The Walking Dead newcomer Ross Marquand recently made his Sunday night debut as Aaron, a “friend” who comes to the group raving about a secure community called Alexandria Safe-Zone. A friend, eh? The fans aren’t completely convinced and our steadfast hero Rick Grimes shares our conviction that this applesauce hating man with a clean exterior (way too clean for a zombie apocalypse) might have some questionable motives. Aaron, another huge character brought to TV from the comic books is hopefully anything but sketchy. But, his true intentions have yet to be revealed. Seriously, we can’t take any more people eating, psychotic dictating “friends”… okay?
Marquand, whose role was kept hush hush as to not spoil the comic book reveal, has had a strong start on the cult classic and was kind enough to chat with me about his big break, the on-screen kiss that sent some (intolerant) fans into a tizzy, and reveals that statistically speaking, the Rocky Mountains are the best place to survive if the world ends up in undead turmoil.
So, grab a jar of applesauce and your favorite spiked bat, because this in-depth interview is a must read for any Walking Dead enthusiast.
MCKENZIE MORRELL: For starters, can you give us a “crash course” on yourself. A little bit about your background, and how you got started in the business?
ROSS MARQUAND: Well, the very first acting job I ever did was in church. I did this pageant play, where I played a townsperson in the Story of Jesus, and that was my first ever real role. Then, in middle school and high school, I stuck with it and got bigger roles. Certainly decided around sophomore or junior year in high school, that was when I first decided, I want to do this professionally. Around eighteen, much to my parents chagrin, I decided to double major in marketing and acting. I think the marketing worked out for a little bit, but ultimately I decided I wanted to focus primarily on acting, so I dropped the marketing major and finished with a BFA in Theater. I moved out to L.A. about ten years ago, actually. It’s been a long time coming.
MM: It has, and we’re grateful. We love you on the show and we’re looking forward to more of it. But let’s talk about Aaron! Can you describe your character on The Walking Dead, and tell us if you’re anything like him in real life?
RM: I think there are a lot of similarities between Aaron and I. The way that Scott Gimple always pitched him, was he’s kind of this polite boy scout, and I actually was a boy scout growing up. (laughs) But there’s an element of me in Aaron where we always want to do right by people, and sometimes that gets misinterpreted sometimes, we sometimes fall short of the mark, but at the end of the day we both want to be good people and we want to make others happy.
MM: The group is still unsure about this dude, and you know, his promises of a secure place to live. Can we trust this guy, and would you if you were in their position?
RM: If I was in their position- absolutely not. I think, especially based off the experiences the group has had prior to meeting Aaron, I think anybody would have a bit of sense about them, and is going to look at Aaron as a dubious character and say to themselves, I don’t know if we can trust this guy. I think as the story evolves, especially the next few episodes, the fans are really going to be tested and see where their allegiances lie, whether they are a fan of Aaron, or if they think that he might have various purposes in mind for the group.
MM: In last weeks episode we got to see a softer side, or another side of Aaron, with his boyfriend Eric. Will we find out if the two knew each other before everything kind of went to hell?
RM: You know, that’s something that we never really got a clear picture of from the comics, at least from the research that Jordan [Woods-Robinson] and I both did. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to speak with Mr. Kirkman about that beforehand, I don’t know if he had something in mind. Since he got cast just a couple of days before we shot, we really didn’t have a whole lot of time to establish a very intense or elaborate backstory, but we knew we wanted some sort of backstory going forwards to make that relationship appear more genuine and more realistic. We wanted it to have a weight and a history to it, so we decided that we did know each other before the apocalypse; we did know each other and we were in a committed relationship and then it just so happened that we were near this community that once everything went to hell, we were able to find safe haven and neighboring Alexandria, we were very quickly assimilated into the power structure, and we became very viable members of that community. Who knows for sure, I think that’s a question that only Robert Kirkman can answer, but I’d like to think that they definitely knew each other beforehand.
MM: That’s kind of great that you are able to build up your own backstory. You made the character your own, so have you added any of your own quirks or habits to the character that we can look for?
RM: Definitely. You know, I think it comes through in any role you play. It’s sort of inevitable. There’s little things that I don’t want to say, because if I say them and I notice them too much, I’ll probably second guess myself and it’ll become a weird thing when I’m acting, but I think that there’s a subtlety to Aaron. He’s a very diplomatic man, and coming from his background working with NGOs in Africa, working with really dangerous people who have pointed guns in his face, and tried to kill him at certain times, I think once you’ve been in the eye of the hurricane like that, I really do believe that the zombie apocalypse is almost a return to normalcy for him, because if he did that for several years- working with war and drug lords who were actually trying to kill him or certainly the threat of death was always a real danger- then, working with a group that seems level headed and having to navigate the world of zombies, the walkers, that is not going to be all that difficult. It’s sort of, in a way, safer than the world that he knew in west Africa, to many degrees, because there was all sorts of conflict- both military and personal conflict- that he dealt with while working the Niger River Delta. So, I think that really colors his perspective of the world. People have constantly said on message boards, “I can’t believe he’s so calm. I don’t trust anybody who’s so calm during the apocalypse.” I just think that’s his vibe, he’s unflappable. There’s nothing that’s really going to phase him at this point, even when Rick punches him in the face. He comes to smiling, and he’s… this is just par for the course for him.
MM: Definitely, and he’s so clean! Is he gonna get down and dirty, you know, in the future?
RM: I think that’s a very distinct possibility, that Aaron is going to get dirty in the next few episodes, yeah.