Q: Let’s talk about Beth’s singing. Daryl’s on the fence about it, but do you look forward to those scenes?
A: It’s a good way to give a glimpse into Beth’s life, in a way. With the kind of music a person listens to, you feel like you really know somebody. When I first meet people, I send some songs to them. So I think having Beth sing on the show is a good way to let people feel like they know a bit of her inner life. This season I sing another Tom Waits song to Judith, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.” Beth is definitely a Tom Waits fan.
Q: Beyond Tom Waits, what might Beth’s musical preferences be?
A: I’m sure she’s aware of Top 40 music because she’s a teenager, but I’m sure she goes off and searches for something else, too. I’ve definitely thought that since she’s from Georgia, there’s some music from there in her collection. But I think her taste is a little more indie, too. I think she’s influenced by whatever her mom was into — and that’s why there’s that “Parting Glass” style of song.
Q: Did you know her character was going to be on such a roller coaster ride this season?
A: They don’t tell you much, but I did know that Beth would have a boyfriend at the beginning of the season and she’d be trying out this different, more hardened way of dealing with it. She’s trying on these attitudes, the way a lot of teenagers do, to find ways to deal with the loss around her. I also knew that she would get separated at some point, and I knew that she would form a really good bond with the person she got separated with. You don’t get to hear a lot of Beth’s voice in most of last season, but there was that point a few episodes ago where she was writing, and it’s a voiceover of the whole ordeal and her thoughts on things. That was so great for me because before I was just filling it in with my own imagination.
Q: Has that storyline affected your own music that you write at all?
Q: Daryl has really emerged as a fan favorite character. When you signed up for the role, did you ever think that he would be so lovable?
A: I’m trying to make him lovable here and there, but not too lovable.
Q: He’s also one of a dwindling group of characters who have been on the show since the beginning. What’s the secret to his longevity?
A: Oh man, I don’t know what the secret is. Everyone that has met their end has been such a rich character, and those actors have brought those characters to life in such great ways. I don’t think anybody is going to die in a hospital bed smiling with all their loved ones around holding hands.
Q: Fans have their own methods for trying to predict what is going to happen on the show. What do the actors do?
A: We get the scripts right before we shoot them. I sometimes hear rumors of certain directions we’ll take, and sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong. But nobody knows their character’s arc. Even when we do roundtables when the show kicks off, we have all these interviewers and they say, “Oh, we’ve watched the first two episodes, and this is what I think is happening.” They’re usually wrong, and they just watched it! So Scott and the writers are very good at keeping those secrets to themselves. The whole arc of the show in general is locked somewhere in a vault in Scott Gimple’s brain.
Q: Conan O’Brien recently said he thought you have one of the best “mean, tired, angry, I’m-going-to-kill-you scowls,” on the show. That’s saying a lot, given other characters like Michonne. Are there any famous scowlers you look up to?
A: Early on, I was so insecure as an actor that I just gave everyone dirty looks. I thought they all hated me. And somehow I’ve played parts since then where I murder people. It’s kind of like that scowl turned into a career. All of my favorite actors brood. Clint Eastwood definitely had a scowl happening. Charlie Bronson. Marlon Brando had one when he wanted one. Willem Dafoe can definitely turn your brain to ice by staring at you. As for Daryl, I’ve always played him as a fighter, but that’s because he’s always had to fight. That’s a different kind of a fight than a guy with big pecs coming at you to prove a point. I guess that goes hand-in-hand with the scowl.
Q: Are you missing Michael Rooker this year as much as Daryl misses his brother?
Q: How did you end up on The Walking Dead? Were you a fan of the zombie genre before?
A: I grew up watching B horror movies and loved them. I was a huge fan of the Dawn of the Dead stuff and all that. The TV stuff, when it’s done well, can be fantastic. And when it’s not done well, it’s probably some of the [worst] television you’d ever want to watch. People try to grab onto the genre, but it’s always about the storytelling in anything that you’re doing.
Q: It was announced that you would be on the show long before you appeared in an episode. How intense was the fan pressure to reveal things about Abraham?
A: They always ask. Everyone wants to know when you’re coming on. And I don’t think they realize that half the time they’re asking, that’s potentially a spoiler. They just get excited like, “When are you coming, when can we see you?” And it’s like, “Soon.” I haven’t told them anything. Hang in there, be patient, watch.
Q: You play a tough guy determined to see his mission through on the The Walking Dead. Are you like that at all in real life?
A: My wife would tell you, no. As Jessica Rabbit says, “I’m just drawn that way.”
Q: You played a police officer in Southland. Why do you think you draw these military roles?
A: I don’t know! I think there is an element of physicality about how I am. But there’s a blue collar accessibility to me, and that’s just who I am. I’m not the best looking guy in the room, and I think that makes me more accessible to everyday guys out there. It’s not like some pretty boy telling you how things are. I think it’s a really interesting time in television right now, with a lot of really cool character actors coming up and a lot of awesome writing going into them. The face of television is changing — and it’s favoring me!
Q: Abraham scores a lady friend in the apocalypse, so he’s not doing so bad.
Q: You are one of the new members on set this season. What is the initiation like for new members of the cast? Be honest.
A: Let’s see, my first day on set, I just went into the makeup trailer and was like, “Hey, I want to know exactly how you make zombies.” Because I’d been such a fan of the show and that was the first thing I did. And I watched them make them. They’re awesome here. They throw you right in and hand you a gun, like, “Here you go.” Luckily I play a lot of “Call of Duty,” so I fit right in.
Q: Tara and her sister take in the Governor when we first meet them — have you ever taken in a hitchhiker or stranger?
A: Probably every single friend of mine and my brother’s lived at my house at one time. We definitely were an orphanage of sorts. Literally every person that I know has lived at my mom’s house. At Thanksgiving and Christmas time it’s not just family, it’s 80 people.
Q: How do zombies compare in the flesh compared to watching them on television?
A: I mean, they’re super scary. I walked into the lunch room the first day, and they’re all eating lunch. You get up close and they’re so scary. They’re trying to put food in their mouths without messing up their makeup. And then you’re doing a scene with them and you’re running, you’re actually scared because there’s like 70 of them coming at you.
Q: What attracted you to Tara when you signed on to play her?
Q: What was different for you playing Michonne this year?
A: Well, one of the things that’s really fun about Michonne is that she can be peeled back like an onion. It was really kind of interesting to allow walls to come down, and that does involve a whole different process. Seeing who that chick is, that was really fun.
Q: We see a lot of that peeling in the Mid-Season Premiere. Did you have any input into that?
A: Me and Scott [Gimple] have been conversing about this stuff for a while. He definitely had the lion’s share of it down. And it would concretize exactly what her story was. But it was really great because he had given a lot of understanding and thought to what her background was, and I materialized it.
Q: The dream sequence in Michonne’s apartment is memorable. Did you enjoy the chance to shoot a scene back in civilization?
A: Yeah, I got to be clean and pretty! That was great fun for all of us: great fun for Donna, the makeup artist; great fun for Taylor, who does hair. The more I read it and got into it, I’m like this is really deep and powerful. In her psyche, she’s so caught up on pushing down everything. And that’s what she does after she leaves the prison — she decides to go back to the old Michonne and that’s how she copes with pain and loss. But her conscious and her subconscious won’t let her do that anymore.
Q: There’s a great moment when Michonne blends in a with a crowd of walkers. Have you ever hidden in plain in sight before?
Q: Martinez got devoured by walkers this year. Tell us a little bit about filming that scene.
A: I was upside down and quite disoriented. At one point, one of the walkers actually took a clump of my hair out, during the stunt itself. So I think a piece of me was buried in that pit for real. It’s a little tribute there for the character. David Morrissey is holding onto a harness of mine, and he kind of just lifts me up. I look like I’m struggling, but really I’m just kind of crab-walking my way over to the pit. Which is really a mind-blow; you want to fight for your character and you want to survive, and at the same time, you have to crab walk over to your demise. There was one take where I did dig my heels in when we hit the grass and that’s actually one of the takes I use because David Morrissey stumbles and then he just drags me the last five or six feet. It was intense.
Q: Martinez starts out in a bit of a role reversal with The Governor. Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve found yourself the boss of someone who was formerly a superior?
A: Not in the workplace, but I’d have to say with my big brother. I was two years younger than him but it kind of seemed like the tides turned in the late teens. I got bigger than him and I started studying martial arts, and then all of a sudden I could dictate what we were going to do this weekend.
Q: You’re currently in South Africa working on a Neill Blomkamp film. What are fans of The Walking Dead like there?
A: There are billboards all over the place announcing Season 4. It’s quite comforting.
Q: Last year, you talked about how your Jeet Kune Do skills came in handy on set. Any other skills that you got to dust off this year?
Q: You’ve starred in classics like In the Heat of the Night and In Cold Blood. Has your fame from The Walking Dead surpassed the recognition you get for all those other movies?
A: Certainly I get recognized a lot, that’s a new condition of life. It’s not totally new, but to the degree it is now, it is new. I’m probably more recognizable with the beard and the ponytail. A lot of people in airports recognize me too — a lot of the agents when I’m passing through. And you have more of people stopping and wanting to take pictures of you and you saying, “I have a plane to catch.” The fans are really nice and they’re upfront and the people that talk to me are certainly pro-Hershel. I’ll hear things like, “Ah, you grew your leg back!”
Q: Have you been getting interesting fan mail or seen any tributes to Hershel that you’ve particularly enjoyed?
A: People respond to Hershel everywhere. What’s really neat is that people have said they watch it with their families. Fathers and sons watch it together and it gives them some common ground to have conversation together.
Q: Hershel has changed a lot from the farm owner we met in Season 2. Do you prefer the new Hershel, or the old one?
A: It’s been a fun journey. From the beginning on the farm, he was much more of a tight character. Everyone in the show has lost enormously; they’ve lost family members and daughters and sisters and loved ones. But because of being on the farm, his losses were as physical as anyone else’s. That was his farm, where he lived and raised his family. So you saw him lose something that had been in the family for a long time.
Q: What were you told about Hershel going into Season 4?
Q: When did you find out that you were going to have to grow out your hair and your beard for this season?
A: Yeah they gave me a little heads up with that. I had about a month, really. But also that hair is a wig. I couldn’t have grown my hair out — that would have taken me like four years.
Q: Was that an aesthetic change you embraced?
A: I kept thinking I should go and get myself a Harley or something! In that Georgia heat it can get pretty uncomfortable with the old beard, but I liked it.
Q: The Governor takes shelter with Tara, Lilly and David. Have you ever been taken in by strangers?
A: I’ve done a lot of traveling on my own around the world and there’s been many times where I’ve met people where they’ve helped me out, and taken me in and given me a meal. Particularly when I was a younger man, that happened a lot. I was in Africa when I was about 18, and I met these Kenyan guys — I was climbing Mt. Kenya and they helped me out and I shared a meal and a campsite with them. I was in Venice once and I was sleeping in the train station and a guy there sort of let me travel with them. Those kind of traveling kindnesses have happened a lot to me.
Q: The Governor begins charming his way back into the fold this season. What kind of people have you studied in order to play him?
Q: What did you know about Tyreese going into this season?
A: That Tyreese was going to go through a lot. That’s what Scott [Gimple] was saying. He was gonna get tested, and he was going to kind of get turned inside out. No actor worth his weight doesn’t want to take on stuff like that. So that’s been real gratifying and rewarding to be able to do that.
Q: We come back this year and Tyreese has a girlfriend. How’d you swing that?
A: Man, Melissa Ponzio is so beautiful and talented, I wish she and I had the opportunity to work together more. But it was awesome working with her. That was my mantra: Tyreese should have a love interest. I just didn’t expect Karen to die in the second episode. I want a love interest and I want her to be around the entire season — but Karen’s death is very pivotal in the storyline.
Q: Tell me about the scene between Daryl, Rick and Tyreese after he finds out about Karen. What was that like to shoot?
A: That was really intense man, because we’re all game, and we all love doing our own stunts. There was a lot of adrenaline, and the director was fantastic. It was kind of claustrophobic because that space was pretty small, with dudes throwing each other around.
Q: Did you strike some fear into their hearts?
Q: What do you do to get yourself in shape for the show every season?
A: Norman and Andy and I have a lot of discussions about this. We do have to be strong enough to pull off what we’re asked as actors to do. But then also, we want to make it realistic, in that we don’t want these guys to be jacked or anything like that. I just try to stay relatively healthy. But when it comes to gearing up for the new season, we even had discussions about taking a one week camping trip to get disheveled and disgusting. It’s interesting, because once we start shooting we actually start getting skinnier and more malnutritioned and gaunt as we go. The first and second season, Jon Bernthal got me into boxing, and that’s been good to just get strong without making you look like you’re ‘roiding out.
Q: Do you box with any other cast members?
A: Just Jon actually. He could kill me with one hit.
Q: Do any other aspects of The Walking Dead become a part of your life?
A: This show is really intense in that we’re living out these characters’ lives. So you just kind of live out really terrible situations that hit really close to home, so last year with what Glenn was going through, it was hard to not fall into his pit of despair and depression and keep my composure. I think that’s your job to kind of separate the two, so you don’t go insane.
Q: Glenn and Maggie have the best room at the prison. What’s the coolest place you’ve ever slept?
A: There are nice hotels, but nothing beats 1993, on the middle of a small mat on my grandma’s farm in one of the hottest summers in Korea. You can like smell the grain that they’re growing — they actually own a Tobacco farm. And you’re just laying there on the ground while my grandmother’s cooking.
Q: Are zombies a part of Korean culture at all?