The Walking Dead’s mid-season finale left the gang in some tense situations—Rick surrounded by walkers, Daryl confronted by the Saviors, Carol and Morgan unconscious, Denise kidnapped, and Aaron? Well, Aaron was nowhere to be found. But fans of Ross Marquand’s idealist Alexandriate need not fear—he’ll return along with the rest of the cast in season six’s second half, which premieres February 14. We chatted with Marquand in December about the season’s dark turn, his uncanny celebrity impressions, and why he loves Atlanta.
Where’s Aaron been?
He’s been around! He’s been kind of battling around. [This season tried] to focus on a few characters at a time, which I think is a really great storytelling technique, but sometimes you do miss out on some of the others.
So far this season, the biggest episode for Aaron was “Now,” particularly when he explained to the Alexandria residents how the Wolves were able to attack the community (because they found photos in Aaron’s lost backpack). How did that confession shape him?
Before the Wolf attack, Aaron and [his boyfriend] Eric were very aware of the threat outside the walls, more so than probably any other Alexandrian, because they’d been outside the longest. They’d been recruiting and meeting walkers and humans face-to-face, and some of them had been very violent—not just the walkers, but also the people. But when the Wolves [attacked], they brought a whole new level of ferocity, and I think it really changed him. I think that guilt and that shame is going to be [his] main motivating factor moving forward.
Was it fair for Aaron to be so hard on himself about the attack?
I don’t think so. I think, truthfully, Aaron is being way too hard on himself, but at the same time that’s not for me to decide. It was a bit of a logical leap for him to decide that’s how [the Wolves] found the community, but they put two and two together somehow, based on the pictures they found in the bag, and they were able to track him down. He wears that the weight of that on his shoulders.
There’s a moment in that episode where Aaron and Maggie fight walkers in a sewer. Was filming that scene as gross as it looked?
Yeah, it was insane. They constructed [that set] remarkably within a very short amount of time. That whole sewer structure [ran] the entire length of our soundstage, and they filled it with ground-up candy bars and egg whites and bits of oatmeal to make it have that real feel and look. It was disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.
I’ve said this before, but [“Now”] was probably my favorite episode to shoot so far. There was so much to do from an emotional and physical standpoint, and I also just love working with Lauren [Cohen, who plays Maggie]. I think she’s one of the most gifted actors I’ve ever worked with. And she’s goofy as hell; she’s hilarious.
Can you give us a hint as to what Aaron faces in second half of the season?
Aaron will be facing a lot of what everyone else is [facing]—more danger, more violence, more threats than ever before. It’s a really terrifying time for everyone involved.
Word on the street is that the premiere is very dark.
Oh yeah. It’s going to be dark, but the rest of the season just gets darker and darker to the [point] where you can’t believe that these characters are going through what they’re going through. It’s so insane. I can’t wait for everyone to see the rest of the season.
I’ve heard the TWD cast has a lot of fun on set.
We crack up on a daily basis. Michael Cudlitz (Abraham) and Josh McDermitt (Eugene) and I, we just try to outdo each other as much as possible. It’s a daily thing. We always do our best to make each other laugh because it is such a heavy show, and if you don’t have those moments of joy and cracking up then it can really get to you. You’ve got to keep a very optimistic outlook.
You’ve become well-known for your celebrity impressions. Which is your favorite to do?
It kind of varies, depending on the mood I’m in, but I really love doing [Matthew] McConaughey and Kevin Spacey. Their voices are so unique and so much fun to bring to life.
Do you break out the impressions on set?
Yeah, and Michael Cudlitz does a pretty damn good Sylvester Stallone impression too.
How has life in Atlanta been treating you?
I love Atlanta. I honestly think it’s one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been to, certainly one of the best I’ve ever lived in. It’s a place where I could see myself living for a very long time.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in town?
I love Serpas, Ladybird, and Superica.