‘The Walking Dead’: Michael Cudlitz trades one mean street for another

Michael Cudlitz as Sgt. Abraham Ford in "The Walking Dead."
Michael Cudlitz as Sgt. Abraham Ford in “The Walking Dead.”
(Frank Ockenfels 3 / AMC)


Michael Cudlitz once worked the mean streets of Los Angeles as a troubled police officer in the acclaimed “Southland.” He’s moved on, but has traded one dangerous battlefield for another in his latest role on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

The solidly-built actor joined the series late last season in the role of the gruff and determined Sgt. Abraham Ford, who is driven by a single goal: to get Eugene Porter, a quirky “scientist” who claims to have the key to ending the zombie plague, to Washington.

Sunday’s installment “Self Help” showcased Ford, who is fighting more than rampaging zombies. He’s wrestling with his own demons regarding his past and his family. Possessed with an explosive personality which sparks him to lash out even at those close to him, Ford is devastated after discovering that Eugene may not be the person he said he was.


Although Cudlitz has a rugged demeanor on the series, he was alll smiles recently on the set of the popular series whihc is headquarted in Senoia, Georgia, saying he was thrilled to be part of a series that has become a phenomena.

“This has been so fantastic for me,” said Cudlitz, his red hair shaped in a solid flattop. On this particular day, the heat was unforgiving as the cast and crew manuevered through several scenes outside.

Said Cudlitz, “The filming conditions can be truly horrendous, but it doens’t even matter. We’re just one big collective out here with a single purpose--to bring these massively complicated characters to life. They are super heroes, even though they don’t have any powers.”

In many ways, his experience on “The Walking Dead” could not be more different than “Southland” which revolved around the professional and personal lives of LAPD officers. The series, which aired for a combined five seasons on NBC and TNT, was done in a documentary style, with the cast and crew often on location shooting at a fast pace.


“It was real run and gun,” Cudlitz said. “ ‘Southland’ was a show where we were not afraid to be ugly. Our hair was not perfect.”

He added, “This is completely different, much more traditional. I thought getting back in that kind of rhythm would be hard, but it was easier than I thought it would be.”

But the two shows do have a key element in common: “The stakes are just as high--every day is about life and death. To be in that situation as an actor is fantastic. The motivation that drives you through a scene is much higher. And there’s a lot of similarity in the danger of being in a zombie apocalypse and being a Los Angeles police officer.”

Ford, who also has a distinctive handlebar mustache, is one of the key characters from “The Walking Dead” comic book which was the inspiration for the TV series.


“I was asked when I first started, ‘You’re in the zombie apocalyspe, how can you walk around with your hair cut like that and that mustache.”

Cudlitz flashed a deep smile: “And here’s the answer I always give: Becasue I’m (expletive) Sgt. Abraham Ford!”