'Walking Dead' Fan Favorite Michael Cudlitz Coming To Pensacon
To fans of the zombie apocalypse, Michael Cudlitz, who is coming to Pensacon this month, will always be Sargent Abraham Ford on the show "The Walking Dead". Currently he is starring in the CBS series "Clarice", which is shot in Toronto. Cudlitz spoke with WUWF’s Bob Barrett about making a TV show during a pandemic.
Michael Cudlitz: When we first went up to Toronto (to film 'Clarice'), things were kinda starting to open up. Canada had put in some restrictions early on and things had shut down and they kept the numbers really, really low for a while. And then they started opening back up and then it just really got out of control. So they’re actually not in great shape at the moment. But, that being said, we were being kept very, very safe, testing three days a week, lots of protective gear for the crew and everybody who, you know on the crew, who was wearing that gear, nobody got sick.
Bob Barrett: “As someone who has done a little bit of directing (Cudlitz has directed episodes of “The Walking Dead” and the spin-off show “Walking Dead: World Beyond”), were you (thinking) ‘OK, this might be a big change’ the next time you go into that?”
MC: Yeah. I’m actually going back to do an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ this summer and I know that a lot of the protocols will still be in place. If someone does get sick it’s a major shut-down of production so they really are going to err on the side of extreme caution. So yeah, I was very aware of what we were doing, and taking notes as to what I would be doing in the next few months as a director.”
BB: I imagine these next, last episodes of ‘The Walking Dead’ are going to be of a much larger scale than those six little extra (episodes they shot at the end of last season during the height of the pandemic).
MC: Yes. Very much so. I literally just got my paper work finished and got all of the ‘welcome to the season’ packets and stuff sent to me. We’re all very close and very much in touch, but I just got a note and a phone call about how the scope (of this, the final season of the show) is pretty large moving forward. Which is exciting.
BB: Well, coming to Pensacon, we’ve had some Walking Dead guests here before and, yes, they all seemed to have that comradery, a family atmosphere. When you guys came into the show in the fourth season, was it easy just becoming part of that family?
MC: You know what, we were, myself, Josh McDermitt and Christian Serratos, were very warmly welcomed. Stephen Yeun, Norman Reedus and Andrew Lincoln all reached out to us through email to let us know they were happy we were there and if we had any questions to let them know. And even more so, the fans were welcoming when the shows started airing.
BB: I tell you what, when you and Josh came on the set it basically upped the ‘hair game’ of that show like 500%!
MC: (laughs) Yes! I think early on I think one of the things (show runner) Scott Gimple wanted to do was to really get back on track to accurately portraying what was going on in the graphic novels. They had gotten off-track pretty early on and I think that he knew there was longevity to the story-telling if we stuck to the graphic novels.
BB: I’m going to ask a real fan-boy question now, and I’m sorry, but do you have a favorite Abraham line? I go between ‘dolphin smooth’ and ‘making pancakes’, do you have one?
MC: (chuckles) I love all of Abraham’s lines! I had a lot of fun making that stuff work and they had a lot of fun writing for me. The fan favorite seems to be my last line in the show. And the viewers can go look that up.
BB: Yes, I don’t think we can do that on the radio, no.
(Just in case you're curious, here's that scene BUT BE WARNED, it's VERY graphic in both language and violence)
MC: Yeah, I don’t think so either, you’d have to bleep it out. But it was tongue-in-cheek, it was very true to Abraham. One of my favorite things is the parents and the grandparents who come up and ask me to sign (and say) ‘Can you write (the) last thing you ever said?’ and I say ‘Only if you say it.'
BB: Going back to one of your earlier roles, you were in a great HBO show, ‘Band of Brothers’. Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg were involved in that. Were they actually there? Did you interact with them?
MC: Stephen and Tom were very much involved in the casting process. The story with Stephen (Spielberg) is he was scheduled initially to direct the first episode. It was going to be a 90-minute episode he was going to set the tone. That was the year Stephen had a kidney removed. I think it was an emergency surgery and he had one of his kidneys removed and he was actually unable to do it. The first episode. Now, conversely, Tom (Hanks) wanted to be part of it and Tom had not directed a lot of stuff up until then, but knew the material, the source material and the characters extremely well. Tom actually directed episode five.
BB: I just want to talk a little bit about ‘The Kids are Alright’ because this was a marvelous sitcom that I think everybody thought was going to be around for a few years. What was it like being a sitcom TV-dad after all those other ‘he-man’ roles you had?
MC: Oh my gosh it was so much fun! I had kind of put it out in the universe that I didn’t want to carry a gun for a little while. I wanted to do something fun. And this is what the universe came back with. And what a joy. Mary McCormack played my wife, she was phenomenal. The kids, all seven of them and the infant, phenomenal actors. I’m so excited to see where their careers go. I had a blast. I’d done comedy on stage when I first started out in my career. A lot of my dramatic roles have quite a bit of sarcasm in them. And that what sort of a wonderful year that I got to stay home. It was shot about three miles from my house, on the stages that I actually, personally built with my crew when I had just gotten out of college and I was working as the construction coordinator on the original ‘Beverly Hills 90210.'
BB: We’re looking forward to seeing you at Pensacon. What do the fans want from you when you go to the cons?
MC: “I love the fan interaction. I love chatting with the fans, connecting with the families. So I’m very excited to actually be back meeting fans in person. I’m sure there are restrictions within the convention center, and we will adhere to that and make sure everyone has a really safe, really wonderful time. And I’m really looking forward to it.
Michael Cudlitz will be one of the celebrity guests at this year’s Pensacon on May 21 through 23 in downtown Pensacola.