Fans of The Walking Dead are still reeling from the earth-shattering deaths that rocked the AMC drama’s Sunday, October 23, season 7 premiere. But for the actor whose character was the first to be offed by bat-wielding psychopath Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the only surprises left are the ones he gets to reveal himself.
Michael Cudlitz, who enriched our lives for years as the ginger-haired, endlessly quotable, awesomely mustachioed Abraham, hopped on a conference call with Us Weekly and other reporters on October 24 to answer all of our burning questions about how he prepared for this moment and what his next move will be. (Click here for thoughts from actor Steven Yeun, whose character, Glenn, was also offed in the traumatic episode.)
Here are the top 10 most interesting things we learned.
10. He’s been keeping the secret of Abe’s death for a long, long time.
A year and five months: That’s how long Cudlitz, 51, has known that he’d be the one getting his head cracked open like a walnut once Negan and Lucille entered the picture.
9. The identity of Negan’s victim(s) was never a secret to the cast.
“We spread a rumor that the cast didn’t even know who was going to die, and that we shot the death of every character, and people were going through contract negations,” Cudlitz said. “And all of that was a lie, so we were able to have that to hide behind for about five months after shooting.” In other words, this bought the cast about half a year of peace from being questioned about who was going to be offed. Smart!
8. Keeping Abe’s death under wraps was a serious workout.
Cudlitz kept up a robust travel schedule throughout the year so that people would think he was away filming the show. He also held memberships at multiple gyms just for subterfuge purposes.
“It was a process, like the guy at the front desk at the gym was concerned because he’d seen I’ve been in a few days in a row,” the actor explained. “I would tell him I was leaving for Atlanta, then for the next two weeks I would go to a different gym.”
7. Only those closest to him knew the truth.
The only people Cudlitz didn’t lie to about his character’s death were his wife and kids — and then only because they were going to notice that he was home.
6. Abe’s death was all about practical effects — including a life-sized, blood-soaked dummy with a bashed-in skull.
“They also made a mock-up of me on the ground with a busted head,” Cudlitz said. “For everyone else, it was very disturbing. My wife said even though she knew it wasn’t me, she could go a whole lifetime without seeing that again.”
5. Spoiler trolls, you’re on notice.
Cudlitz got a little feisty when discussing the secrecy surrounding the big reveal, saying, “The whole thing was, how do we keep this secret because of those people out there who seem like it’s their only job to ruin other people’s TV watching experience.” (Ah, yes. Those people. We hate them, too.)
4. That peace sign was just for Sasha.
Peace out, girl scout: That two-fingered swan song was Abe’s sign-off to his special lady, Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), and a last-minute addition. “We saw that after Abe was hit down, we couldn’t turn round to look at Sasha. We needed to find a way for him to say bye to her — that’s what the peace sign was,” Cudlitz explained.
3. Cudlitz’s main concern? Making sure that Negan’s other victim wasn’t taking it too hard.
“I’m not some guru, but I’ve been doing this a long time. I knew Steven [Yeun] wouldn’t have been through this before like I had,” the actor said. “He came on the show very young and grew up as a man and artist on the show. … I told him if he ever needs to, reach out.”
2. “Suck my nuts” was a Cudlitz original.
Abe’s last words were entirely up to the actor who played him, hence their utter perfection.
1. And Abe might be gone, but the mustache lives on … at least for now.
Of all the things Michael Cudlitz has done for his fans, this might just be the sweetest:
“I’m going to keep the mustache,” he said. “We’re doing a fan event soon — we’re going to give the fans a chance to say bye. If you don’t watch the show that may sound weird, but it’s not. So I think it’s a respectful thing to not take it off. For the fans, it just happened, so we’ll give them some time.”
Tell Us: Will you miss Abraham, or was this the right time for him to go?
The Walking Dead airs on AMC Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.
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