SPOILER WARNING: this article contains major spoilers for The Walking Dead TV show and comics.
The dust has settled, the blood has been dried, Lucille has had a wipedown, and her victims have finally been revealed. The Walking Dead returned to the small screen last week, and in typically bloody fashion, we said a tearful farewell to both Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn (Steven Yuen), who met the sharp end of Negan’s form of justice. After having been sworn to secrecy for well over a year, we spoke to Michael Cudlitz for a post-death analysis chat.
How are you feeling in the aftermath of that episode? Is it bittersweet?
I think it's sweet-sweet! The more I sat with it over time, the more it really felt like the right thing, for many many reasons. I am very pleased that they chose to do what they did with my character. It was a good time to go.
In the comics, Abraham dies before ever meeting Negan. Did you get a sense his time was up?
I knew that he was on borrowed time. No-one had really died since Beth. We went a whole season with nobody dying. I was very aware of that. I also knew we were about to meet a lot of new people. And yes, story-wise, we were around the same time that Abraham went [in the comics], so it was not a big surprise when they let me know.
Have you learned how to be good at lying over the past year?
I dyed my hair the whole time to keep up the ruse.
Lies of omission, yes! I've been very good at saying things like, “Oh, I'm going back to Atlanta soon”... People have been asking, “you going back to work?”, and I was like, “I leave for Atlanta tomorrow”. With the focus on “going to Atlanta,” than “going to work”...
I did what I could to keep up the ruse. I was travelling quite a bit, so any opportunity I could, I would travel through Atlanta and stay a day or so. I’d make sure I was ‘seen’ in some of Atlanta’s restaurants. And I dyed my hair the whole time, every two weeks, to keep the haircut.
The episode was incredibly emotional and brutal to watch. What was it like to film?
Emotional and brutal! It was great. It was an opportunity for both Steven [Yuen, who plays Glenn] and I to say goodbye to everyone – 90% of the cast were on set that day – and everyone was there for those two days.
There's been a big debate about the violence of that episode. Some viewers felt it went too far. Was there a concern it might be off-putting?
I think there might have been a consideration. But I think this was one of those moments where we remind everyone what the show is. It is based on a graphic novel in the horror genre. Just because families have started watching it with children doesn't necessarily mean that we need to cater for that. We have the warning beforehand and we are within the confines of that gauge. We're absolutely leaning on the heavy end of it – I'm not sitting here trying to pretend like it's not crazy graphic, because it is – but that is more true to what it is and how the story should be told.
Just because families have started watching it with children doesn't necessarily mean that we need to cater for that.
But obviously, this is us reaching in as far as we can for effect. The whole show is not suddenly going to be like this every week. I would strongly argue that it is no more graphically violent than when we lost Noah. It is more emotionally weighted because we have two characters that we really love – and one is arguably the moral compass of the show – so you're more invested emotionally, which makes the graphic violence more effective. But there is nothing more visually violent in Noah's death than what we saw in the season premiere.
Abraham takes it like a champ, though. Were you pleased that his final words, “suck my nuts”, were appropriately Abraham-esque?
Oh yeah. That's kind of a thing that Scott [Gimple, showrunner] and I go back and forth with all the time. There's a balance with Abraham. He doesn't say what you think he's going to say, but in doing so he winds up saying more. He gets you to think about something in a different way. It's something that Tarantino does as well. He'll have somebody say 'fuck' so many times that it doesn't even mean 'fuck' any more. It transcends what it means and it gets you thinking about the situation in a different way.
I think “suck my nuts” is my favourite line.
I think that, in a way, that's sort of like Abraham, the way he twists stuff around. He doesn't necessarily make sense if you look at the words on the page from a strictly narrative standpoint. But you know what he means, and we all know people who talk like that. They're not necessarily the most highly-educated, yet they are the most profound people you will ever meet. I think that that's the balance, the trick, the dance with Abraham – to make sure that what he says is not just for comic relief, that he leavens everything that's going on with all of his heart. That is why you want to celebrate that character.
Do you have a favourite Abraham line?
I think “suck my nuts” is my favourite now. Or “picking up a turd by its clean end”. They're all good. “You know how to bite a dick” is a classic. “You know how to bite a dick, Eugene. And I mean that with the utmost respect”.
The Walking Dead airs Mondays at 9pm on FOX in the UK. Read our review of the latest episode.