If Michael Cudlitz was a baseball player, it would be called “the shot heard around the world.” As it is, it could be called “the shot heard around TV Land.” Cudlitz played Abraham Ford on the AMC hit series The Walking Dead and was part of one of the most controversial and brutally graphic scenes in television history. So, what’s gone on with Cudlitz after he made TV history? Here’s what we know.
MICHAEL CUDLITZ IN THE 90s
It may not seem like it, or perhaps you just simply haven’t noticed, by Michael Cudlitz has been around for a while now. Abraham Ford was not his first rodeo. His career dates back to the early ‘90s when he nabbed his first role on the TV series 21 Jump Street. His early career would be filled with TV appearances as he was seen in L.A. Law, Step by Step, Growing Pains, Life Goes On, and Against the Grain. Cudlitz also had himself a recurring role on Beverly Hills, 90210.
Throughout the ‘90s, Cudlitz’s career would be on TV series overload. Picket Fences, The Last Frontier, Pacific Blue, and Renegade. Michael Cudlitz also found time to jump aboard some big time shows such as NYPD Blue, Party of Five, Home Improvement, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The California of Arts graduate was getting plenty of work, but it wasn’t until Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks knocked on his door with Band of Brothers that his face got a little more familiar.
MICHAEL CUDLITZ IN BAND OF BROTHERS
Band of Brothers told the story of “Easy” Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division and was based on the historical non-fiction novel by Stephen E. Ambrose of the same name. The story followed a select group of soldiers from their jump training through their participation in the war, up until Japan surrenders and the end of World War II.
Michael Cudlitz’s role was just one of many that featured stars such as Damian Lewis, Scott Grimes, David Schwimmer, Neal McDonough, Donnie Wahlberg, and Ron Livingston. It was a sweeping tale, obviously, that was based on actual historic events so many of the soldiers portrayed met the same fate as those they are based upon.
Michael Cudlitz played Staff Sergeant Denver “Bull” Randleman, a real-life soldier, who saw action in the Battle of Normandy, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge. He lived through all, receiving the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. The fourth episode of Band of Brothers featured Cudlitz as Bull in his escape from a German-occupied village in the Netherlands.
ABRAHAM ON THE WALKING DEAD
Michael Cudlitz always knew his fate on The Walking Dead. It was spelled out for him early on in the comic book. Even though from time to time producers and writers would venture away from the original storylines, Cudlitz knew the end would come. He told the LA Times, “I knew, I mean, I knew it was time,” he said. “It’s always sad to leave a place where the working conditions are fantastic, the stories were great, the people were great. I understand that [he had to die]. I processed that. But the actual leaving of that group, sure, it was sad.”
The shock, though, wasn’t so much his death but the fact that Steven Yeun was also going to meet the same fate and Michael Cudlitz knew how much of a fan favorite Yeun’s Glenn had become. “When I saw Steven get beaten, it was horrific, because he was my favorite character.”
While Cudlitz gives props to the writers who put the scene together, it was actually Michael himself who had the say in how his character would face down Negan and Lucille. “That was him being a soldier. He knew. He had assessed this whole situation. He knew that someone in this group had to go, and he being the ultimate soldier was willing to take it for the next guy.”
Even now, even knowing his death was something that had to happen, Michael Cudlitz feels the producers went way too far in showing the graphic death. “I always think it was a bridge too far, personally. I thought it was too much,” Cudlitz admitted to the Talk Dead to Me podcast. “Either one of us should have lived a little bit longer because I think it was, people were very affected by it. They said, ‘Oh, my gosh, it was the most graphic brutal deaths. It was murder porn.’ All this stuff.”
Michael Cudlitz explains even further, “The fact that I think you loved Abraham and Glenn so much as an audience, that’s what makes it more brutal. And you sort of think, ‘Oh, OK. Oh, my gosh. It was Abraham. We’re sad that it was Abraham, but thank God it wasn’t Glenn.’ And, ‘OK. Oh, my gosh. OK.’ And, ‘Oh, my God. It’s Glenn, too! What are you doing to me?’ I think it’s the one-two punch that was maybe a little too much.” There are many fans in his corner. There are also those who relished the scene.
So, what happens to an actor after such a brutal end? You don’t lose your head over it, that’s for sure. While his time on The Walking Dead was memorable, Michael Cudlitz did move on. In fact, even though he remains bitter about the death of his character and Yuen’s, he has returned to The Walking Dead family, but this time he has more control.
For years Michael Cudlitz had been asking to get behind the camera for an episode or two and he finally got his wish. Three times over. Producers gave him his first shot in 2018 with the episode Stradivarius and when things went well for Cudlitz, he was asked back for two more episodes in 2019, Silence the Whisperers and Open Your Eyes. Resurrection complete.
MICHAEL CUDLITZ AFTER THE WALKING DEAD
Michael Cudlitz didn’t waste time after Negan, with Lucille’s help, took him deep over the left-field fence. He quickly moved to the series The Kids are Alright, playing Mike Cleary opposite Mary McCormack (Dances with Wolves) as parents in the early LA ‘70s raising eight sons. The series was actually quite highly regarded but unfortunately for Cudlitz and family, viewership was not what they needed to keep the series rolling. It was canceled after one season and 23 episodes.
Michael Cudlitz still has work in front of him. On deck, he has two completed features and two TV series he will be appearing in. Of course, if his acting career slows, he always has vintage bar The Red Phone Booth.
THE RED PHONE BOOTH
If you are fond of speakeasy’s, then The Red Phone Booth will be your haunt. As of April 2019, Michael Cudlitz is now the proud owner of not one, but two Red Phone Booth speakeasies.
The first one resides in Atlanta, GA, which may not be surprising to anyone who knows that The Walking Dead films around the city. The second one has found a home in Nashville, TN. The Red Phone Booth is set to give its “members” a Prohibition Experience, per their website.
Members enter the establishment through a red phone booth but can only get in by punching in the numbers only members have access to. Once inside, premium liquor and cigars can be found for what we are assuming premium prices.
If you think members can just stroll in wearing their simple dailies, you will be mistaken. No hats, gentlemen. No athletic gear, guys. Ladies, please don’t attempt to enter wearing anything other than something fancy and special. It’s just not allowed. If you’re into that type of atmosphere, then Michael Cudlitz’s The Red Phone Booth will be your speakeasy.