Major spoilers for "The Walking Dead" finale lie ahead!
When "The Walking Dead" wrapped up its fifth season on Sunday (March 29), many viewers were alternately shocked and relieved when no main characters were killed. Instead, for the second year in a row, the body bag-happy AMC drama went for a major change in the group's overall situation -- just as season four ended with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) vowing to fight for his family at Terminus, season five ended with Grimes finally gaining control of the "peaceful" community at Alexandria.
However, "Conquer" really was so much more than just Rick taking over the group. There was all that terrifying stuff with the Wolves, the introduction of Morgan (Lennie James) to the Grimes Gang, and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) standing up for their would-be leader.
MTV News caught up with Abraham himself -- the well-coiffed Cudlitz -- over the phone on Monday to chat about what it was like filming the Trial of Rick Grimes, as well as his thoughts on what's coming next in Alexandria.
MTV: I was one of the ones who thought Alexandria might be going down in flames during the finale... I’m so glad it’s sticking around. There’s a lot of dramatic material to be mined there.
Michael Cudlitz: Oh my God, isn’t it crazy? The difference between Alexandria and Woodbury? Everyone sort of has their own little subplot of potential gloom and doom and disaster that could happen playing in their head.
MTV: And now you're sticking around. Other than the Wolves, who are obviously circling around, what do you think the big challenges are moving forward now that Rick is firmly in charge?
Cudlitz: Anything I tell you is complete speculation... They’ve been in the writers room since I think the second week in January, so they’ve been chugging along, but they’ve not spoken with any of us yet.
But obviously, we have so much going on. We’ve got the Wolves, we have Morgan, we’ve got the group -- how is the group going to function together? Are they going to function together? Did this event bring them together, or is this event that happened at the very end going to tear us apart? It could be argued very strongly that somebody just got killed in cold blood, and who are we to be making those decisions? That is, of course, if in fact he did kill him, Pete, or he finished off Deanna’s husband so he wouldn’t come back.
MTV: It's definitely a lot going on. And at so many different points, we were worried about so many of you -- Glenn, Daryl, even Gabriel.
Cudlitz: You know, everyone was like, "I hope Gabriel dies." To lose Gabriel at this point and not have any of his side of it, to find out what really is making him tick, would really be such a tragic loss. You say it, that you want to put a bullet in the dude’s head for what he’s done, but you don’t really want him to go. You want to find out what the hell is going on with him. Has he completely lost his mind? Is he an evil person for what he’d done in the church, and what he did here? Or is he just very very weak, and will he find strength from the people around him, and forgiveness, and will he be able to rise up and become the spiritual leader that he probably wanted to be his whole life? So, we’ll see. We’ve all done some crazy-ass stuff that can be forgiven, so hopefully that will be realized. If not, we’ll put a bullet in his head.
MTV: And where do you think Abraham is, mentally? He was embraced by the community very quickly, but do you think he has his doubts?
Cudlitz: There’s no hesitation at this point. He has trepidation, and trust issues with the people, but he knows this is a good place. He’s in the same mind as Rick... "If this doesn’t work out, we’ll just take this place." The place is the pot of gold, not necessarily the people. The people can be removed if they don’t fit our world view.
Right now there’s another mission, which is building another wall -- he’s very focused, very goal oriented. When he has something to do he’s in a good place, or at least a better place. When he’s truly in his element, when he’s truly relaxed and free, is when he’s killing... The worst thing for Abraham right now is silence and quiet, and Alexandria potentially has a lot of that.
MTV: What was it like filming the impromptu trial? You clearly had some fan-favorite lines.
Cudlitz: We shot it in little chunks -- we would shoot Michonne doing her plea then Maggie doing her plea then Deanna -- who is Deanna?! -- doing her beat. [Laughs] It’s in complete isolation; it’s just a sort of moment where the character is completely honest, telling the facts in the way that their voice speaks. Michonne is methodical and trying to work her way around it, Maggie is very emotional, Abraham is just straight up, "Fu--in' this is how it is." It was awesome, and I knew when I read that line, when I got the script, I was literally just like, "Are you kidding me? Thank you. Thank you so much."
We can sit here and argue the points and the rational if what [Rick] did was right, but you know what? You don’t have a fu--ing clue. It’s over. Just shut up. But that’s the least persuasive argument, because you kind of piss people off when you tell them "You don’t know s--t." That’s not a way to win someone over in an argument, but that’s Abraham -- there’s no filter. Like, "I’m not going to kiss your asses. This is the way it is. If I have to scare you into believing me, that’s fine too. You should be scared, because you’re all going to die."
MTV: Speaking of scared... how tight was security on Lennie James coming to set?
Cudlitz: It was a really great secret to be kept from the audience, because he was shooting something else in England. For all those little appearances he did throughout the season, most of them he shot in one day. He flew in, they knocked out all his scenes, and he flew back. He wasn’t on call sheets, so it was a very easy secret to keep.
Really, [fans] put together enough just from who shows up on set and who is doing what, and where. I’m glad they started holding back, and some of the [cast] are not doing certain episodes. Throughout the year we do travel, and go to different places and do different things, and it does NOT mean we’re off the show. That used to be the thing -- "Oh, someone was seen back in LA, they’ve been there for a week, I guess they’re gone." No.
MTV: Finally, Scott Gimple gave a tease on "Talking Dead" about season six changing the game, again. What do you think that means? What does this season, with all of its losses, mean for the Grimes Gang going forward?
Cudlitz: I think at this point, the group is completely willing to do whatever needs to be done. There may still be discussion... Rick is in charge, but I would argue that it’s not a Ricktatorship. It was at one point... I think there’s an element of that, and he’s right, but it’s open to discussion. Michonne’s had a little pushback... this is the first time this past few episodes when people were just going, "No."
That is the first time that’s really happened with multiple people. Glenn has wonderfully risen up to this great voice of reason, who is still willing to kill. He’s Hershel with a gun. He can say, "I still have my humanity, and I still think our humanity is more important than anything, but if we’re at risk of being taken out, we’re going to kill that bastard." Violence is not where we go first, but violence is what we have at our disposal to protect us. The group as a whole really will do whatever needs to be done to protect the other members.
MTV: Even Eugene?