Don’t read this if you haven’t watched the most recent episode of The Walking Dead. You have been warned.
As a whole, “Inmates,” last Sunday’s installment of The Walking Dead on AMC, was an up and down affair. Segmented as it was, some pieces worked much better than others. What this episode did do was throw in some elements that are going to have a huge impact on the landscape and dynamic of the series for a long time to come. Carol (Melissa McBride) is back, baby Judith Grimes is still alive, and Tara (Alanna Masterson) is involved in the story once again, at least for the time being. But those aren’t the only surprises. We’ve been expecting them since before season four kicked off, but the very end of “Inmates” introduced, briefly, three new characters: Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), Rosita Epsinosa (Christian Serratos), and Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt), three key characters from the comics. This is obviously a big move, and Cudlitz recently opened up about his character and the changes we can expect.
Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, the Southland star discussed how he came by his latest role, how similar the TV versions will be to their two-dimensional counterparts, and how their presence will change the preexisting dynamic of the series.
Before the show, Cudlitz wasn’t familiar with Robert Kirkman’s comics that serve as the source material, though he admits to becoming a fan and catching up with them after reading the pilot. Reading the comics, as it turned out, was an important first step in researching his role as Abraham Ford, a badass ex-military man who, at least in the source, becomes Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) right hand man. Cudlitz says:
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 how closely Abraham and the others emulate their origins, Cudlitz continues, “All three of those characters are going to seem extremely familiar to those who know the comics.” Like in the comics, he confirms that the three are on a mission to get Eugene to Washington DC in order to help people that are supposedly working on a cure for the zombie plague. This will apparently become clear in the next episode. Their internal dynamic also appears to be very similar to the comics in the fact that Abraham and Rosita are in a relationship.
Bringing in new characters, not just new people that will be immediately fed to zombies, is, of course, going to change the overall look and feel of the group of survivors. Aside from that, the new crew also has their own personality, their own internal structure to contend with. Cudlitz says:
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.
So much of The Walking Dead is tied up in introspection and self-examination, a faux-philosophical approach to the end of the world that equates to shoe-gazing much of the time. The new additions, however, bring a different perspective to the apocalypse. Cudlitz says:
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.
As you’ve probably guessed from Cudlitz’s responses, Abraham is something of a tough guy, which, as you can imagine in a show full of dudes all trying to be tough, is going to lead to conflict. He’s sure to have run ins with Rick, Daryl, and even Glenn, whose mission to find Maggie is going to interfere with Abe’s run to DC. Cudlitz also notes, “You’ve never seen a world where Abraham and Tyreese have existed together,” which is bound to lead to fireworks.
As gruff as he is, Abraham is much more of a get-shit-done kind of guy rather than a leader. Give him a job, a goal, he’ll see that it’s accomplished. That’s why, as some people look to the potential haven of Terminus, he’s got other things on his mind, and has his sights set on the Capital. If nothing else, it is going to be interesting to see how the two groups mix together on screen, and to watch the action unfold.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC.