- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for season 11, episode nine of “The Walking Dead,” “No Other Way.”
- Ross Marquand told Insider he held his breath to shoot underwater scenes in a debris-filled water tank.
- He also shared his thoughts on “TWD” ending, when he learned the news, and a message for #TWDFamily.
Aaron (Ross Marquand) risked his life to save Judith and his daughter Gracie on Sunday’s “The Walking Dead” premiere.
If you feared for Aaron’s life as he was trapped in a basement full of the undead as the water levels rose, you weren’t alone.
“I thought I was gonna die in real life at some of those parts, honestly,” Marquand told Insider of the episode scare with a laugh while promoting his partnership with The Sexton Single Malt, the official whiskey of “The Walking Dead.”
“Everything’s rigged for safety. Everything’s totally fine,” Marquand said, noting the challenges of acting with one arm while the other is covered with an attachment. “But when we were crawling across that pipe that thing was just leaking water left and right — cause it was supposed to — my arm kept slipping off. You’ve got a mace arm — there’s your support — and then this arm kept slipping off the damn thing.”
Aaron was saved from a water-y, walker grave in the nick of time by Lydia (Cassady McClincy) and some of the other members of the Alexandria community.
Always putting the welfare of others ahead of himself, Aaron has been one of the leaders of the group since bringing Daryl, Carol, and the others to his home of Alexandria when he joined AMC’s apocalyptic drama on season five.
Since then, the once sunny and cheerful Aaron has darkened a bit after losing his boyfriend, numerous friends, and his forearm. One of the few bright spots in his life is his adopted daughter Gracie, who, as we saw in Sunday’s premiere, super dad Aaron would go to almost any length to protect, even if it meant sacrificing his own life.
As “TWD” wraps its final episodes of the series, Insider caught up with Marquand to discuss the show’s final season. He shared his skepticism of the Commonwealth, how he’d want Aaron to die (if he doesn’t make it to the end), and how he’d love to revisit voicing Han Solo in a galaxy far, far away (Marquand is a bit of a collector) after the dead.
Marquand says it’s ‘bittersweet’ to get to the show’s end. But they’ve been shooting for 14 months straight.
Insider: Are you in Georgia right now filming? I don’t know if that’s a spoiler to ask at this point.
Marquand: I think it’s OK to say that. I think it’d be pretty hard to hide that, so, yeah.
Is it starting to sink in that you guys are getting to the end of “The Walking Dead”? Some of the fans were talking about how the walls of Alexandria are going to be coming down after eight years.
I hadn’t even considered that. That’s crazy to think about because there are people who live in the walls of Alexandria for real and I’m sure they’re all too happy to have those walls removed. It probably will help with their property value.
But, yeah, it’s weird to think about. We’ve never shot during the winter months and freezing cold just recently and we thought, “Man, this is really the last time we’re gonna have snow on the ground. We’re shooting in these conditions.
Now we’re going back into springtime, which is usually when we come back to the show on a normal year. Because this was a supersize year with additional episodes, we’re just maxing with 14 months of straight shooting. So, it is a very odd thing to think about.
It’s very bittersweet. We’re all very grateful for what the show’s brought us, but we’re also just trying to end the show on the best note possible so that we can ensure that the fandom and the universe continues for years to come.
Marquand originally thought ‘TWD’ would go on for a 12th season and beyond.
Do you remember where you were when you learned that season 11 would be “The Walking Dead’s” last and what your reaction was to the news?
Yeah, I remember exactly where I was. It was a very picturesque spot in Hallstatt, Austria. I was over there and I got the call from [showrunner] Angela [Kang] and [“TWD” chief] Scott [Gimple] and it was the most insane juxtaposition because it was one of the most picture perfect sites I’ve ever seen in my life.
I got this call and they’re on the other side of the planet saying this is gonna be the last bit. You know, just a short time before we were talking about plans for even season 12 and beyond.
I was very sad, of course, I’m not gonna lie, to hear that. But, I was buoyed by the fact that they were going to be adding eight additional episodes and really telling the story the best way they knew how with this extra elongated season. Based on everything they told me on that phone call I was actually excited by the end of the phone call, as opposed to being very crestfallen at the beginning.
But, yeah, it hit me like a ton of bricks when I first got that call.
If Aaron dies, Marquand wants him to go out ‘in a blaze of glory.’
Where would you like to see your character by the end of the show? Do you have a prediction for how it all ends? Do you know how it ends?
I don’t know how it all ends. That’s the funny thing.
I’m just gonna say this, if [Aaron] has to sacrifice himself, I want him to go down in a blaze of glory. I just want him to have his mace arm on and I want him to have Jesus’ sword in the right hand and I just want him to spin around in a whirling dervish and just take out as many people as he can just spinning constantly and saving his daughter of course, in the process.
I think the biggest thing for him is just making sure that his daughter’s OK and making sure that the community of Alexandria and every other community is safe and secure and that they have a chance to keep living. That’s his biggest concern.
Ross, if you get Rick’s comic death, I’m going to be really, really sad.
[Marquand laughs] OK.
Marquand is glad that Aaron got a bit darker. He thinks season five Aaron would be ‘pretty shocked,’ but proud of the choices he has made in the zombie apocalypse.
I was recently watching some older episodes of “TWD.” I watched your first episodes. Aaron is in such a different place, especially mentally, when we first meet him.
Season five Aaron is optimistic about the future and he’s lighthearted. What would season five Aaron think of season 11 Aaron. Would he be proud of his choices? Would he be proud of him? What would he say to him?
I think he’d still be proud of his choices, but I think he’d be pretty shocked. I’m not gonna lie.
That guy we saw in 2015 — that sweet baby face, innocent guy with the J. Crew poncho and everything — I mean, he was kind of a dweeb. I’m not gonna lie. If I’m being honest, he was a little bit too nice for his own good.
You get a real sense of why he got as dark as he did, because I defy anyone to lose as much as Aaron has and still be the chipper, you know, kind of Andy Griffin-type that he was when he first got on the show. I think that would be a little boring, to be honest. I’m glad that he’s gotten darker. I’m glad that we’ve seen that more assertive side of him come out.
Marquand held his breath in a muddy, debris-filled water tank for Sunday’s episode.
Ross Marquand shot in a water tank to capture scenes for Sunday’s premiere.
You get some badass moments as like the super dad just busting your dad to save Judith and Gracie, and then you’re fighting off walkers in some dirty basement water. And you’re clinging to this pole with one arm. What was it like filming that day? Did you think Aaron was going to die? I thought you were going to die for a moment.
There were several times where I thought I was gonna bite it there. But our stunt team is just incredible. Of course, the stunt walkers that we had in that scene when they all fall in off the staircase were just incredible. The one that I got to fight underwater was just incredible.
We’re practicing off in the corner trying to do breathing exercises to stay down there as long as possible because of how dirty that water really was because of all the sediment and all the bodies in there. There were probably 50 or 60 people in that shooting tank and naturally people bring in mud, they bring in debris, and everything else.
We had to go down under the water and then wait a little bit for the water to settle before they could get a usable shot. So we would just wait for the first 10 seconds to just let the water settle a little bit and then we started fighting and going after each other. It was pretty intense, but, honestly, a lot of fun.
Did you think that there was a chance that they were going to kill Gracie off?
Oh God, I hope not.
This show’s definitely done some pretty messed up stuff, but that would drive me crazy. If Gracie got killed off, I would not like that.
Aaron is a bit skeptical of the Commonwealth’s proposition, but he knows he needs their help
At the end of the premiere, the group is given the opportunity to go to the Commonwealth. We learn that Maggie stays behind and maybe stubbornly roughs it out at the Hilltop. While we don’t know what choice Aaron has made, yet, we do know that the Commonwealth is helping to rebuild Alexandria.
That’s a place I can never see Aaron leaving after rewatching him in season five. I think he would defend it until he died. But I also think he wants to do right by Gracie. What’s going through his mind when he is presented with this opportunity to go to the Commonwealth?
I think he’s understandably very dubious of the Commonwealth and their intentions. Of course they’re offering all this aid and these resources, but he wonders at what cost. As he’s learned, over the years, no one just gives you anything for free, especially in the zombie apocalypse. He used to work in DC. So he’s very keenly aware that no one gives you anything for free.
I think he wishes very much that he could just say no and just tell them, “We’re fine here. We don’t need your help.” But the reality is they’re in bad shape in Alexandria and he really does need everybody’s help, including the Commonwealth. He does the mental math in his head and he says, “This is what it’s gotta be.” That’s ultimately what’s compelling him to actually partner with the Commonwealth.
One of Marquand’s favorite memories on the show is with Andrew Lincoln from season seven
Rick and Aaron row a boat with boards on season seven, episode eight.
What is the legacy that you hope the show leaves behind and that your character leaves behind? Is there a favorite moment, a favorite episode, or a favorite memory that you have?
The show really thrives best when it’s telling you to focus on the here and now.
When we shot season seven, there was a moment where Andy Lincoln and I were on top of this houseboat that we were swimming to, to get supplies for the Saviors. We were waiting for the weather to change. And we were up there literally just drying ourselves up because both of us were soaked to the bone being in and out of the water.
He and I were just sitting on these lawn chairs up there with all these dead bodies floating around us, dead zombie bodies, and he was talking to me about his family back home in London. It was this amazingly bucolic setting around us, but all this death and destruction around us as well. It was this wonderful amount.
I was like, “Wow, this is what the show’s all about,” just focusing on the life that you have and really just relishing these moments, because you don’t know when you’re gonna go.
Marquand would love to be back in the Marvel or “Star Wars” universe, but right now he’s focused on giving ‘TWD’ an ‘amazing send-off’
Have you considered what you’ll be doing when “TWD” ends? You’ve done some great voice work with Marvel as the Red Skull. More recently, you appeared in “What If…?” That was a surprise when you popped up there.
Could we see you doing more with Marvel? “What If…?” has been renewed for a second season and you were Ultron, the big bad, on that. You’re also very into “Star Wars,” which is an adjacent Disney property.
Yeah. I got a chance to play Han Solo several times for Disney over the years and I would love to revisit that character.
Of course, there’s a million characters that I would love to play in the Marvel [or] “Star Wars” universes. Right now, I’m just trying to focus on getting done with these last episodes [of “The Walking Dead”] and doing it right.
If you’re already thinking about the next job, then you’re not staying present and we really just want to end this show as best we can and and give it the send-off that it deserves because I was a fan before I got on the show and we want to give the fans the most beautiful, amazing send-off possible. That’s what we’re focusing on, but, yes, I would love to do that stuff.
Is there anything I didn’t ask you about that you want to mention or any message you have for the fans? I know it’s been a long time since everyone’s gathered at a Con and I don’t know when we’ll do that again.
Hopefully sooner than later. I think my biggest thing is I just wanna say thank you.
From having been a fan of the show before I got on it to being on the show for the last eight years, we’re only as good as our fans. Any show is. The fact that we have had fans who have stood by us for 11 straight years, whether that was going and watching a show a million times over or going to conventions and meeting us there, that meaning is not lost on me or any of us.
And I’m very grateful for that and just to be a part of this thing that may never be as big as this again because of the advent of
. Live TV is kind of on its way out. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of something that is such a zeitgeist of this time that is now kind of ending. I’m really grateful for that. I’m grateful for the fans.
You can follow along with our “TWD” coverage all season long here. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.