Chad L. Coleman on joining 'Walking Dead' as fan fave Tyreese

Coleman as Tyreese, courtesy AMC

Sunday's mid-season finale of AMC's uber-hit The Walking Dead gave readers of the comic book series a long-awaited treat when it introduced Tyreese, a fan favorite and all-around bad ass character, now played by actor Chad L. Coleman.

An Atlanta Falcons football player in the pre-apocalyptic world, - which, no doubt, gives him a physical advantage when it comes to fighting off the walkers - he’s a central character in the books and becomes Rick’s right-hand-man after the death of Shane. While there was no mention of this plot point when Tyreese and his crew make their way to the survivor's prison, he did rock his signature hammer for some effective melee action.

So how else is TV Tyreese going to be similar to his comic book counterpart?

Coleman, courtesy AMC
Coleman joined us to answer just such questions. Previously seen as the reformed criminal "Cutty" on The Wire, Coleman is a Virginia-born actor who says he strongly identifies with Tyreese’s strong convictions and value for human life and that the character is "fighting for a new world."

If you want to learn more about Coleman's take on Tyreese, who will appear in five of the final eight episodes of season three, go beyond the jump - but beware, there are minor TWD comic book spoilers ahead...

What can you say about the character of Tyreese and how he’s different from the comic book version?

Coleman: Well I'm not an inside-out student of the graphic novel. When I came onboard I was told if you need to reference it we will. ... as we need to reference the graphic novel we'll give you some insights from that perspective we will but just, you know, ride it out with us script for script kind of deal.

So in as much as I would say the humanity of the man is very much akin to what was done in the graphic novel [and] I believe his kind of lack of skills as a marksman...

Can you talk a little bit about getting cast in the show?

Coleman: Well yes, unbeknownst to me, my agents had been speaking to Robert Kirkman for a little while about the possibility of me playing this role. So whenever you have the creator kind of pulling your card and saying they want you to be a part of it, you're in a pretty good position.

Does that add pressure for you or do you kind of welcome that, that everyone would think of you for that role?

Coleman: I'll put it to you like this, so Michael Jordan is shooting the last second, three quarters to win the game, I think he relishes it so I relish it. Every actor wants to be relevant and every actor wants to be held to a high standard and this allows me that opportunity, it keeps me sharp, I like it.

When you were up for this role were you aware that it was a big fan favorite character?

Coleman: Yes as soon as I went online … that's the icing on the cake just to be able to create an original role before but to have something that was already present in another form - and to have to be able to honor it in a way, to be able to live up to that, that's huge for me.

Can you tease and do some forecasting for us about where the relationship between Tyreese and Rick might be like?

Coleman: Well that's a dangerous question … Forces collide on some level is what I would say.

Nice, same thing for you and Michonne?

Coleman: Couldn't give you one iota about that … There is much - honestly there is much that will surprise me as it will surprise you, but you guys know the pedigree of the show by this time. So, you know, it's going to be awesome for all parties involved.

We saw you jumping right into zombies, running around. You kind of get thrown right into the cast, right into the mix of things, so can you walk about your first days of killing zombies? Did you have fun with all of that?

Coleman: Yeah, a complete and absolute adrenaline rush, that's what it is - it's like electricity running through my body like crazy. And also the technical aspect of it, you know, I won't give away but was equally as compelling for me, like, ‘Oh wow, this is how you do it, oh okay cool’ … Zombies are so real so it's really no acting required; you just see the amazing work that's being done. It's just so real, it's just eerie, but the most eerie part of it is to see them just doing regular things like in-between takes or going to lunch break - just to watch a guy getting the salad dressing - and he's all made up, all zombied out. It's pretty hilarious.

For the rest of Season 3 we're going to see no shortage of zombie killing and action for you as well?

Coleman: No doubt about it, no doubt about it - the man has a hammer and he knows how to use it, so.

Do you feel like you're in adequate shape to do all this running from zombies in the Georgia heat?

Coleman: Oh, of course. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, so it gets a little sticky in that area as well and I spent a lot of time in Georgia - I have two sisters who live there as well - so yes, Oh yes, bring it on. I love running in the heat.

If there's anything to the Mayan Calendar predictions or a zombie apocalypse, how would you like to spend that last day of yours?

Coleman: Family. I know that sounds corny. I was going to be selfish and say, you know, a significant other but I would hope with a significant other and family surrounding me, just circling the wagon with each other and just trusting that wherever we're going at least while we were here, we loved and we loved fully and we stayed together.

What does TV Tyreese value in this post-apocalyptic world?

Coleman: Life... human life and the preservation of it and humanity and, you know, normalcy - family, you know, like (truly) can we just wake up for one day and not have to anticipate living like this? Can we just have some safety, some security, you know?

If you were in the zombie apocalypse, what would be your weapon of choice?

Coleman: Wow, you know, I mean honestly I love the crossbow but I would have to stay true to the hammer - I've got to stay true to the hammer.

Cross-bows are heavy - hammers are more portable.

Coleman: Exactly, exactly … well you can see I can do a lot of damage.

Are you a fan of zombie movies?

Coleman: Yes, 28 Days Later. I do the genre. My daughter's a huge fan. I m into gore and all that good stuff  - even the funny ones like Shaun Of The Dead and stuff like that. I know I haven't hit on an absolute American one but The Walking Dead covers that. But yes, I do enjoy the genre and I'm becoming more and more of a fan every day of it ... but I've never been a straight student of it.

In the scene where Carl had locked the door and wouldn't let you out, you said you heard the man. Does Tyreese see something different in Carl?

Coleman: Yes I would say so, and I love that. Also, it speaks to his ability to read a situation, read it clearly and communicate in an effective manner to try to get the objective taken care of. So he read the situation really quick; he could see something in this young man, in the way he handles himself with that weapon and just his whole presence and stature was very clear to me - or, you know, Tyreese - of what he was dealing with. And he was going to handle it as diplomatically as possible and he in no way, shape or form was going to take for granted who this young man was.

In the comics, Tyreese becomes Rick's second-hand man. Any hints about that in the series, and do you think Rick needs one or Tyreese just destined to become another Shane?

Coleman: I, Chad Coleman the actor, would love that just for the opportunity to mix it up, go toe-to-toe, to be in the scene with Andrew Lincoln, so that's the selfish aspect of it. From the story, I think it would be compelling; I think it would give the audience a lot of meaty exchanges. I can't say that I know that that's going to occur, but I put my vote in for it for sure.

Has the regular cast welcomed you with open arms or like your character do you feel more like an outsider who needs to earn a place in the established order?

Coleman: It's quite the opposite. This is an amazing, extraordinary cast of human beings and I don't exaggerate at all. Andrew Lincoln has to be the nicest, egoless lead actor that I've ever met in my life and I'm not exaggerating at all. And his energy and his temperament just, you know, falls over everyone and it's just a one big happy family.

On one level they respect some of the body of work that I've been able to put together but the show is the thing for Andrew. It is his baby and his passion and the way he cares about it, that's what we all tune in. We all dial into that and we go forth; they've been amazing, they've really been really, really special.

This is special, it doesn't happen often so it's only the second time in my career where in a television endeavor that I feel this sense of family and open arm kind of ‘come in and we want to see you shine’ type of attitude - and it really for me starts with Andrew Lincoln.

One of the things that fans of color have been waiting for is some black characters who will stick around on the show for awhile. Can you give us hope that, as they add black characters on the show, they won't kill them off like they've been doing?

Coleman: I can't say anything there but slow down, be easy, you're going to be incredibly proud. Glen Mazzara, all of these folks, have the highest of integrity and character and they know we matter as much as anyone else, so you're going to see that played out on the show. I don't think there's any kind of agenda on their part, it's just how story telling unfolds at times, but you guys are going to be incredibly proud of Michonne and Tyreese and Sasha [who is his sister on the show].

Tyreese and his group may end up in the prison and they feel like they're safe but little do they know they have the entire threat of Woodbury The Governor descending on them fairly soon. How does Tyreese respond to being thrown in the middle of this conflict between the prison and Woodbury?

Coleman: Now that's a loaded question. You'll be having the same experience at the time this is happening as I -wide-eyed and discerning and just taking it all in, trying to process and trying to find a safe haven … You'll be on the edge of your seat and in that journey with me.