Today, The Walking Dead
season eleven comes to AMC+ with a linear premiere following next Sunday on AMC. At the start of the season, those in Alexandria struggle to refortify the town and feed all the survivors. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and her new group the Wardens, along with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Alden (Callan McAuliffe), and a few others, go off in search of food, while unbeknownst to the others, Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), and Princess (Paola Lázaro) are being held by the solders of a new and mysterious group.
In preparation of the premiere, McDermitt, Payton, Matsuura, and McAuliffe recently talked to media about the new season.
The actors talked to Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision about people making decisions for the group and how it can affect the individuals. When it comes to Eugene’s group, Ezekiel, Yumiko, and Princess agreed to continue to follow Eugene on his hunt for Stephanie, but in Maggie’s group, she made a decision that not everyone agreed with.
Matsurra thinks other characters might not have made the same choice as they did to follow Eugene. “I think that it's not an accident that this particular group is Ezekiel,Yumiko - well, we pick up Princess (Paola Lázaro) on the way, but it's like, it wasn't Maggie that was going with Eugene. It was very particular people that did go with Eugene. And I think it's because those characters…have nothing left. They were kind of like at the end of, not the end of the road, but the end of sort of their time and their function in their past community.
“So, like for Yumiko, she'd just come out of a breakup. All of her group had kind of dispersed and gone off to do other things, and Eugene's going off on this mission, and [she] was like, ‘I'll come. I'll come; I've got I've got nothing to lose.’ So, it was more about a personal motivation, whereas, you know, I think for Callan's group…the temperature of that mission was a little different, and there's a lot more people with clashing ideas. Whereas with us, we were kind of all on a unified mission to go out and just see what's out there and find something better.”
McAuliffe joked, “I think Alden just has a kind of, sort of almost pious loyalty to Maggie, because he's still quietly hoping that they're gonna screw at some point. So, it's a pretty, pretty simple dynamic.”
Payton, also joking around, at first just said that they went on the trip with Eugene because Angela Kang told them to, but then added after, “I would just say, in general, that Maggie's way of coping through all of this has been to get harder and harder. Especially, the four of us that end up on the bikes have taken a different tack as far as coping with what the apocalypse means to us, I would say, yeah.”
McDermitt talked to the site about how what is happening in Eugene’s group versus Maggie’s group is different. “It's like the circumstances surrounding the decisions that were made are wildly different. One of them, certainly in Alden and Maggie's case, involved the death of someone, and that was her call, and Alden was certainly like, ‘Hey, this is bullshit…’ But with the other group, they were certainly like, ‘Yeah, the risk of dying is there,’ and there are certainly risks, but I think they're all on board. They didn't have different ideas, as Eleanor was saying.
“So, every scenario, every situation, should be talked through. We even saw it at the beginning of the episode where Maggie was talking about, ‘Hey, you know, we can go get this food that we have stashed,’ and everybody talked about it, and some people stayed behind, because, you know, I kind of equate that decision to the decision that Eugene and Yumiko and Ezekiel all had. But to take it to the extreme, where I'm going to decide whether or not this person lives to protect these other people? I mean, yeah, I get it, like high stakes, but it's not necessarily her call, but there was a there's a time limit on it on…I think that if our group were faced with similar decision making, we might have differences of opinion there.”
Be sure to read the full transcript and tune in to the new season.Zoom InterviewThe Walking DeadJosh McDermitt, Khary Payton, Eleanor Matsuura, and Callan McAuliffe
August 3, 2021
Hi, guys, thanks so much for talking to us today. I appreciate it. I really enjoyed the first two episodes. So, I wanted to try to ask a question hopefully you all can answer. I know you're in different groups in it, but Eugene made the choice to go after Stephanie, but the others in the group, they decided to go along with him, whereas in Alden’s group, Maggie makes a decision that let's just say not everybody agrees with and it, you know, [has] some effects later. So, my question is how important is it, do you think, for everyone to kind of talk the choices over and decide as a group how to do things? And will the decisions made for the groups, could that maybe come back to bite them in the butt later on? Can you maybe tease that a bit?
I'll make it real[ly] simple for you. When we read the script, and the script says get up, get your ass on a bike, and ride to who knows where, you think about it for a little bit, you make a couple of phone calls, and then you get your ass on a bike, and you ride to who knows where with Eugene, because that's what Angela told you to do. And I am nothing if not a very good follower of the script. This is how things go in my world.
Okay…wait a second. Khary Payton.
That's my kind of surface level performing, Khary.
Man, you know what? I'm bringing you the real stuff.
Okay, but like also, I think that it's not an accident that this particular group is Ezekiel, Yumiko - well, we pick up Princess (Paola Lázaro) on the way, but it's like, it wasn't Maggie that was going with Eugene. It was very particular people that did go with Eugene. And I think it's because those characters are not just like, “because Angela told us to,” even though she did, and we'll do anything that she tells us to do, but like, it's because they have nothing left. They were kind of like at the end of, not the end of the road, but the end of sort of their time and their function in their past community.
So, like for Yumiko, she'd just come out of a breakup. All of her group had kind of dispersed and gone off to do other things, and Eugene's going off on this mission, and I was like, “I'll come. I'll come; I've got I've got nothing to lose.” So, it was more about a personal motivation, whereas, you know, I think for Callan's group - Callan I don't wan't to speak for you, but -
Please do; it will make it easy.
The temperature of that mission was a little different, and there's a lot more people with clashing ideas. Whereas with us, we were kind of all on a unified mission to go out and just see what's out there and find something better.
If you want to talk about it logically, then yes, your answer's probably better.
I am nothing if not a logical person, Khary. You know this about me.
I think Alden just has a kind of, sort of almost pious loyalty to Maggie, because he's still quietly hoping that they're gonna screw at some point. So, it's a pretty, pretty simple dynamic. ELEANOR MATSUURA:
SCIFI VISION: [laughs]
Do you have anything to add, Josh?
I also want to want to mention that Yumiko, Eugene, and Ezekiel also share, like wonderful hair. We've all got long and luxurious hair. I think that the conversation first started, as many conversations do, at the beauty shop, where we decided to take this to take this sojourn. So, there you go, but I’ll leave it at that.
I'll say this, I'll be brief, and I think Eleanor kind of touched on it. It's like the circumstances surrounding the decisions that were made are wildly different. One of them, certainly in Alden and Maggie's case, involved the death of someone, and that was her call, and Alden was certainly like, “Hey, this is bullshit, but let me get your number later.” Is that what you were saying, Callan? [laughs]
But with the other group, they were certainly like, “Yeah, the the risk of dying is there,” and there are certainly risks, but I think they're all on board. They didn't have different ideas, as Eleanor was saying.
So, every scenario, every situation, should be talked through. We even saw it at the beginning of the episode where Maggie was talking about, “Hey, you know, we can go get this food that we have stashed,” and everybody talked about it, and some people stayed behind, because, you know, I kind of equate that decision to the decision that Eugene and Yumiko and Ezekiel all had. But to take it to the extreme, where I'm going to decide whether or not this person lives to protect these other people? I mean, yeah, I get it, like high stakes, but it's not necessarily her call, but there was a there's a time limit on it on.
I know I said I was going to be brief, and I'm rambling. So, I just wanted to point out the differences that I saw in my mind with that. I think that if our group were faced with similar decision making, we might have differences of opinion there.
If there's any piece of his answer that sounds like I might have said it, go ahead and snip that.
Feel free to cut and paste.
CALLAN McAULIFFE: [laughs]
That was great.
My dreadlocks are great. You can say Khary said that, even though I just [did].
There you go. I would just say, in general, that Maggie's way of coping through all of this has been to get harder and harder. Especially, the four of us that end up on the bikes have taken a different tack as far as coping with what the apocalypse means to us, I would say, yeah.
Great. Well, thank you so much.
…My question covers the arc of everyone, and I'd love to get your input on this, because this show seems to show a reversion of humanity in a way…Can you talk about how this happens with your characters? Like for example, with Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), you see a man lose his faith as he goes along. Eugene clings to science. Ezekiel seems to just keep going with his belief at that time. Can you talk about the reversion of these characters and how they're dealing with [things] as the world seems to be evolving around them?
Well, first of all, I think it's a good example of being reminded that we as human beings do not react to adversity, or anything for that matter, in the same way, that we all have our different ways of coping with adversity. And fortunately, we've developed this beautiful cast of characters that can demonstrate that idea, that none of us are cookie cutters that are going to react in the in the same way. And because we're all living with their trauma, we have a certain amount of empathy about how each one of these characters reacts, you know? I think it's kind of incredible that you take a character like Negan, who is introduced in a certain way that puts you on the defensive, except that he's charming and incredibly handsome. You're usually not thinking that he's the one whose side you want to be on, but as you tell the story, you at least start to understand where he's coming from a little bit, and I think that's kind of incredible. That's kind of maybe one of the more extreme examples, but that's the beauty of this show, I think, that it doesn't take trauma and sacrifice and survival and make it something that's an easy question to answer.
Did you use the word “reversion?” Is that what you said?
Yes, where they revert back to almost like, not Cro-Magnon, but a do-or-die kind of mentality where, if you threaten me, I am going to take you down kind of thing. And it's interesting to see how the walls fall away and the belief systems change [for] these characters. I really find it fascinating and one of the cooler parts of the show, because you have science; you have religion, and then you have like within Darryl (Norman Reedus), he's more able to deal with everything, because he's sort of the nature boy. He's grown up in a world that's self-sufficient already.
Yeah, that's so true. I was just thinking about that word “reversion.” I wasn't sure if that's what you'd said or not, but I was just like, it's an interesting word, because I was thinking, it reminds me, one of the things I love about this show is how it weirdly mirrors what is happening in the real world, like, they write the show before things that happen outside in the real world happen. And this pandemic has been a perfect example of that, like, we're crawling slowly out of sort of the worst of the pandemic, but we are asking ourselves the questions like, “What do we want to take with us from the pandemic that we've learned? And what do we want to leave behind?” Like, that's a conversation that we as human beings are having with each other, or I'm certainly having with people.
And I think in the show, it's dealing with that, because we find, whether it's going back to old characters that reappear, like Magna (Nadia Hilker) coming back, or whether it's finding new communities, like we're about to explore this whole new community, we're going to see all these characters and where they've been, and maybe they're going to be thrust back into positions of kind of like the old world.
So, like, [Gabriel] is a great example of that; he's thrust back into a world where suddenly he's called upon to be a priest again. What does that mean, now that he's had his faith tested so much?
Every single character in the show is pushed towards this, kind of shoved towards this new world, but it weirdly makes that past come up kind of aggressively on them, too.
So, we do; we will get to see them explore. Like, Yumiko is a classic example of that. We see that she was this really hardcore, professional lawyer back in the day. We've never seen that from her for the past two seasons I've been on the show. In many ways, I rejected that side of my life. So, it's interesting coming back to it to be like, “Well, am I just gonna slip back into being a buttoned-up lawyer?” or “What is it that I'm going to take from my experience, twelve years in the apocalypse?” And how is that going to fuse together?
So, yeah, that's what I was thinking why “reversion” is such an interesting word. I don't think there's one single character that's not going to have that path meeting their future in this season.
…To me the show has always been about choices and the choices a character makes - whether you leave a certain place, who lives or dies. Talk about that, how [it has] affected your characters and the choices you've had to make. Not this season only, but also during the course of the series.
I think that when we first meet Eugene, he's carrying around this lie, that he [has] the cure; he knows how the apocalypse started, and he knows how to stop it. That's a choice that he made to save himself. He didn't really care about other people as he was making that choice.
But as we've seen him grow and seen him become a stronger individual that is starting to think of others, each choice that he makes from then on, he's thinking about more and more people, and even people that he hasn't even met…He's making choices that benefit Rosita (Christian Serratos) and her baby, Coco, before Coco is even born. He's thinking that far ahead, and that shows the growth that he's had as an individual.
But the interesting thing is the choices that people make. It's not, “Hey, I want to bake some bread today, and who's impacted there?” It's like, “I'm going to bake some bread, and if I don't do that people are dying.” The stakes are so much higher with every decision that's made, and if you continue to only think about yourself the way Eugene did when we first met him, your days are numbered, and so is everybody else. And you become a liability, and you end up taking people down.
I mean, we even heard that there were people who died trying to protect Eugene, because he had the cure. That says it all right there. So, if you are only thinking about yourself and the choices you make only benefit yourself, then everyone's going to die. And I think that's something that our characters try and recognize within each other. Like, where's the selfishness? If you are a completely selfish person, then you're going to get us all killed. And that's something that we want to stay away from and steer clear from.
Something I have to remind Josh of all the time. If you stay this selfish, you're gonna get us all killed. I mean, how many times have I told you that? JOSH McDERMITT:
Every day. KHARY PAYTON:
Several times a day.
Alden, you literally questioned choices that were made right in front of you. In particular, in the first part of the two-parter.
For much of Alden's time that we've seen on the show anyway, he's sort of made an effort at kind of a secular maintenance of at least a moral consistency. I think he's tried to remain unchanged by the violence of the new world, and we see him succeed in that, for the most part, and keeping a hold of his humanity and of his kindness and of his honesty. But in the face of this kind of matter/antimatter explosion that's happening in front of him for these first couple episodes, I think he's kind of confronted with the reality that it has to change a little bit, and he has to reflect what he sees, if that makes sense. Especially with Maggie, who for so long has been sort of a rock to him and has almost been what's allowed him to be so morally unchanging.
…What was it like working with Michael James Shaw?
Well, we can answer that, can’t we, because we have. [laughs]
What you have got to understand bout Michael is that he's a big guy. I know that Mercer from the comics is sort of like, if someone was just to literally make an incarnation of him, that's Michael. He's like, built. He could pick me up with one hand and twirl me around. And then you work with him, and he's the sweetest, softest, funniest, kind of almost nervous, backfoot kind of guy. He's like the opposite of what you'd expect Mercer to be.
Then, when he does his Mercer thing, you go like, “Whoa!” It's so cool. I love it. I love it when you work with people like that, that are so different to their characters.
Someone else like that, Cassady [McClincy] is a good example of that. [She] plays Lydia on the show. She's like, full, raw emotion when you work with her, and then as soon as you call “cut,” she just falls apart laughing. She's just pure fun and joy. They're abviously very different.
Those are really great examples. CALLAN McAULIFFE:
The yin and yang effect.
Yeah, because Cassady is just, I don't recognize her sometimes, because when we're on set when she's playing Lydia, her smile goes away, and I remember looking at her and not recognizing her for a minute, because I'm just not used to seeing her not being that bubbly version of herself.
And Michael is the same way in that you come upon this huge bear of a man, and as you slowly get to know him, it's like you come come up to him and you think you should be, I don't know, on your guard. This guy's a big dude, maybe he's gonna be throwing all kinds of testosterone at you or whatever. Then, by the end of the day, you're like, “How can I get this big old bear of a man into a tiny little - because I just want to hold him like a baby?” You just want to hold him like a baby. That's how you want to do at the end of the day, but he's just too big. He's just too big.
I'd love to see you try and hold him like a baby, Khary.
I know; I know.
Three of us need to get together to hold him. You know, Eleanor, and, I mean, Khary, obviously, too, we did scenes with him, and the thing, obviously, is his size, and how intimidating he can come off while he's playing Mercer, that stuff's obvious, but the thing that really struck me with him is how small he is in his performance. This is a guy that we've just spent the last five minutes talking about how massive he is, and he can certainly do his performance that way as well, but he's tiny in his performance.
And I did the monologue, and I'm sure you saw this too, Khary and Eleanor, when I was acting across from him, he had this intensity in these big eyes that you just go swimming in them and just looking for what you need to push your performance, but they call cut, and it's just the slightest change into the softness, that it's so small and subtle, and I just appreciate that. He's a tremendous actor, a wonderful human being, and we're so lucky to have him here. I'm just sad this is our final season, [that] we didn't get to have more seasons with him.
Now someone needs to…revive Beta (Ryan Hurst) to have a match between Mercer and Beta.
Oh, that would be epic.
Oh, we'd all watch that. It would be a good old-fashioned Street Fighter
Yeah, that would be a fight.