Exclusive: Ross Marquand Talks Aaron’s Actions in Tonight’s The Walking Dead, Red Skull, & More

Ross MarquandIn tonight’s all-new episode of The Walking Dead on AMC, after finding a Whisperer, Aaron (Ross Marquand) threatened his life and actually let him get bit by a walker while trying to force the truth out of him. Before he could do something he really regretted, Carol (Melissa McBride) talked him down and stopped him. After being released, the man gave them some key information on finding Connie (Lauren Ridloff), who had been missing.

Earlier in the week, Marquand talked to Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about his character crossing the line, what it might mean for the future, how far he feels he’s willing to go, and more.

***This interview contains spoilers for tonight's episode, 11.05***

Ross MarquandSCIFI VISION:   In [tonight’s] episode, Aaron kind of goes off the rails a little bit. Can you maybe talk about what you feel specifically was the tipping point that caused him to act the way he did towards torturing the Whisperer? Was Or do you feel it was just kind of everything that happened with the Whisperers?

I think it was a collection of things. I mean, certainly the Whisperer war took a toll on everybody, but [especially] the fact that his daughter, Gracie (Anabelle Holloway), and everybody in the community, is really starving. They're rationing out food to the point of absurdity at this point. I think it's just he's so scared for the future of the community and scared for his daughter and that whole generation’s future that he is just fully a man on a mission at this point. He really wants to make sure that not only Alexandria, but everybody who he's worked with and been friends with over the last several seasons, is protected. And if torturing this man means getting the information he needs to make that possible, he's happy to do that.

I was surprised he went to the point that he let the man get bit. Do you think that if Carol hadn't stopped him that he would have killed him in the end? Or do you think that there was a line he wasn't willing to cross at a certain point?

No, I think he was definitely willing. I mean, the fact that he let the walker bite his hand, I mean, that was a very, very intentional decision on his part. Once you get bit, that's it. So, I think he was very much of the mindset that if this guy doesn't give me the answers I need, he dies. So, if Carol hadn’t pulled him back from the edge, I don't think he would have stopped it at all.

Do you think that there's anything that that guy could have said differently that wouldn have caused a different outcome? Because, I mean, I know he lied and said there was nobody else with him, but I feel like probably most people who don't want their group to get killed by strangers may have said the same thing. So, I’m just curious, was it really anything would have caused that, or do you think it was simply because of what he said?

Yeah, I mean, I don't think Aaron is a sadistic person at all. I think he is just someone who got pushed way too far and is just so thoroughly focused on protecting Alexandria and the future of its citizens that he is going to do whatever it takes to extract information from this person that he needs to ensure its survival. Then, he has massive PTSD from the fighting. That's why I think he's having these nightmares. You know, it's unsettling thing to think that when they're already beaten down and broken as much as they are, [they could] get knocked over once again by a new threat in these little groups of remaining Whisperers, and finding out the source of how many there are, where they are, is really, really important to him.

The fact that Carol stopped him, I mean, could this happen again? Do you think it really made an impact what she said? Did it make him stop and think, or is he still so determined that he wouldn't [stop if it happened again]?

I think it certainly made him stop and think. I mean, the fact that he takes mercy on him in that moment and decides to not kill him and offers a knife to him and says, “You can take your arm, or I can,” you know, “Decide what you want to do,” I mean, that in and of itself was a huge mercy. The guy gets to live sans hand, but he still gets to live. That I don't think would have happened if if Carol hadn't intervened. So, I think, in that moment, he's very grateful for not going too far to the dark side, because she clearly has, numerous times, and she's a different person for it.

Right, but I guess what I'm saying though, is do you think that the fact that she stopped him, like, is he just right now giving mercy? Do you think if the same thing happened again, would he think it through?


Or would he just do the same exact thing he did. I'm just curious how much you think what she said affected him.

Yeah, I think in that moment, it just affected him for the time being, and it may be a temporary solution or temporary salve on his mind, but I certainly think that he could be pushed right back to that same place under the right circumstances. If they continue to starve, if they continue to feel threatened by other communities or other warring factions out there, he could certainly go right back to that place, because, again, it's not so much about him or protecting the generation that's currently alive. It's about ensuring the safety and livelihood of his daughter and that the generations coming up. It's really crucial that they remain safe no matter what in his mind.

That leads me to my other question. Obviously, this hasn't happened, but I'm just kind of curious on your take. If he was on the other side, and he was with Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and something similar to that happened, because he's so, like you're saying, adamant about protecting Gracie and everything, do you think he would be willing to wait and risk his life still for the people that he cares about besides her? Because you sound like maybe he's really moved past that line and is only [about] protecting her, I guess.

Yeah, to sacrifice himself for -

For the others, or would he not even do that, because he's so worried about her? If it came down to it.

I don't think he would necessarily sacrifice himself in combat, unless he thought that it was going to protect Gracie or the community back home. I don't think he's a reckless man at this point. I don't think he's trying to self-sabotage, I think he's just very keenly aware of just how bad things are and how bad the situation looks. So, finding a reasonable solution is his first priority, but if that doesn't work, I think he'd certainly be willing to sacrifice himself in battle if it meant protecting his daughter and the rest of the community.

Ross MarquandSo, I know right now, obviously, it's kind of not happening, but is there any chance for him to have another love interest before the end of the show do you think?

I don't know. I'd be curious about that myself. I think so much of this last season is about introducing the Reapers and the Commonwealth and understanding how everyone fits into this new community and assimilates, and if they can, if they want to. So, it's such a big, vast, epic season that I don't know if any of us, frankly, are going to be given the option to find love at this point, because there's just still so many damn threats out there, but I would certainly love that. But I'm not holding out any hope for Aaron at this point. He doesn't have the best track record in the past.

Just out of curiosity, are you are you guys done filming the show yet? I'm not sure where you are at filming-wise?

The show's still in production through next year.

Okay. I was gonna say, I thought that you wouldn't be quite done yet; that's what I wondered. Then, is there someone that you'd like to get more scenes with, for the rest of this season, that you haven’t really gotten to work a lot with?

Oh, yeah. I never really get to work with Eugene (Josh McDemitt), but I just love working with Josh. I’m also really enjoying just off off-screen meeting a lot of the newer cast. I think, Princess, you know, Paola Lázaro’s incredible. Some of the newer cast members, who I don't think I can mention just yet, they're fantastic. There're just so many new cast members that I really like as people, and I can't mention their names, because I don't think their episodes have aired, but I just would like to see more scenes with them, or any scenes, for that matter, because as of right now, there just haven't been any scenes. But, yeah, I mean, Eugene’s my old standby buddy. I just I love working with him. He's just a hoot.

Okay, cool. Now you're making me wonder though, and I'm gonna be thinking about that, trying to figure out who it is.

Yeah. [laughs]

So, what do you find the most challenging about this role?

I think the most challenging thing about playing Aaron is maintaining his sense of goodness and diplomacy in the midst of so many absurdly bad threats year after year. I mean, I admire that about him, but he is so dedicated to seeing the good in people and always being forgiving and always being merciful, but me, as a as an actor, and as a person, I'm always kind of at odds with that, because even though I'm forgiving, and I'd like to think I'm pretty merciful, there're just parts of me that, I don't know. I think I would make different choices if someone really wronged me or tried to kill me or tried to kill any of the people I cared about. So, that's been, I think, the biggest challenge for me playing this guy, but I love playing him regardless. And I think, in this episode, we really get to see that push and pull of, you know, is he losing some of that goodness? Is he losing some of that diplomacy, and has he adopted a more brutal way of looking at the world like Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) clearly has?

If it were up to you, is there something that you would like to see? I mean, other than, you know, continuing to see that kind of that push and pull, is there anything that you would like specifically to see happen to Aaron, if it were up to you?

Yeah, I mean, I know that in this episode, we get to see Aaron go to this kind of psycho place and then get pulled back right away, but we've never really seen him just break. And I would like to see him go on a five or six episode killing spree for like, you know, just a short amount of time - all bad people, of course. I don't want to hurt anybody good, but I do kind of want to see him just go ballistic for a while, and then kind of go, “Okay, I got that on my system. I’m better now.” [laughs] That would be nice to see.

So, is there anything from doing this role that you've learned about yourself, as a person?

Yeah, I mean, a lot of it has come just from being on the show, not so much from the role itself, but I think this was the first show I was ever really a part of in a big way. You know, I had little guest stars on TV shows here and there, but this is the first time I was ever in a significant role like this, and I learned a lot about myself, what to do, what not to do. And I've always been a very private guy, so this has been kind of a crash course [on] being recognized on the street and how to handle all this and not get too in my head and too anxiety ridden, because that's certainly something I struggle with. So, you know, a lot of it has been about acceptance and learning how to grow and be a better person, the best I can, and that's a daily struggle. I'm sure it'll continue for the rest of my life, but I've definitely learned a lot from the show, for sure.

And if I could ask you one question that's not about The Walking Dead? I hope that's okay.


I just wondered if you could talk quickly about getting to work on The Avengers as Red Skull, because that's obviously also a huge, huge project.

Yeah, I mean, I love working on The Walking Dead, but the kid in me, once I got the the part for The Avengers, that was such an incredibly surreal moment, because I grew up with Marvel and X-Men and Avengers, of course. I remember distinctly at like nine or ten collecting all of the Marvel comic book cards and comic books. I have Marvel series one through three. I have Marvel Masterpieces, the full complete set, still hiding in my closet back home in Colorado.

Ross MarquandMy mom even thought about throwing them out or giving them away at one point. I said, [laughs] “You will under no circumstances get rid of those,” you know, because that was how I spent my lawn-mowing money. All the money I made doing that on the weekends went right towards getting comic books and comic book cards.

And I used to draw Wolverine, Omega Red, you know, certainly Red Skull, Diablo, Mephisto, like, all these characters that I loved reading about, and the idea that I could play one of the characters that I used to draw as a kid and used to really be into, and still am into, was just such a surreal but also genuinely blissful moment for me. I'm just grateful to be a part of that world.

I was just going to say, since since you've obviously read comics, have you read The Walking Dead comics, and did you maybe before the show or after the show?

I hadn't read it before the show. I mean, I was a fan of this show before I got on it, but as soon as I got the part, I learned who I was gonna be playing, and then I asked Scott Gimple if I should read any of the comics, or if I should just create my own character. And he said, “Please feel free to read as much as you want from the compendiums and everything to get a good idea of who he is, but don't read too far, because I don't want you to second guess where your character is going.” So, I basically read right up until Glenn (Steven Yeun)'s death in the circle, and I kind of stopped there. But yeah, I derived a lot of the character inspiration from what Robert [Kirkman] wrote in the comic compendiums.

Is there anything at all that you're allowed to tease about the upcoming weeks for Aaron, or just in general?

I don't know. I don't think I can. I mean, I've learned to just kind of shut my mouth [laughs], for the most part. I think we're gonna see a lot of these very themes about forgiveness and mercy tested in the next few weeks and how he deals with these new threats. Is he going to be his old diplomatic understanding self, or is he going to go back to this sort of more brutal, no nonsense version of Aaron that we certainly have seen in this episode?

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