Spoilers for The Walking Dead past this point.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So for every Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), there's also a Dwight (Austin Amelio), someone who desperately wants to be the badass, motorcycle riding, crossbow wielding the zombie apocalypse needs — but never will be. On the latest episode of The Walking Dead Dwight tried his hand at being Daryl; he tried at being his boss Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan); but ultimately he can't even successfully figure out who Dwight is, now that his face is half scarred, and he's lost his wife Sherry (Christine Evangelista).
Like pretty much everyone else on the show trying to navigate life at the end of the world, Dwight is lost. To find out more, TVGuide.com hopped on the phone with Amelio to discuss Dwight's anti-heroic journey, eating way too many egg sandwiches... And whether we could ever see Dwight kill Daryl.
We've seen touches of Dwight before, but mostly as an antagonist. What was it like finally getting to fully explore the character?
Austin Amelio: It was great. It was awesome. The layers are starting peel back a bit, and I'm excited to see that, and get a better understanding of Dwight. I get a lot of people saying, "Oh, he's my new favorite villain!" I don't really look at him as a villain, as much as a guy who hasn't had his story completely fleshed. He's a little misunderstood.
Well, the best villains always say that... Let's talk about his relationship with Daryl, though, since the dynamic was very different in this episode.
Amelio: Look, it's a rough episode. One, he has to be a leader amongst The Saviors, and two, he's been forced by Negan to torture Daryl. Compassion in this world is dark and twisted. He is trying to give Daryl some options. Daryl is lucky it's not Negan that's doing all this. Me and Daryl go back, and he helped us out at one point, and I'm trying to get through to him. "I don't want you to end up on the fence, or end up dead. I'm giving you options: all you've got to do is say the word 'Negan' and break..." Daryl's strong, and doesn't do this.
What was it like filming those cell scenes?
Amelio: Those scenes were really dark. Not a light note in any of those scenes. It played on me as an actor, as much as it does on Dwight. You see this guy so vulnerable, and just being absolutely tortured. Not an easy thing.
Did you blow off steam at all on set, or was it all grim, all the time?
Amelio: We just rolled with it... That was the episode. There was a lot of just being in it, and letting it sink in, and making those scenes feel as real as possible.
So what does Dwight want out of Negan? It almost seems like he wants to be Negan, but that's not who Dwight really is, inside.
Amelio: You have this guy who looks at Negan as a role model in some sense, because he's one of the top guys. And you also have this other guy, who has some humanity to him. It's been interesting going back and forth between there. He's definitely not trying to be anyone. At this point, I like to say he's praying to the altar of common sense. He's not the guy he was in the woods, but everything is common sense to him in this world. If you want to do this, you have to do this. One of the things he says is, "helping them won't help them." This is the world, this is what has to be done. It's pretty black and white to him now.
Do you think it was the"getting burned with an iron" moment that caused this change, or was it when he first stole Daryl's bike?
Amelio: Well, the iron moment definitely shattered everything else that he thought this world was going to be.
A lot of the changes for Dwight seem to have happened off-screen...
Amelio: [Showrunner] Scott Gimple is so detailed, if I have any questions at all he'll fill me in, and he gives the directors every single possible detail, so it hasn't been too difficult. I work with an awesome team.
When you're on set, is there any separation between you, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan and the rest of the cast? Or is it one big happy family?
Amelio: At some points I do feel a little separated when we're shooting the scenes... Me and Jeffrey are the ones that have a relationship, and all these other people have been working together for years. So that, actually kind of helps, you know? In all honesty, it's one big happy family, everyone regards each other as equal, and, we have game night... We all get together and have dinners.
It's not like, "Oh god, Dwight can't sit with us, I hate that guy." [Laughs]
There's a third big relationship in the episode, with Sherry. Is there anything left to repair there?
Amelio: Dwight, he's had to push down that hope that there is something, because he has to move on at some point. It's hard seeing someone you love, even if it's just for a moment. He's definitely still hanging on to that in some way.
Slight left turn, but how many egg sandwiches did you need to eat during the shoot?
[Laughs] A lot. I got pretty filled up on those egg sandwiches. I'm done eating egg sandwiches. They were actually pretty good! At the times when I was hungry, I ate a lot.
Probably better than the dog food sandwiches.
I'd say a lot better!
Let's talk about the last scene, when Dwight grabs that beer and sees his friend — the one he had to kill — now tied up in The Sanctuary's zombie pits. What's going through his mind?
Amelio: When he looks out he sees Gordon and has this realization that one, that could have been me, and two, is being dead better than being alive? Is this guy more free than I am?
Freedom is a main theme of the episode... Who do you think is more trapped, Dwight or Daryl at this point?
Amelio: From a viewer's standpoint, they're going to say Daryl, but from my standpoint, both of them really. In the long run, this guy's completely under the thumb of Negan, he can't do anything. Yeah, sure he gets to make good sandwiches, and so forth. He's terrorized mentally and emotionally. He doesn't sleep. Equally, they're both pretty trapped.
If Dwight had the opportunity, would he kill Daryl? Or in his own twisted way, does he care too much about him to ever take him out?
Amelio: I don't think he would kill Daryl.
Why do you think he would hold back?
Amelio: Deep down, he knows the score. For Dwight, I killed Denise, sure. It was a mistake. It's never easy killing anyone in this world, and he has some humanity left in him, so... I don't think he could do it.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.