Michael Cudlitz, the brilliant veteran actor from Southland and currently Clarice, appeared on Michael Rosenbaum’s podcast, Inside of You this week and, invariably, talk turned to his time on The Walking Dead. Cudlitz had nothing but great things to say about his years on the series, as well the opportunities the show has given him to direct episodes (in fact, he said he’d be back to direct an episode for the final season).
Cudlitz said that when he came into the series in season four, he’d been told by Scott Gimple that they were trying to get back to the source material after having strayed under Glen Mazzara (the reason, some speculate, that Mazzara was replaced by Gimple). The major difference between the comics and the series, he said, was Daryl’s presence. In the comics, Rick was periodically given a new best friend like Tyrese and that those best friends would be used to inform Rick’s character. On the series, however, Rick’s best friend was permanently Daryl, who absorbed some of the storylines for those other characters, like Abraham.
Cudlitz knew, then, that his time on the series would be limited, although when he got the call that his character would be killed off, he “wasn’t upset, per se. But he wasn’t happy to leave the show. I would have liked to continue,” he said, “but I wasn’t bummed about it.” He did say that he’d wished that he’d gotten to do a few more episodes with Sonequa Martin-Green, who played Sasha, because he wanted to continue to develop that relationship. He also said that he’d have liked to hang around for the All-Out War, because “it would have been nice to see [Abraham] function as a soldier.” He also mentioned he didn’t cry when he left, but he did cry at the end of Netflix’s Queen’s. Gambit.
Interestingly, Cudlitz also revealed something I’d never heard before, which is that appearances at conventions became part of the negotiations when new actors came on to the show in later seasons. “You got a little more each episode to not do X number of conventions,” Cudlitz said.
Why? Because “some people were doing them every weekend,” he said, “and it was interfering with the work schedule. It wasn’t like the top people — Norman [Reedus] wasn’t doing that. His [convention appearances] were spaced out, because they took a lot out of him because he was a huge convention draw. It took a toll on him physically just doing that.”
“But there were some people who were doing quite a bit,” he continued, although he said that he was not among them. He would schedule his carefully around episodes that he was in. That said, Cudlitz seems to enjoy the convention appearances, particularly his first one, where he was introduced at New York Comic-Con and received thunderous applause when he walked on stage (at the 27:40 mark below). “The wall of sound that hit me, I was like, ‘Holy sh*t, what is happening!”
The Walking Dead, by the way, returns this Sunday on AMC+ and on February 28th on AMC.