Interview: The Walking Dead Star Ross Marquand
The Walking Dead is back and bigger and badder than ever.
We spoke to Ross Marquand, who plays Aaron in the hit series, about the unmissable sixth season. He discussed Aaron’s role and plot developments in the sixth season, playing a gay character in a high-profile US drama, and his thoughts on why The Walking Dead has been such a success.
What’s next for Aaron and the Alexandrians?
I think that Aaron is going to be tested like a lot of other characters in Alexandria in the sense that we’re going to have to decide where we put our faith now. Deanna has lost her son and her husband in the span of a week and she’s a wreck and she’s not really fit to lead at this point. Rick is really thrusting the group into some pretty dangerous situations… they were pretty much doing fine the last two years without Rick and his group, and it’s so funny that now all of a sudden, these guys come in and wreak havoc. The whole plan to divert walkers back from the quarry up the road of course backfired and now the whole community is in great peril because of it.
Will Aaron be fighting in upcoming episodes?
He’s certainly not a pacifist, of all the Alexandrians he and Eric have seen the most action. They’ve been outside the walls more than anybody, they’ve killed a few walkers, they’ve killed a few humans, so he’s definitely going to take a proactive approach. The guilt that he feels about the Wolves coming, he feels that that was pretty much his responsibility and countless civilians died, so I feel he’s really going to feel this is his call to action.
How will Aaron deal with his guilt from the end of the episode 2? Will he try to hunt down the Wolves for revenge or try to protect everyone?
I think there’s a distinct possibility. It’s unfortunate because – even though he didn’t exactly draw up exact directions to Alexandria, somehow the Wolves put the pieces together by looking at those photos, and ultimately that is what drove them to the community in the first place. So there is a massive responsibility he feels has been placed squarely on his shoulders. It’s a thing that will drive him throughout the season, that guilt, the responsibility of what he has done – indirectly or directly – he does feel that responsibility for it and he wants to make amends.
Aaron has quite a fun friendship with Darryl now, how will that progress throughout the season?
Truthfully after where we start out this season, the relationship that they had as recruiters takes a backseat as they’re faced with an immediate and persistent threat of just nonstop onslaught not only from the walkers but warring tribes down the road. While those relationships will of course deepen, there are relationships that have not been explored yet which will get deeper as the show goes on.
Does Aaron bond with any new characters this season?
The character they think Aaron will bond with most – new relationship – is Maggie. They are both very keenly aware of the threat outside the walls, and they’re taking a very proactive approach to taking down that threat as much as they can. I think you’ll see a lot more of Aaron and Maggie this season.
Can you tell us if we learn anything more about Aaron’s backstory this season?
I think the most interesting thing about Aaron and Eric is we don’t know much about their background. I kind of liked that. A lot of other characters you get to see your back story and one of the great things for me is that there is no backstory there. Aaron worked with an NGO in Africa, working with different relief [charities] and dealing with druglords and warlords who pointed guns in his face all the time. Apart from that we know very little about who he is or how he and Eric met. I think it’s really great, because it’s let Jord and I create a backstory that suits us.
What was it like joining The Walking Dead in season 5 when the cast had been together so long already?
It’s funny because that episode in the barn – it was such a perfect episode because I felt that when the characters were sussing out Aaron, that’s what the actors were doing to me too. I’m sort of doing this TED Talk about Alexandria: [I’m like] it’s this wonderful place, great walls, really safe, and they’re like who are you exactly? It was scary as hell. Not just because I’m a huge fan of this show, there’s a pressure that I felt to add to this already incredible phenomenon and also you want to get along with people you work with. I think for the most part we all do, we do get on. It’s a rare thing, to show up on a set where everyone gets along. It’s a diva-free set.
Aaron’s the first openly gay character on The Walking Dead, what has the response been like for you?
A bit mixed. On one hand we’ve had very very… negative, I’ll just say negative [responses], but for as many negative responses there are just as many if not more fans that were coming to the defence of not only Aaron but the LGBT community in general. I think at first I was shocked by the response and baffled as to why people would be writing such vitriol but I think as time went on – I was actually grateful because it started a debate and people can talk openly about greater social issues. You never think your work will have a social impact until it does, and it’s nice to see that.
Was it chaotic filming the episode with the Wolves [episode 2]?
I only had a few days on that episode but yeah. Even for the few days I was there, it was insane. We had so many moving parts and this ever-present horn blowing at first until Morgan dispatches that walker. People don’t know this but Alexandria is a working community already, people live there in real life, so often we’d be shooting these crazy fight sequences and the PA would get a call and they’d have to stop production and someone would have to drive out of their driveway like sorry guys I have to get groceries. It was nuts. You just have all these insanely talented stunt people running around and falling off buildings and just doing insane stuff. It was insane fun.
Do you know if the cause of the virus will be explored again?
I think this season that’s not really talked about. Eugene having this alleged cure was such a shining beacon of hope for so many characters, they were really convinced there was an end to this in sight, when they found that was all nonsense… it was like okay, they’ve kind of given up hope. There’s no scientific way to end this, the only way to really end this is to deal with it on a daily basis and dispatch as many walkers as we can. And live as peaceful as we can.
What’s in the pipeline for you – apart from The Walking Dead?
Writing, right now. In my spare time – the show keeps us plenty busy but we get about five months off at the end of each season to do our own pet projects or other film/TV work, and for me it’s just been writing like crazy. Doing a few feature scripts that I’m working on and getting that all shelved away, and hopefully in the next year or so I’ll be producing one of those.
Why do you think The Walking Dead has been so successful?
I think the reason why the show is so universally loved – for me I really think of it as a wonderful take on society in general. For me the walkers don’t represent zombies, they represent spiritual boredom – this pervasive, deadly hopelessness that is present in every nook and cranny of the world. Life is hard enough as it is without the fear of walkers, but that is representative of the daily trials and tribulations we have to overcome. I think that’s why the show is so loved because it is literally a daily struggle to persevere and survive when the odds are so crazy stacked against you.
The Walking Dead airs on FOX on Mondays at 9pm.