Michael Cudlitz, who plays Sgt. Abraham Ford on AMC’s The Walking Dead, talks about his apocalyptic skills (or lack thereof) and trying to stack up to a buff comic book character.
Q: How did you end up on The Walking Dead? Were you a fan of the zombie genre before?
A: I grew up watching B horror movies and loved them. I was a huge fan of the Dawn of the Dead stuff and all that. The TV stuff, when it’s done well, can be fantastic. And when it’s not done well, it’s probably some of the [worst] television you’d ever want to watch. People try to grab onto the genre, but it’s always about the storytelling in anything that you’re doing.
Q: It was announced that you would be on the show long before you appeared in an episode. How intense was the fan pressure to reveal things about Abraham?
A: They always ask. Everyone wants to know when you’re coming on. And I don’t think they realize that half the time they’re asking, that’s potentially a spoiler. They just get excited like, “When are you coming, when can we see you?” And it’s like, “Soon.” I haven’t told them anything. Hang in there, be patient, watch.
Q: You play a tough guy determined to see his mission through on the The Walking Dead. Are you like that at all in real life?
A: My wife would tell you, no. As Jessica Rabbit says, “I’m just drawn that way.”
Q: You played a police officer in Southland. Why do you think you draw these military roles?
A: I don’t know! I think there is an element of physicality about how I am. But there’s a blue collar accessibility to me, and that’s just who I am. I’m not the best looking guy in the room, and I think that makes me more accessible to everyday guys out there. It’s not like some pretty boy telling you how things are. I think it’s a really interesting time in television right now, with a lot of really cool character actors coming up and a lot of awesome writing going into them. The face of television is changing — and it’s favoring me!
Q: Abraham scores a lady friend in the apocalypse, so he’s not doing so bad.
A: That’s the thing, where are you going to go? You’re going to go where you feel safe and protected.
Q: Brawn is at a premium in the apocalypse.
A: Exactly. And Rosita’s no dummy either. She’s probably not in it for the conversation.
Q: Your character has an impressive physique in the comic book. Was that hard to match?
A: I was very very fit for Southland, but Southland had been cancelled so I was taking a break. Then I got cast as Abraham and had to be on set in two weeks! I was not in the shape that I would have preferred to be in, to be honest, but I also said I wasn’t going to do anything unhealthful or drive myself crazy. And I just came to an agreement that me and Abraham were going to meet each other halfway.You’re talking about real life and comic book characters. Some people would comment [about me], “I like him for the choice but I don’t know if he’s big enough.” I don’t know if anyone is big enough to play Abraham physically!
Q: What kind of background research did you do on the role?
A: I really got up to date on the comic more than anything. Anything with weapons training, I’ve been very fortunate to be involved with a lot of projects that had the use of weapons — from Band of Brothers to Southland to The Negotiator. Just a lot of military roles, and that’s kind of where Abraham is coming from. He’s not active in the military anymore, but it’s this residual stuff that he carries with him and you kind of feel like he’s still in the military.
Q: Do you have any skills that would be similarly applicable in the event of an apocalypse?