Exclusive interview: ‘The Walking Dead’ star Ross Marquand on spinoffs

'The Walking Dead' star Ross Marquand stands in a convention hall to great fans.
Photo by Danny Peterson.

The Walking Dead and Invincible star Ross Marquand says he’d gladly keep playing in the sandboxes of comic book writer Robert Kirkman for as long as he can — if he can survive their bleak worlds, that is.

In an exclusive interview with We Got This Covered, Marquand told us how landing the role in AMC’s post-apocalyptic zombie drama The Walking Dead changed his life, why he decided to follow Kirkman to a new show, Invincible, and how reading The Walking Dead comic books helped Marquand nudge his character, Aaron, into a darker direction in the show.

During a recent Rose City Comic Con panel in Portland, Oregon, he co-hosted with fellow The Walking Dead star Khary Payton, who WGTC also interviewed, Marquand revealed how he was on the brink of quitting acting entirely immediately before landing the role on the hit show, of which he was already a fan. Since then, Marquand’s Aaron has transformed in the show from a demure ex-politician and community recruiter to a certified badass warrior with a mace for a hand.

On Amazon Prime Video’s animated Invincible, also created by Kirkman, Marquand plays The Immortal, a superhero who is a member of the Guardians of the Globe. While Invincible has been picked up for a second and third season, and recording for season three has already begun, the sophomore season is not expected to premiere on the streaming service until next year.

We caught up with Marquand, who has been a part of The Walking Dead since season five, while he was in-between greeting fans at his booth during the con at the Oregon Convention Center. The actor was gracious enough to field our questions while also keeping tight-lipped regarding any spoilers for the forthcoming concluding stretch of episodes for The Walking Dead‘s series finale, which is premiering on Oct. 2 on AMC.

There are a lot of spinoffs coming for The Walking Dead, focused, I believe, on Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes and Norman Reedus’ Daryl Dixon. If the showrunners asked you to come back for any of those, would you be down?

Yeah, assuming they don’t kill my character at the end of the show, of course. ‘Cause we still have eight episodes to go, and we’ll see how those pan out. But if I were alive at the end of the show, then I would certainly be open to coming back. I’d love to play Aaron again.

What’s the creative process behind one comic book creator, Robert Kirkman, going from one of his shows to another? Was the draw for you? ‘Cause so many of that cast from The Walking Dead went to Invincible too. And what was that process like and the motivation for you?

Well, once I read The Walking Dead, when I got the part, I actually touched on Invincible for a while. I went down a Kirkman rabbit hole, so to speak. And I was so blown away by the quality of the writing in Invincible as well. I think the great thing about that show is that it tackles so many different issues from so many different lenses, and yet it still finds a way to seem grounded in reality, even though it’s obviously this fantastical show that’s sometimes set in space and…it’s superheroes of course. And I just love how natural his dialogue is. And the characters, the character development for each of them is just fantastic, so I was immediately drawn. Plus, when I heard that I’d be playing a character that has been alive for 500 years, I was like, “Yep, that sounds great.”

On stage, you were talking about how it was kind of like this reversal of fortune for you to get The Walking Dead role. You talked about how it changed your life, and you were in a rough patch in your life at the time. If you had any advice for young artists or actors out there who are, you know, maybe facing a similar situation, what would you tell them?

I got myself into some really bad debt. I was about $100,000 in debt. I was in a really, really tough spot. And I would just say, pursue your dream as long as it’s fun, as long as you enjoy doing it. But the moment you start getting yourself into really bad situations like I did, consider taking a break. There’s no shame in taking a little break because if you can’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to be a good actor, a good human, a good person to anybody. So you really need to be making sure you are taking care of your finances and yourself first before you destroy yourself, essentially, pursuing that dream.

You mentioned [during the panel] about how you advocated for making your character darker on The Walking Dead, and then you also mentioned about how you were a fan of the show before you joined it. Were you a fan of the comic book, too, and did you have an idea of the character in your mind and what you wanted to do differently?

I didn’t know anything about the character from the comic book because I hadn’t read it yet, but once I did, I asked Scott Gimble, who was showrunning back then, if I could imbue some of the character with that writing from the comic book. And he loved that idea. So I did put them [in] there as much as possible. And I’m glad I did because Robert obviously laid out this incredible blueprint for all of the characters, but especially for Aaron, and I’m really, really glad I did.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.