Call it the mourning after. Following his character’s death on AMC’s The Walking Dead on Sunday, Oct. 25, actor Michael Traynor — who joined the smash series last season — reacted to the shocking episode in an exclusive new interview with Us Weekly.
Read the Q&A below, including details about when he found out his character, Nicholas, was going to be killed off (shooting himself in the head during a dire zombie standoff), and more inside scoop from the set.
MICHAEL TRAYNOR: How are you?
US WEEKLY: I’m good. I’m a little bummed after last night’s episode, though, to be honest with you.
MT: I know. It’s not a cheery bunch of interviews that I’m doing this morning.
US: I’ll jump right in… How and when did you find out that Nicholas was going to die?
MT: About a month or two before filming, [series writer] Scott Gimple gave me a call. I got the “intimate” phone call. And we chatted about what the arc was and what they were hoping to do with it. The sort of delicate threading of the needle they wanted to have the character arc follow with this hope of redemption… Once we got to the set, we all navigated and sort of modulated the performance. They found something they liked, and they moved forward with that and the next thing you know I’m on a dumpster saying “Really? There isn’t another option?”
US: So what was your reaction when Scott told you you were going to die? On a show like this, nobody is completely safe. But did you have an inkling it was coming or were you completely caught off guard?
MT: Well, I knew that when he called at first it was like, “Oh this could be the call, do I want to take this call? Do I want this call or go to voicemail?” …My girlfriend and I were making dinner, I was like “Scott Gimple called. How lovely.” I was like “I’m not sure if this is lovely or not.”
But we chatted; it was lovely. He does such a brave and courteous thing in talking to the actors and letting them know: “It’s not what you did. It’s not that you weren’t liked. We love you. It’s that this is an important opportunity for the story of the show and for the fans to experience something unexpected that is wholly owned by the television show, not something in the comic.” So, when we chatted, I was so excited to be a part of that, and it’s all an honor. It’s really nice and they wrote fantastic things for me to say and do. I was more excited by the challenges than filled with any sense of regret or what could have been.
US: That was such an intense scene. Can you talk about getting the script for the first time when you realized that Nicholas would commit suicide?
MT: I emailed Scott immediately and said, “Brilliant. So excited. Holy f–k they’re all gonna hate me.”
US: Did you tell anyone?
US: No, so nobody knew?
MT: I mean, people knew. I live with my girlfriend, there are friends I see on a regular basis. People had a sense that my story line was fading in some respects, but I kept up the ruse. But last night there was a lot of shocked phone calls from friends and family saying “What the… what’s happening?”
US: How difficult was it to film that scene? I’m just thinking in terms of the scope: There were so many zombies, and you guys were standing on this dumpster.
MT: One of the great things about the show- what they do, the production values and the realities they have around you when the scenes are being shot — is that there were 100 or so people, actors done up in the makeup for walkers surrounding us and slamming against the dumpster. There is so much chaos surrounding us, it helps kind of fuel you into those emotional states. And the cameras are fast and furious, and they’re surrounding us, and there’s just a sense of immediacy and veracity that helps you to nail it.
US: What do you think of the way Nicholas went out? Would you have liked to see him go down fighting rather than give up?
MT: We’ve seen people go down fighting so many times. I think what’s interesting in this moment, this narrative thread, is to explore what it takes to survive. What you have is somebody who failed to hold onto any sense of faith…Would I have loved to have gone down in a blaze of glory? Sure. As an actor it’s so much fun to do that, but as a fan of the show I again applaud the decision that the show runners and the executive producers and writers made in taking a more compelling choice.
US: Speaking of fans, have you been online this morning at all reading any of the comments about last night’s episode?
MT: I chose to kind of not jump on and do anything last night because I wanted the fans talk amongst themselves and mourn amongst themselves and rage amongst themselves. And I’m really not sure exactly how to say anything or how to enter into that raging sea of Twitter rage, but it’s pretty awesome. It shows that this television show, these survivors, these heroes that [Robert] Kirkman and Gimple have crafted, really connect with people. And when their lives are at risk, people get pissed. People get flat-out pissed.
US: You said you were a fan of the show before you joined the cast, so will you continue to watch the show?
MT: Oh yeah totally. I’m so excited for Episode 4, which seems to be some sort of glimpse into how Morgan became this zen Yoda ninja. I’m so excited for that and Lenny James is just a remarkable gentleman and a fierce actor, so I’m sure he’s gonna rip some story line apart.
US: Who in the cast are you going to keep in touch with?
MT: We’ve all kept in touch, even Daniel Bonjour who plays Aiden from last season, he came over and watched last night’s episode at my house. And Ross [Marquand] and I were chatting yesterday. You do form a bond.
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