[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from The Walking Dead and the comics the AMC series is based on. Read at your own risk!]
The Walking Dead has added some new blood to its ranks.
The AMC series introduced comic book favorites Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), a former army ranger, his love interest Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos) and high school science teacher Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) in the final moments of Sunday's episode. It was a special treat for comic book fans as the show closely adapted their first appearance from Robert Kirkman's graphic novel. (Read more about that here.)
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But that won't be the only similarity the show has in store. To get the scoop on this new group, TVGuide.com turned to Cudlitz, who dishes on the trio's mission and his transition from Southland to the dirty world of The Walking Dead:
Before you got the role of Abraham, had you read any of The Walking Dead comics?
Michael Cudlitz: I hadn't read the comics, so I knew nothing about Abraham. I started following the show early on. It was one of the projects that I actually read the pilot and I was very interested in the show. That was when Southland was initially going through its transition and we didn't know if we were going to get picked up by TNT for more. After the show started airing, their airdates coincided with our film dates, so I was never really up to date with the show, I was always playing catch-up. As far as Abraham, I didn't know he existed.
Have you read any of the comics now?
Cudlitz: Yes. I talked to [showrunner] Scott Gimple after I was hired and I said, "Look, I want to read the comics. I want to get caught up and up to date, but I don't want to mislead myself. How much of what Abraham does is going to be based on the comics?" He said, "Go ahead and do that. All of your backstory is going to be almost exactly as it was from the comic book as far as what happened before we met him." It's an awesome jumping-off point.
Tell us about your version of Abraham.
Cudlitz: When we meet Abraham, one of the things that we realize most about him is that he's very mission-oriented at this point. You're not going to learn a lot about how he emotionally feels about things necessarily. He's very reactive. He keeps his eye on the target. He's not to be f---ed with. He will kill you.
How does that personality fit into the larger group once they do come together?
Cudlitz: My words or his words? [Laughs] He doesn't give a sh--. That's not really a concern, how he fits into anyone else's group. He has his mission, and his mission is the only focus and the only thing that is important and the only thing that has any meaning right now.
With that said, what kind of relationship does he have with Eugene and Rosita?
Cudlitz: Their relationships are formed out of necessity. There is safety in numbers. You need people to survive. If you didn't need people to survive, he would not surround himself with people. Everyone [per]forms a function. If you cannot do your job, you are not needed. Eugene has important information. Eugene needs to be protected and be brought to Washington, D.C.
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How does this trio feel about the apocalypse? Do they still have hope for the future or have they accepted their fate in this world?
Cudlitz: It's a completely different dynamic. They have been traveling alone together for a bit now and they're kind of f---ing sick of each other as people. They annoy the hell out of each other. It's almost as if you were to say they are siblings to a strange degree. But I can't kill any of them, so I guess we gotta move forward. They're all integral to what we're doing. Rosita is entirely effective and efficient. I've trained her and made her that way. She's useful. And Eugene is the package, so we have to protect the package. I don't think any of it comes down to being weary of what's going on right now. The walkers are secondary at this point. There's no big Hershel moment where we're going to wax reflectively. It's like, "Get the f--- out of the way or get a bullet in your head." It's pretty clear.
So far the group has met Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Glenn (Steven Yeun). What is that dynamic like and where do they go from here?
Cudlitz: They're capable bodies. He's seen them both fight. One is obviously exhausted. Right now, when we first meet him, he doesn't know if they have other supplies. Are they with other people? It's very important to be well-stocked. He's coming from some other events that have happened very recently and those play into how he treats new people and how they move forward.
What has it been like going from Southland to the dirty world of The Walking Dead?
Cudlitz: In a lot of ways, it's the same, strangely enough. When we were in uniform, we'd start out every day perfectly clean, but we're rolling around in the streets and in these cars. Our city, by nature of being a city, is filthy. But with this, we start out in the morning, and they make you dirty. It's a little bit of city dirt versus country dirt. It's all dirt. You're pretty disgusting by the end of the day. Everyone is not being made pretty every day. There's an ugly and raw element to both shows that play really well visually and serve the stories that are being told.
What's been your favorite part of playing Abraham?
Cudlitz: The insane, orange hair, slap-back, handlebar mustache, just the whole look of him. He walks into a room and just wants to fight. It's like a permission slip to be the biggest douche you ever wanted to be.
How do you think the series changes now with these new characters coming in?
Cudlitz: We're coming into a very interesting point of the show. The whole world has been shaken up. Obviously everybody has been floating around in this snow globe and waiting to see where everybody settles. They're just part of the fabric. More importantly, the dynamic is going to be changed because there's a light element because of the way this group gets along with each other. There's not this need to constantly talk about the struggle of what they're going through. They wonderfully get caught up in these moments that they're actually in, so there's a lightness. There's some funny stuff coming up. I hesitate to use the word "funny," but it is. There are some quirky relationships that are going on that the audience will find a lot of humor in watching. They will be able to identify with it. I'm a fan of the show and I've watched all the episodes and I'm not laughing that much when I watch them, so to know these situations that are coming up and know that they're going to add this lightness in places, I think it's going to be exciting for the audience. Or they're just going to hate us, and Abraham is going to get a bullet in his head in a couple hours. I don't think so, though. It's all done really well and it's based in the reality of everyone's situations. It's very true to the show and very true to human nature and the comics.
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There's a hint of nearby sanctuary. Is Abraham so focused on the mission that he'd actually pass up a place that would be safe for them?
Cudlitz: Sanctuary sounds awesome, doesn't it? We'll have to see what happens with that. Abraham will do what Abraham has to do.
[WARNING: If you haven't read the comics, you might want to skip this question.] In the comics, we know that Eugene has teamed up with Abraham under false pretenses. Is their story line similar?
Cudlitz: Yeah, there are a lot of similar elements. A lot of it is going to feel very familiar. But you have to remember, a lot of these characters that they interacted with in the comics are no longer with us. So some situations just could never happen because those people are no longer here. I will say that it's going to feel very familiar and there's a push from Scott's side to really pay homage to the comic and not get so far off track or so diluted that if you're a fan of one, you wouldn't recognize the other. There's a way to marry the two elements together that does justice to both. What if these two characters lived in the same world at the same time even though they don't in the comics? What would that have been like? Well, now you get to explore certain things like that. There are people that I am inhabiting a world with that were already dead in the comics. That's going to be exciting for people who really know the comics. There's a lot of bada--es in one room. Sh-- is going to hit the fan. Where it ends tees up a whole new world.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.