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Exclusive: Maximilian Osinski Talks Character Intentions in The Walking Dead: World Beyond

Maximilian OrsinskiIn tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead: World Beyond, Jennifer and Dennis both struggled to adjust to their new assignments in the CRM. As Jennifer begins to open her eyes to the mother’s actions, will Dennis also have second thoughts? Or is he a true believer?

“I think Dennis is genuine in what he believes,” actor Maximilian Osinski (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) told SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview, “and what he thinks he's doing for the good of the world. I think his journey, like [with] a lot of the other characters on the show, everyone's realizing the world isn't as black and white as they'd like to think and has gray areas.”

Although Dennis has been demoted, he still believes in the Civic Republic. “I don't think he's lying, or I don't think he's manipulating or just saying things to please other people,” Osinski continued.

“I think he's a good man who's made some mistakes and who's flawed like everyone else and now is paying the price. And look at the way he's paying the price. He's still doing a job that in his mind is beneath him, but he's doing it with the sense of helping people younger than him move up and find meaning in his life. So, I think that tells me he's a very genuine man and his intentions are genuine and pure.”

Osinski was careful not to let slip any spoilers, but he did talk about the three dimensions of his character’s personality and touched on Dennis’s relationship with Silas. Read the transcript of our conversation below and watch World Beyond every Sunday on AMC!

***The following interview contains slight spoilers for 2X04***

SCIFI VISION:   I'm excited to talk, because when Dennis first came on the show, he seemed to be a supporting character. He's part of Jennifer's backstory, and now there's much to unpack with him. He's in this - I think maybe he doesn't know - dangerous position between Jennifer and Silas.  So, I first wanted to start by asking, when you joined the show, did you have any idea what you were in for? A lot of actors talk about auditioning and starting a
Walking Dead franchise show with zero information.

Maximilian OrsinskiMAXIMILIAN OSINSKI:
 
I knew it. Yeah, I knew that I was going to be in for a story with Jennifer and Silas. I mean, the sides I got were dummy sides, so they didn't use the real name, so it was a little unclear which of the group, but then, when I got the part, I kind of could tell from talking with Matt [Negrete]. And they didn't give me all the episodes by any means; they just let you know what you need to know as you [need to]. But there was going be these storylines with Silas and Jennifer, which got me really excited, because it meant that we would see a different side of Dennis - getting to know him, getting to know him with Silas, not knowing that Silas and Jennifer have a past, and then discovering his past relationship with Jennifer at the same time.

So, it was really gray, and that's how I approached the character. There're three sides to Dennis: there's this military side that you see on display when he's working with the young kids at the warehouse, this culling facility, then there's this maternal side that we saw in Episode Four where he's taking care of Silas's hand, and you can see there's a nurturing side, and then as well, he has some demons and a haunted past that he's also struggling with. He kind of hints at that in Episode Four when he tells Silas, “Do me a favor, take that bottle with you. I'm sick of staring at it.” So, we can see that he's been dealing with some problems there. Then, when he's wearing his heart on his sleeve with Jennifer, making her dinner and they have that scene where they're reunited, that steamy scene. So, yeah, there're three layers to this guy that I really loved exploring and working on, and I hope the audience enjoys it.

I know that you're not going to be able to spoil anything, but there's almost a pivotal moment in the scene in the episode, if you're paying attention, where Jennifer says to him, “I left because of what you did. I left because of your mistake,” or “I left because of what you did, to try to recover from that.” It casts both of their punishments, I think, in a different light. I know you maybe can't talk much about it, but it's not clear right now. Did they do what they did together? Did she take the fall for him? Whatever they did was very bad, but they're not kicked out of the CRM. I'm not even sure what I'm asking here, because I expect you probably can't talk much about it. [laughs]

I know, how do I tell you everything without telling you anything?

You don't even know when you get the script, because you only have one week's script, right?

Yeah, I usually get the scripts in advance, and sometimes Matt would talk to you about what's coming up, or what he wants you to focus on or lean into when you're actually shooting the scene. And he did kind of give us some background when those scenes would come up of what had happened. I would sometimes ask, and he was very collaborative in that sense. I think you just have to watch the show and see. Part of the whole theme of this season is these shades of gray and people trying to find their place in this new world and balancing the choices they made in the past with where they're at today and how are they going to continue forward with that baggage, and what what's the meaning? How does that affect the meaning of their lives today? Man, if the season was over, I'd be able to answer that question very easily.

That's okay. Maybe we can talk a bit about Dennis's job working with these kids. Dennis talks to the kids a lot about how this is a great opportunity. Most of the kids are agreeing with Dennis that there's a chance to work yourself up into basic training, but it's actually a really dangerous and bad job, and they're really young people. And Dennis seems maybe a little conflicted about that, and he does seem angry also. He's tough on these kids. Is he tough on these kids, because he hates his job? Because he hates kids? Because they have to toughen up to survive?

I think he's tough on these kids, because the world is tough, and he knows how tough it can be firsthand, especially with the CRM, but he also knows that these kids want something bigger than themselves. He says to Silas, “I want to be a part of something bigger, to help build this world back.” I think when you see Dennis kind of lose it at them at the top of [Episode] Four, that was meant to be more as what happened in Three with Jennifer just picking up and leaving when he was ready to sit down and make her dinner and after they just had that love scene. Then, she just says, “Give me the keys to the truck, and you can't ask me why,” and she just bails on dinner. So, I think that was the motivation.

Dennis always struggles with trying to have - it's either a good day or a bad day for him. He wakes up every day, and he's saying, “Today? Is it going to be a good day or a bad day?” And in Episode Four I think it was a bad day for him, and he did take it out on the kids probably way too hard, and they seem surprised at it too, which told me that he's strict with them, but he's not abusive. That day I think he lost it, and we see him try and make up for it without actually saying “sorry,” because I think Dennis doesn't come from a world of saying “sorry.” In this military sense he goes back, and he stitches up Silas's hand, and they bond a little bit about playing guitar and music. So, I think he displays his maternal side there without actually saying specifically, “I lost my cool; I shouldn't have done that.”

I was going to ask you about that scene where he does express his concern and kind of bond with Silas and he doesn't know that Silas is this kid that has father issues and is really kind of crying out for a father figure, a non-abusive father figure in his life.

Yeah.

Can you talk about working with so many young people?

Oh, yeah. It reminds you how much older you are! [laughs] No, they were so great. They were so welcoming, first of all. You know, a lot of times you come in as a recurring on a show that's established with actors who did it for a season or more, and it's like a family formed there, but there was no feeling like odd man out or jumping into cold water. Everyone was so welcoming. Hal Cumpston, who plays Silas, was very friendly and a pleasure to be around. Annet [Mahendru] as well, who plays Jennifer. She reached out right after I got the job and was like, “Welcome to the show. Anytime you want to talk, rehearse, or whatever.” Obviously, it was all over zoom during COVID, but I felt very welcomed, along with Matt and everyone else. So, working with the young people was fantastic. They have a great energy and optimism that you feed off of. Not that I'm trying to sound like I'm like an old man on set. [laughs] I love actors; I love working with actors. I think they have a great energy and spirit and on this show. They did such a great job casting it. It was fun to show up to set every day and play with them.

Okay, so back to Dennis then for a minute. Dennis says the right things and he seems to be a true believer in what the CRM stands for. We do see other characters, like I think Huck in this part of the show she’s had her eyes opened a little bit to maybe who her mother is and what's going on. Again, it makes me wonder about Dennis's commitment. You talk about shades of gray and everyone's not good or bad on this show. And I wonder, do you think there's room for Dennis to have his eyes opened about the CRM? Is he a true believer, or is he saying the right things, because he needs to get his job back? I guess that's something maybe we're going to find out, maybe you can't answer that.

Yeah, I think that's something audiences will possibly find out. But as an actor, I just take what a character says, because, as you know, we get the scripts as needed. At face value, I think Dennis is genuine in what he believes and what he thinks he's doing for the good of the world. I think his journey, like [with] a lot of the other characters on the show, everyone's realizing the world isn't as black and white as they'd like to think and has gray areas…This season everyone's finding out what it means, where they fit into that world, and where their loyalties will lie. I don't think I can say too much more, but, yeah, you just have to keep watching to find out more.

But I know Dennis is genuine in what he believes and sees and says to Silas, and that's how I wanted to play him from the beginning. I don't think he's lying, or I don't think he's manipulating or just saying things to please other people. I think he's a good man who's made some mistakes and who's flawed like everyone else and now is paying the price. Look at the way he's paying the price. He's still doing a job that in his mind is beneath him, but he's doing it with the sense of helping people younger than him move up and find meaning in his life. So, I think that tells me he's a very genuine man, and his intentions are genuine and pure.

So, is there is there anything you can tease about what's coming up for Dennis? Something you're excited for fans to see, whether that's good story developments or do you have a good zombie kill coming?...Are you going to get out of the warehouse and do some fighting?

I'm excited for the fans to see the story progress with Silas and Jennifer and for them to find out what happens with that. I wouldn't be surprised if Dennis has some zombie kills, but I cannot deny nor confirm that right now.

He does work in a place where your job is to kill them. So, it's possible.

Yeah. It's possible. Right now, he's just kind of telling everyone else what to do.

How has the fan response been to this? Are you getting on social media? Are you getting a lot of reaction? Probably a lot of questions from fans.

I am. Yeah, Walking Dead fans are so loyal and passionate. It's been really nice to start meeting them on social media. I think there was a hashtag that started trending called #Denny for Dennis and Jenny.

Oh, hadn't seen that one. Nice.

Yeah. I started laughing, that was really charming. The fans are great. They're passionate. They start posting pictures. So, I'm very fortunate and grateful to be a part of the franchise and have the opportunity to meet them and talk to them.

Having done Agents of SHIELD, when you meet the fans, you start to realize how much it means to them, because you're stepping outside of the bubble of making the show and just [being] an actor on the show. I'm always grateful and touched by interacting with them. Whether it's at a convention or on social media, it's nice to remind yourself, “That's right, this work touches other people” and it means something that you might have not thought of for yourself to fans. So, I love that aspect of being on the show.

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