Hold on tight. Real tight.
New episodes of The Walking Dead begin on Sunday - and if you felt last season was a little too character-based and not enough crazy/energetic/OMG-did-that-really-just-happen based... you're going to love The Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 1, which brings all the elements we love about the hottest show on television to an exciting level.
We last left our group trapped in a boxcar on Terminus, and while there were many questions about what was really going on in this sanctuary, I think we can all agree: it ain't good.
Michael Cudlitz (now upped to series regular as Abraham) gave us a preview of what we'll see in the fifth season, along with what's in store for his character moving forward. Read on for excerpts from our exclusive Q&A...
TV Fanatic: Having seen the premiere, the energy seemed to be so much higher than the latter half of season 4. Do you see it that way?
Michael Cudlitz: Yes, I think the entire energy of the show has changed in the way that it needs to in our day-to-day struggle to survive, in the way that we have been surviving and I think once you cage these people up, once you lock these people up and give them no alternative, then you really raise the stakes again [and] I think when you raise the stakes like that, everybody falls into place.
And I also think it’s the way Scott [Gimple, showrunner] is telling these stories. I think he’s captured the energy of Kirkman’s [graphic novel] panels. Because every once in a while we actually match something directly that leads to the comic and we get sent images sometimes and then this is what we’re duplicating so everyone knows what we’re doing. I feel like there's a lot of energy in those Kirkman panels because emotionally they jump so quickly because there are no real transitions in the graphic novel world. It’s much more stark as the story moves forward.
And I think with television a lot of times the story is smoothed out and elongated and sometimes drawn out too much and I think Scott has done a really wonderful job of upping the stakes and you feel that intensity where you don’t know what’s going to happen from one moment to the next.
TVF: I remember when we talked when you first started on the show and it was all about Abraham having his plan and he was sticking to his plan. Has that plan changed moving forward because a lot has clearly happened since that point?
MC: Well, I think the larger arc has not changed and he still wants to get to Washington. But first we have to get out of the boxcar, we have to get out of Terminus. So, whatever it takes to do that he’s going to be willing to do it because he will ultimately service the larger goal, which is to save the world.
TVF: Assuming everybody gets out of the boxcar, what is Abraham’s opinion of Rick?
MC: I think Rick is out of his f**king mind, as Kirkman intended…you learn more about [Abraham] in his backstory later on. It’s very emotionally in tune to the emotions of the people around him. You know he’s a sergeant, he’s a non-commissioned officer, he’s very in tune with the troops and just by nature of that job but he’s also, as I said, he’s not necessarily the guy who comes up with the big plan. He’s the guy who initiates the smaller mission and makes that happen.
There’s no conflict between the two of us at this point. You saw in the trailer that there's stuff around that later but we don’t know exactly what it relates to but what it comes down to is once again, what is more important? Your emotional desires right now, which you feel is right at this moment or what is ultimately better? As in Star Trek, ‘the needs of many outweigh the need of the few.’
But right now there’s no reason to separate from the group and he knows that there is more to be gained if he can keep this group together because he knows there's safety in numbers, and f**k all if he doesn’t realize he has a group of warriors on his hands.
TVF: Moving forward, are we going to see Abraham need any of these people emotionally?
MC: Oh yeah. He is, on paper, driven by his mission. But in reality, he’s driven by his heart and his emotions. And we’ll get into all that. Scott does an awesome job of really fully fleshing out these characters that Kirkman has created.
TVF: Will we see Abraham connecting to someone that we haven’t seen him connect with before? Does he make any new alliances?
MC: Yes. You just learn more about him and the more you learn about him, there are a lot of different dynamics and new alliances that you think were alliances may not be and things that you thought would never happen or people that would never connect on any level, you know, connect.
It’s interesting because we look at these episodes and people lose things during the episodes. You know, they lose mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters. This loss that we have during the episode is played up so intensely you can't forget that underlying of all of this, every single member of the group, every single person left in this world that we’re portraying, has had massive loss up until this point. How do you process that after so many have gone before you?
TVF: After watching this first episode, you look thinner, Michael. What’s going on there?
MC: I said to Scott, Abraham is coming in as a comic book character, and I have always been fit and in shape but I wanted to do them a little more justice to kind of meet me a little half way. It’s not easy for a 50-year-old man.
TVF: What was it that helped you lean down?
MC: Pure fear, basically. [laughs] I’m very careful about what I eat most of the time. I could be better at it, but I'm doing what I can do.
The Walking Dead Season 5 airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.