‘The Walking Dead’ Interview: Star Dallas Roberts Dishes on The Governor, Merle and His Famous Tea
Between zombie experiments, the Governor's heel, and some seriously sinister-seeming tea, Dallas Roberts' 'The Walking Dead' character Milton sure has a lot on his plate in a post-apocalyptic world. But where does The Governor's villainy end, and Milton's benevolent science begin? What secrets might upcoming episodes reveal? We talk to 'The Walking Dead' and 'The Good Wife' star Dallas Roberts for the latest on 'The Walking Dead' season 3!
As 'The Walking Dead' season 3 continues its acclaimed run with this past Sunday's episode "Say the Word," and prepares to delve even deeper into the world of the undead with the coming "Hounded," perhaps no element added to the series thus far has proved as electric (sometimes literally) as the goings on at Woodbury! From its quietly villainous Governor, to biter fights and even the mysterious Milton (Dallas Roberts), viewers have only begun to scratch the sinister surface of the seemingly idyllic town.
But what of upcoming episodes? Is there more than meets the eye with Milton? Might the good scientist have an agenda of his own to carry out against the Governor (David Morrissey)'s will? We had a chance to catch up with series star Dallas Roberts, who gave us the 'Walking Dead' scoop on good old Milton!
We all know that Milton was an original creation of the AMC series, but prior to your role on 'The Walking Dead,' were you at all familiar with the comics?
I was actually a fan of the books from before. I did another show on AMC called 'Rubicon,' and that character was into comic books, so I slapped a bunch of comic books on my iPad. I was familiar with the world, I was familiar with the people, and I was familiar with the fact that Milton was not canon, comic-wise. So that provided a certain freedom in terms of figuring out who he was.
Did the writers give you any sort of indication about Milton's past before the apocalypse, or did you fill in the blanks?
They certainly never communicated it to me other than the writing throughout the season. I find that on serialized television it's wiser to hit the ground and look forward, and take the cues from the writers and the events happening, otherwise you just tie yourself in knots. But I thought that I was…of German ancestry. [Laughs] That sort of thing.
Tell me about the tea! Why was Milton so insistent everyone drink it during "Walk With Me?"
Tea is awesome. Our country started the war with it. There's nothing like a properly brewed cup of tea, and Milton certainly enjoys his. What's cool about that little apparatus is that when I saw it in the script, it was like "Milton has an elaborate tea-making mechanism," and I imagined some sort of 1940’s scientist tea, with beakers, strainers, and double boilers. I got on set, and it’s actually just this plastic device that dispenses from the bottom, and that made me realize that even in the zombie apocalypse, if you have manpower and some gunpower, you can go to Wal-Mart and get whatever you want.
Fair enough. What can you tell me about your relationship with Merle (Michael Rooker)? You two almost seem like brothers fighting for the Governor's attention.
It's definitely sort of brother-like in that way, the brains and the brawn of the situation having to deal with each other. It's always the tension between two characters that you love to play. If everyone just got along, if Hamlet loved his stepfather even though he killed his real father, there's no play there. So it's fun for Milton and Merle to have those battles, and to barely tolerate each others' presence. Michael as an actor, you can tell, hes a guy who doesn’t let a false moment hit the film, so that’s been really fun, in the arena and to play with him that way.
Where does Milton see himself against the Governor? He certainly seemed unnerved by the National Guard slaughter, but also claimed that "words couldn't describe" the biter fights, regardless of the power they consumed.
I don’t think he's into the idea of the biter fights. I think he understand the notion of them, he understand what it allows the community to do, to have the biters not be so scary. It allows some distance and some entertainment value from them, but Milton's the kind of guy who's really worried about how much power were using to put on these fights. I don’t think he has a whole lot of stomach for the violence or the gore, or using it as entertainment, but for the Governor who has the internal fortitude to make this stuff run. All politicians are in some way sociopaths. It takes a certain type of personality to keep pushing through all that monstrosity, red tape and smiling, grabbing the right hands, stabbing the right people in the back, rising up and getting to that level. That’s the kind of guy the Governor is, that is certainly not the kind of guy Milton is. He understands the necessary evil, but he does his best to avoid that.
Have you gotten a chance to work with any of the regular cast over at the prison yet?
I can neither confirm nor deny that there are other cast members at the prison. [Laughs]
Of course, of course! Then were there any specific things you hoped you'd get to do, starring in a zombie TV series as popular as 'The Walking Dead?'
I hoped that I would get to kill zombies! Like all kids who want to be in action movies, I want to jump out of a speeding car, shoot guns, slide out the side in slow motion like a John Woo movie. The great thing about the zombie premise is that it's there, it.s constant. That’s the rule: mess up, and you're dead. But within that, the writers have managed to create real people doing real things, and that’s the kind of stuff I’ve always been attracted to as an actor. Whether its Chekhov or a zombie show, or telling a story to my kids at bedtime, the notion of getting at actual human behavior and actual human relationships is what I was hoping to get back.
You don't let your kids watch 'The Walking Dead,' do you? I'd have nightmares for months!
No, no! Not the kids. It’s funny, my kids and I live together, and I have a lot of actor friends. So my kids think everyone is on television every now and again, since everyone they know pops up here, but there's a whole rap of things they won’t watch until they’re 16 or 17.
Even 'The Good Wife' gets pretty racy.
Yeah, exactly! Although, if I put them in front of 'The Good Wife,' they’d fall asleep. They call anything that isn’t a cartoon or a Disney movie “adult movies.”
With only a few more episodes left in 2012, what can you tease us about what's ahead for 'The Walking Dead' season 3?
I can promise you that you're not gonna be let down if you're tuning in for zombie kills and horrific predicaments! And I can promise you that you're not gonna be let down if you're into human drama, people talking to each other and emoting in the tinier way you might see in traditional drama.
Even with the drama, 'The Walking Dead' season 3 really has managed to kick up the intensity.
The addition of Woodbury allows more. People aren’t bracing at every noise, they're not paranoid at every nightfall. There's been a sense of security created in that enclave, and that has allowed the writers to relax a little bit, stretch out in terms of the kinds of stories they can tell. The walkers are out there, and they're coming for you, but there are big walls stopping them right now. That’s provided the ability to tell deeper stories about human relationships, but believe me, its not gonna turn into 'Dynasty,' or anything like that. They’re still coming for you.
You can catch more of Dallas Roberts' mysterious Milton in upcoming episodes of 'The Walking Dead', as well as on his imminent return to the acclaimed CBS drama 'The Good Wife.'
Do you have your own theories what Milton could be up to? Would you like to see him join Rick's group? Give us your 'Walking Dead' predictions in the comments!