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Q&A: Actor Ross Marquand talks “THE WALKING DEAD”!

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There’s no denying that THE WALKING DEAD is the biggest genre show on television, so one could only imagine the online waves caused by last season’s shocking cliffhanger. Now, fans have the chance to relive all the mad and macabre moments of THE WALKING DEAD’s sixth season through a whole new lens, as the series offers up its unrated Blu-ray/DVD edition of season six. And with that in mind, FANGORIA spoke to actor Ross Marquand, whose WALKING DEAD character ‘Aaron’ found himself in Negan’s crosshairs in the season finale, to talk about his experiences on the recent season, the fandom of THE WALKING DEAD, and the nightmarish practical creations he’s encountered on the show…

FANGORIA: So you came aboard the show in season five but really became ingrained in the cast in season six. How did the dynamic change for you once you joined the main cast?

ROSS MARQUAND: Well, Aaron came in season five and very quickly tries to get Rick and his group to join the community in Alexandria. He was successful but they’re all still uncertain of who they can trust in the community. They’re not sure if any of these people are good, and as time goes on they all realize that Aaron is exactly the guy that he says he is. And it’s lovely for the fans and for Rick’s group to finally get to know Aaron and the Alexandrians and really say, “Hey, this is a good person.” Aaron has really grown a lot in season six along with some of the other Alexandrians, and I’m excited for people to revisit that now that the DVD and Blu-ray has come out.

FANG: How has your experience been like on the show? Obviously, THE WALKING DEAD was a pop culture phenomenon by the time you came aboard.

MARQUAND: Truthfully, it’s been amazing for me to work with guys like Norman [Reedus] and Andy [Lincoln] and every actor on the show, but everyone has such a wide range of roles that they’d played; their resumes are amazingly expansive. For me, as a fan of the show myself, it was a great honor, and so much fun to be a part of that. And I obviously can’t speak too much about season seven but I will say that for the time I’ve experienced the show, it’s just been an absolute joy working with everybody.

FANG: THE WALKING DEAD is such a massive production. What has it been like getting to work in a space with such impressive sets and locations?

MARQUAND: Season six really gets to go behind the scenes and explore Alexandra. It’s such a massive set; it’s actually a working community. There’s people who do live there and it’s a place where fans from around the world will come by and check it out. It’s really wild to see, when you see all the solar panels and you see all the houses. It’s a huge, huge community.

It’s been odd for everybody because when you’re working on a TV show, the sets are very clearly sets. On this show and this community, you kind of blur the lines. You have a hard time sometimes distinguishing between fantasy and reality because of the attention to detail in the community itself. They did such a great job of building it that it’s very easy as an actor to immerse yourself in these characters because you are living in this community.

FANG: What’s it been like working with Greg Nicotero and the amazing FX team over at THE WALKING DEAD?

MARQUAND: Greg’s team is just fantastic; they’ve been collectively in the business- between all of them- for well over one hundred years and they keep managing to blow everyone away with how disgusting and amazing they can go with their makeup. It’s really quite astonishing to see what they can do. And truthfully, I was having some pretty uneasy feelings and some pretty intense nightmares when I first got to the set. But after a while, you finally have lunch with one of these lovely extras who sit in these makeup chairs for two or three hours and you just realize that they’re regular average everyday people. The fear factor certainly goes out the window once you get to talk to these people. But it is tough to look at them as humans sometimes because Greg and his team do such a great job and how completely they look like these zombies.

FANG: Obviously, Negan coming into the story was a dark cloud that hung over the latter half of season six. With the ramifications of his appearance and knowing a cast member would be leaving soon, how did that affect the cast?

MARQUAND: Well, we all heard that Negan was coming as the episodes kept going on. It was pretty exciting for all of us because most of us have at least read some of the comics or heard about the comics. To hear that this massively pivotal character would be coming to the show, not only were we excited to see how this character would affect the group but we were also excited to see who the actor who’d play Negan would be. We were extremely thrilled to find out that Jeffrey Dean Morgan was going to be filling those shoes because not only is he an amazing actor, he just brings so much to that part. He really does.

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FANG: What was it like shooting your scene opposite Negan? It certainly seems like an intense process to get to that area of emotional despair.

MARQUAND: Yeah, it was. The people who watch the show will really see exactly what we were going through when they rewatch it. It was a devastating process for all of us. I hesitate to say that it wasn’t fun because every day on this show is quite a fun thrill to be a part of. But it was one of those days- it took about three or four days to film entirely- and each one of those days we all came to the set with a bit of dread about us.

Even the acknowledgement that this man was not only going to change Rick and his world entirely but it was also going to affect each one of these characters immeasurably, and for the rest of their lives. And that was a tough thing to go through, take after take, just getting to that dark emotional place, and it was some of the more rewarding but also the most difficult acting I’ve ever done. I think everyone else feels the same way.

FANG: One of the cool things about THE WALKING DEAD on Blu-ray is that fans get to see the unrated cut of certain episodes, including the infamous Negan introduction. Can you talk about getting to shoot the unrated version of that final scene?

MARQUAND: Yeah, that was fun, because like you just said there were two different versions- one for on air at AMC and then also one for the Blu-ray. And it was very interesting to see Jeffrey juggle the words in his head because if you’ve read the comics, you know that Negan does curse an awful lot, and he has fun with the cursing. The cursing is very colorful and it goes all over the place, so I think he was having fun just really launching into that and just really enjoying those words and having fun with that. As a fan myself, I’m excited to see that Blu-ray because I really want to play back those scenes with that and mind and see how different the emotional feel of it is.

FANG: What would you say has been the most rewarding aspect of THE WALKING DEAD’s sixth season?

MARQUAND: For now, it was the most rewarding as an actor. It was a master class acting lesson seeing Jeffrey and Andy do their thing and having everyone just be in that moment and listening to each other and just really being in that moment. That was truly phenomenal. But I gotta tell you what I’d pick so far is when Maggie and Aaron were down in the sewers battling the walkers and everything down there. That was so much fun, and the crew did such a great job of recreating this world. They basically made the sewers from scratch- the art department had corrugated steel that they fastened into this incredibly ornate sewer and added all this mold and gunk and, of course, all the waste that was covering the walkers. It was amazing to see and then also to play in because it was not at all difficult as an actor to go into that world and really imagine what it would be like down there because they had done such a great job creating it already for us. So I’m excited for the fans to go behind the scenes and see how it all came out.

FANG: Is it difficult to maintain the secrecy surround the show? Obviously, there’s so much pressure when it comes to the identity of Negan’s victim right now.

MARQUAND: Well the secrecy is actually quite difficult to keep up nowadays because we’ve had people with drones flying over the set, which even sounds ridiculous to even admit, but there are people who genuinely want to know as much as they can about the show before it’s there. And while I really appreciate that enthusiasm, I think the entire cast and crew does appreciate that enthusiasm since we love that people are talking about the show- but it jeopardizes peoples’ safety and also other peoples’ enjoyment of the show. That’s where I get a little upset because we work really really hard to keep these storylines intact and fresh and new for the people who are watching it firsthand.

To answer your question, it’s quite difficult, but I think for the most part fans want to watch the show when it comes out. They want to see it as it’s airing when it’s first airing on FOX International and AMC. It’s a great joy to see someone watch the show, write you on Twitter, during or after the show, and saying “Oh my God, that was amazing, that was so good. Thank you for the work you guys have done.” That feels great. And so, we really do try to maintain that secrecy as best as we can.

FANG: THE WALKING DEAD’s popularity has certainly transcended conventional fandom; hell, the series even has its own brand of fan conventions with the Walker Stalker cons. What’s your experience been like on the fan convention circuit now that you’re a part of this pop culture phenomenon?

MARQUAND: Well, I’ve done a few of those conventions and it’s still wonderful to go because I’m a geek myself and I was a huge fan of the show before I even got on it. So for me, I was so blown away- you go to these conventions and people are lining up to meet you and talk to you- it’s the most amazing sensation. And I never thought at any point in my career people would be waiting to come talk to me just to say that they like my work and to take a picture with me. It’s a huge huge honor and I think it’s a really great way for the fans to have a more personal experience with these actors and these characters they’ve come to love. So I think it’s wonderful and I certainly made a lot of other horror fandoms doing that and the whole horror fandom is truthfully the most loyal fans on the planet and I think we’re all just massively indebted to them for the show’s success and our success. We’re very lucky to have the fans that we do.

THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON is now on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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