the end of last night's episode "Inmates", months after we saw the first photo of the character in October. This Army Sergeant debuted in Issue 53 of Robert Kirkman's comic book, and is teamed up with fellow survivors Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) and Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos). While we wait for next week's episode, /shows/the-walking-dead/"Claimed", airing on Sunday, February 23, Michael Cudlitz recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter, where he talked about preparing for the role, how his character compares with his comic book counterpart, and Abraham's long-term plan for survival.
In addition, AMC has also released seven new photos from "Inmates", and two photos from /shows/the-walking-dead/"Claimed". Check them out before reading what Michael Cudlitz had to say.
When asked if he was a fan of the show and the comic books, Michael Cudlitz revealed that he wasn't familiar with Robert Kirkman's comics until the show debuted on AMC.
"I didn't know the comics at all. When I heard that the show was being done -- I was sent the pilot [before the show was cast] -- I remember reading it and telling my wife that I read about 27 pages with no dialogue. It was awesome. The pilot was fantastic and I was doing Southland at the time and reading it more for pleasure since we didn't know the fate of our show at the time and I didn't know if I'd be available to audition for it or if there was anything in it that I'd be right for. I was a fan and later when I got cast, I caught up and introduced myself to the comics. [Showrunner] Scott M. Gimple told me that Abraham's backstory would closely resemble Abraham in the comics, so that was a great place to start my research. A lot of things happen in the comic that affect how he operates and how he moves through this world and the decisions he makes. A lot of that is ripped directly from the comics, as well as the whole chunk of time where the comic left off and where we meet them now. There are some elements that they've introduced that will make Abraham's backstory that much more tragic."
When asked if Abraham, Eugene and Rosita will be similar to their comic book incarnations, the actor said the the characters will seem very familiar to the fans.
"All three of those characters are going to seem extremely familiar to those who know the comics. They're almost exact up to the point where we meet them. Where they go from here, we'll all learn that together."
The actor also teased that Eugene must be protected at all costs, while Abraham has engaged in a romantic relationship with Rosita.
"Eugene is the package -- he's the mission and he has to be protected. I've trained them all to whatever ability they have to be trained to. And Abraham is in a romantic, sexual relationship with Rosita; she's his partner -- Eugene, not so much! (Laughs.)"
In the comic books, Abraham is leading Eugene and Rosita on a mission to Washington D.C., after claiming he knew what caused the zombie epidemic. Michael Cudlitz teased that in next week's episode, /shows/the-walking-dead/"Claimed", fans will learn more about Abraham's mission, and why Eugene is so important.
"By the next episode, you'll get all the answers to where they're going and why. You know they're headed for Washington but the audience will learn all that in the next episode as to where they're going, why they think they're going there, what information Eugene has and that Abraham and Rosita believe him. There is no subtlety in it. It's this wonderful expositional moment that's literally ripped out of the comics where you meet these people, learn who they are as individuals and what they need from anyone else -- and you better f---ing be on board, because you don't have a choice!"
Like the rest of the prison survivors, Abraham, Eugene and Rosita were a part of a larger group before they struck out on their own. The actor teased that fans will learn more about the bigger group they were in, along with Abraham's checkered past with the military.
"Between the three, there's this sibling dynamic. They have been traveling in a small group for a while and were part of a larger group and we'll learn more about that later. Something happened with [Abraham] in the military; and a lot of shit has happened to the point that they've been diluted and reduced down to these three. There's this bickering, strange hierarchy and weird group dynamic that we have not seen before. There are a lot of things that when you look at them from the outside make them seem like a massively dysfunctional family. There are going to be some moments where you're laughing at these people and the choices they're making and the way they're handling each other. That's not something that you've done a lot of during the previous episodes of The Walking Dead. There aren't a lot of light moments that happen, but they bring that in."
This military style of leadership that Abraham will display is much different than previous leaders we've seen on the AMC series. The actor talked about how confident his character is in his style, and how that will ultimately benefit Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his group.
"They have a bigger mission that they're on. They're not locked in this day-to-day rhetorical self-examination of life and what does it all mean. You take one of Abraham's lines from the series and he says, "You know what we're doing here: If it's dead, f---ing kill it." They don't discuss it, talk about their feelings and what they should do or if they should take a vote. Abraham is more like, 'By the time you all have your f---ing meeting, I'll have handled it already.' They are not a Boy Scout Troop. He's a sergeant and he's a very typical sergeant. He's not the guy who designs the entire plan -- he's the guy who will execute an element of it and do it immediately without question. He's not necessarily someone who is going to be the king -- or someone you'd even want to be the king -- he's the guy you'd want as your first, the guy leading a section of a larger plan. Ultimately, he's good for [Rick's] group because there are a lot of reluctant leaders and people doing what they have to do. Abraham is a leader by nature; he's not reluctant about it. There's no question in his ability or willingness to do what he has to do. Because of what happened to him prior to his arrival, he has nothing else left. He's balls-in everything he does!"
During last night's episode, Abraham, Eugene and Rosita made their debut when they come across Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Tara (Alanna Masterson) fighting off a horde of zombies. The actor spoke about what Abraham took away from that encounter.
"When Abraham first meets them, he sees two extremely capable people who just killed a lot of walkers. Obviously they know what they're doing -- to an extent -- and they're warm bodies. And Abraham needs more people. He doesn't look at them as a threat or not a threat because there's arrogance to him as well. He's never threatened by anyone -- because he could kill anyone. He's ready for them to get on board."
Since Glenn and Tara are on their own mission to find Maggie (Lauren Cohan), the actor was asked if there will be a conflict over whose mission is more important. Here's what he had to say.
"Sounds like conflict! Sounds like two groups want two different things! Abraham seems to stop for them but I don't know if Glenn needs him. (Laughs.) Everything you mentioned gets explored. In a way, there's a dilemma with Abraham because he does need and want more people but he can't force anyone to be with him because he's not the boss of anybody. It's a weird dynamic, but he does understand Glenn's loss. We specifically go into the loss that Glenn is experiencing. That's the chink in the armor. There's an understanding that's reached and it's interesting because as an alpha Cro-Magnon dude, there's a lot to Abraham that you'd not expect that the show will be going into. Abraham is someone you want to care about."
In the comic books, Abraham arrives after Tyreese (Chad Coleman) dies, leaving some fans wondering whether or not Tyreese will be killed off soon. While Michael Cudlitz wouldn't confirm or deny that character's fate, it seems fans will be seeing Abraham and Tyreese interacting on the show.
"We're going to have to see about that! You've never seen a world where Abraham and Tyreese have existed together. This isn't Star Trek. We didn't have to worry that Captain Kirk might die. Guess what? Captain Kirk might just die on you [on this show]. That being said, I think everybody has to worry about dying every week. You should expect things that you don't expect."
It was also revealed during last night's episode that there is a new survivor sanctuary named Terminus. When asked if Abraham has plans on checking out Terminus, he said that his primary mission is Abraham's only concern.
"He's on his mission and the rest is the rest. The mission always comes first. It may be helped or hindered by these other elements, but the mission is always the most important thing to Abraham. He's going to D.C."