Leading up to the premiere of the fifth season of AMC’s
post-apocalyptic horror series “The Walking Dead,” we spoke with
actor Chad L. Coleman about his role as Tyreese, what’s been happening in front
of and behind the cameras, and what to look forward to in Season 5.
JAI TIGGETT: Your character is
physically strong but also very emotionally connected to what’s happening on
the show. What did you think about Tyreese being teamed up in Season 4 with
Carol, who has the opposite kind of emotional path?
CHAD L. COLEMAN: First of all, on a selfish level I love working with
Melissa McBride, so any time I get a chance to do that I’m all in. Story-wise,
I think it defies stereotypes and it’s very compelling. I love the contrast
where he’s big and strong but yet he’s more reticent, and this woman coming
from a domestic abuse background and growing to become incredibly strong in her
convictions and willing to do what she has to do. I don’t think we’ve seen that
kind of pairing on TV before in the representation of an African-American man
and Caucasian woman.
JT: There’s a lot
happening emotionally in one of the most memorable episodes of last season, The
Grove, where we see the end of the two young girls, Lizzie and Mica, and
Carol confessing to killing Tyreese’s girlfriend. What did you think when you
first read the script for that episode?
CLC: I was fascinated. But it spoke to my intuition about Tyreese
and what he would do when he was confronted with Carol. I knew he wouldn’t go
violent and I was happy to see him represented in that way, which isn’t
represented very often in our society. I thought that it was crushing that the
girls had to leave the show, but the way that it happened, I just thought [writer
and executive producer] Scott Gimple was brilliant in showing what this world
will do to the mind of a child.
JT: What’s been the
biggest challenge for you in playing this role so far?
CLC: Just the emotional toll, recognizing that I have to
decompress afterwards because it’s so deep and heavy. You’ve got to be mindful
of not carrying it around, even subconsciously. I have to be intentional about
releasing it whether I’m running or watching my favorite comedy or spending
time with the kids and just allowing that joy to and lightness of heart to penetrate.
So that’s the toughest part, but I want that responsibility.
Any actor would. The writers and producers are taking a huge risk and we don’t
want to let them down in our performance. So we all worked really hard. We
talked and talked and talked about this thing and by the time we got there, we
JT: It’s interesting
to hear that the emotional part of it is toughest, because it’s a very physical
show as well.
CLC: I’m a physical person and I always have been. Being in
the heat in the South is not new to me, even though I complain like crazy. So that’s
the part where you can let the adrenaline take over; it’s childlike, like
playing cowboys and Indians. So you get into it, and that’s the easy part for
When you’re dealing with the emotional stuff you’re dealing
with a lot of different variables. But the physical is like being on a
playground; you never lose that sense of it, which I also feel is a
characteristic of why this show is so popular. There’s just something about
being scared that everybody negotiates as a child. Whether it’s introduced
through Halloween or scary movies, everybody has this really personal internal
thing going on when it comes to horror I think.
JT: Were you a big horror
fan growing up?
CLC: I was. Everything from “Frankenstein,” to “Dracula,”
to “The Exorcist,” stuff like “Aliens” on up to “28
Days Later.” I saw “Night of the Living Dead,” all that stuff. I
love being scared. My daughter and I go to all the horror movies. It’s an
adrenaline rush and it’s fun for us. I’m not saying everybody feels that way,
but we certainly do.
JT: You’ve worked
with a lot of great directors on the show. Who have been some of your favorites
in the past few seasons?
CLC: For me it’s Ernest Dickerson for sure, because we have
history from “The Wire” and we go all the way back to my first TV
movie, “Monday Night Mayhem.” He trusts us immensely and he doesn’t
need to say 5,000 words to make a point; he’s just that invested in what he
And I love working with [Greg] Nicotero; I just feel a
special bond with him and he has that childlike quality I was talking about. The
same with [Michael] Satrazemis, and I love that Satrazemis is just so precious
with the atmosphere, making us all feel 100% safe to do our best work. But I
don’t have any one director that I hit a sour note with. We’ve got a great set
of folks that have come through and everybody understands the aesthetic and the
work ethic and how to keep the set a peaceful, playful, upbeat place to be.
JT: You mentioned “The
Wire.” What’s it been like for you to be part of these two very different,
very iconic TV shows, and become part of TV history in that way?
CLC: I’m incredibly fortunate to be counted as one in that
number of only three of us, the boys in this club [with “The Wire’s”
Lawrence Gilliard Jr. and Seth Gilliam]. So that feels very special. It
happened on both ends of the spectrum with the major critical acclaim and then
all of this commercial success. So I’m really humbled and grateful and interested
in hearing what fans on both sides have to say.
JT: Were the three of
you able to share any special camaraderie on “The Walking Dead” set,
after having been on “The Wire”?
CLC: I didn’t get a chance to work with either of them to
any real extent on “The Wire,” Lawrence not at all, and Seth maybe
one or two scenes. So it’s great to be able to dig in and have more time to
work with one another. That’s been a huge plus. Of course we all came together
right away. We just looked at each other standing in the woods of Georgia like,
“Well who would’ve thunk it. Here we are.”
JT: They say that the
black guy is always the first to get killed in a horror situation. But there’s
a lot of diversity on your show, and even more now with the
added cast members.
CLC: I’m just so happy about the integrity of our executive
producers and storytellers that absolutely recognize the value of having this
strong African-American male presence on the show, and to be uncompromising
about that. I’m glad that we were able to quell some of that dialogue, which I
understand is necessary, but I know the integrity of the people that I work with,
and that they would never minimize or not see the importance of us. So I’m glad
that’s being played out in full.
JT: What can you
share about what will happen in Season 5 of “The Walking Dead”?
CLC: I can tell you that I didn’t think they could top
Season 4, but they have. These guys are on a mission to continue to push us and
push the audience in ways that I can’t say they’ve experienced in television in
a while. Everything is ten notches up – the desperation, the violence, the
gore; all of it goes to crazy places that I didn’t even know they were going to
Season 5 of “The
Walking Dead” premieres on Sunday, October 12 on AMC.