‘Walking Dead’ Newbie Chad Coleman: ‘Forces Collide’ When Rick Meets Tyreese

by | December 5, 2012 at 12:56 PM | Interviews, The Walking Dead

"The Walking Dead": Tyreese (Chad Coleman) - (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the first cable series in TV history to outrank network television in Adults 18-49 in the fall season, aired its mid-season finale Sunday night, delivering 10.5 million viewers in the 9 p.m. hour. The encore airings at 10 p.m. and midnight added an additional 3.6 million and 1.1 million viewers respectively, totaling 15.2 million viewers for the night.

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“The records that ‘The Walking Dead’ shattered today represent an enormous achievement of which we are so proud,” said Charlie Collier, AMC’s president.

“The Walking Dead” returns for the second half of its third season on Sunday, February 10, and fans are already salivating for the continuation of the story, which will determine the fate of Merle (Michael Rooker) — now that the Governor (David Morrissey) has turned on him — and Daryl (Norman Reedus). It will also reveal if Andrea (Laurie Holden) will finally see the Governor’s true psychotic colors now that she knows about the heads he kept in the aquariums and his Walker daughter.

Also, the winter finale introduced a new band of human beings, who showed up at the prison where Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) gang is in residence. The newcomers include Chad Coleman in the role of Tyreese and Sonequa Martin-Green as his sister Sasha. It will be interesting to see if the two bands can come together as Rick’s company has been decimated in the past few weeks. It is possible they will join forces if the Governor sends his troops to the prison to exact revenge for breaking into Woodbury to rescue Glen (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan).

After the finale aired, Coleman, who is best known for his role as Dennis ‘Cutty’ Wise on”The Wire,” spoke about joining the cast of “The Walking Dead,” how his character differs from that in the comic books, how long he will be around and much more!

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What can you tell us about Tyreese and how you see him?
I would say the humanity of the man is very much akin to what was done in the graphic novel. I believe his lack of skills as a likable [person] is very much a part of it. But his desire to protect and his desire to abstain from egregious violence — his humanity, his strong sense of family — those are things that are resonating for me in playing this role.

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Your character was in the comic books but they’ve changed him quite a bit. Was it difficult for you to come on as a character that had an established arc but they’ve changed him up so much?
I can only say that I watched all of the prior episodes and I had great discussions with [executive producer] Glen Mazzara and some limited discussion with [creator and executive producer] Robert Kirkman, but knowing full well that he and Glen were in full discussion. Glen’s background is huge, as well, and I just trusted that we were going to go somewhere interesting and compelling and I was open to the journey. Glen has an open door policy, so whatever questions I may have, he’s always there at a moment’s notice to answer… Sonequa and I talked about it, and I [said], “Hey, just get on the roller coaster and hang on.”

Can you tease what the relationship between Tyreese and Rick might be like down the road?
Well, that’s a dangerous question. All I can say is forces collide on some level.

Same thing for you and Michonne?
I couldn’t give you one iota about that. Honestly, there is much that will surprise me as it will surprise you, but you guys know the pedigree of the show by this time. So, you know, it’s going to be awesome for all parties involved.

You got thrown right into the mix of things, so can you tell us about your first days of killing zombies? Did you have fun with that?
Yeah, a complete and absolute adrenalin rush. It was like electricity running through my body like crazy. And also the technical aspect of it — I won’t give it away — was equally as compelling for me. Because the zombies are so real, so really no acting was required. It’s just eerie, but the most eerie part of it is to see them just doing regular things in-between takes, or going to lunch break — just to watch a guy getting the salad dressing, and he’s all zombied out, it’s pretty hilarious.

Has the cast welcomed you with open arms, or like your character, do you feel more like an outsider who needs to earn a place in the established order?
It’s quite the opposite. This is an amazing, extraordinary cast of human beings. Andrew Lincoln has to be the nicest lead actor that I’ve ever met in my life and I’m not exaggerating at all. His energy and his temperament just falls over everyone and it’s just one big happy family. On one level they respect some of the body of work that I’ve been able to put together, but the show is the thing for Andrew. It’s his baby and his passion and the way he cares about it, that’s what we all tune into. We all dial into that and we go forth.

You did a lot of running from zombies. Do you feel like you’re in adequate shape to do all this running in the Georgia heat?
Oh, of course. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia so it gets a little sticky in that area as well, and I spent a lot of time in Georgia. I have two sisters who live there, so bring it on. I love running in the heat.

The scene after Carl (Chandler Riggs) locked the door and wouldn’t let you out, you said, “You heard the man.” That was kind of a loaded scene considering how Carl’s been growing up this season. Does Tyreese see something in Carl other than the initial meeting there in the hall?
I would say so. It speaks to his ability to read a situation, read it clearly and communicate in an effective manner to try to get the objective taken care of. He read the situation really quick, he could see something in this young man, in the way he handles himself with that weapon and just his whole presence and statute, so it was very clear to Tyreese what he was dealing with.

In the comic books, Tyreese becomes Rick’s second-hand man. Any hints about that in the series? Do you think Rick needs one in the series, or is Tyresse just destined to maybe become another Shane (Jon Bernthal)?
I, Chad Coleman the actor, would love that just for the opportunity to mix it up, go toe-to-toe, to be in a scene with Andrew Lincoln, so that’s the selfish aspect of it. For the story, I think it would be compelling… I can’t say that I know that that’s going to occur, but I put my vote in for it for sure.

If you were in a zombie apocalypse, what would be your weapon of choice?
Wow, honestly, I love his cross-bow, but I would have to stay true to the hammer.

One of the things that fans of color have been waiting for is some black characters who will stick around on the show for awhile. We’ve got Michonne and now we’ve got you. Can you give us hope that as they add black folks on the show, they won’t kill them off like they’ve been doing? Are we going to see you for a while?
I have a very dear friend who’s very much, I think, meeting the online charge and, I can’t say anything there but slow down, be easy, you’re going to be incredibly proud. Glen Mazzara, all of these folks, have the highest integrity and character and we matter as much as anyone else, so you’re going to see that played out on the show. I don’t think there’s any kind of agenda on their part. It’s just how storytelling unfolds at times, but you guys are going to be incredibly proud of Michonne, Tyreese and Sasha.

Would you take us back and talk a little bit about getting cast in the show. What did you know about the character going in and the sort of the acting choices that you made to try to set you apart from the competition?
Unbeknownst to me, my agents had been speaking to Robert Kirkman for a little while about the possibility of me playing this role, so whenever you have the creator kind of pulling your card and saying he wants you to be a part of it, you’re in a pretty good position. Then it was a matter of talking to Glen Mazzara.

“The Walking Dead” returns with all-new episodes on Sunday, February 10 on AMC.