Anyone else getting the sense that The Walking Dead’s Milton might be doomed? Certainly, he’s had more to do than the short-lived inmates, and he’s been a different kind of character for the show: a postapocalytpic nerd who’s strategized his way into staying in the Governor’s good graces without having to get his hands dirty. But now, having befriended Hershel and his stump, it looks like Milton’s about to step into the Governor’s crosshairs. Dallas Roberts, who plays the nebbish Woodburian, spoke with Vulture about the changing nature of his character (who did not originate in the comics) and the “weird” season finale. Oh, and Vulture commenters: Roberts has been reading your theories about that, and you’re way, way off.
Is Milton doomed? He’s not a very good scientist, and he’s starting to turn on the Governor.
Yeah, you know, it’s funny. [The writers] were sort of finding Milton along with me at the beginning. They were like, “He’s a scientist,” and then they’d come back and go, “He’s not a scientist; he’s just a smart guy who is trying to do science,” and then they’d go, “No, he’s definitely a scientist.“ “No, he’s not.” We were sort of skirting that middle ground for a long time. Eventually, he just becomes a guy who … well, he’s not in the lab much anymore. [Laughs.] He’s a terrible scientist!
You said you auditioned for someone who wasn’t exactly Milton.
The show has chosen to deal with this rabid fandom by being super secretive with its information, so the part I auditioned for was Milton, but his name wasn’t Milton on the sides. The scene had him talking to some woman who … I don’t remember what her name was. It just was a fake scene written to audition people for a sort of nerdy scientist-y kind of guy. It never appeared in any scripts.
What was the takeaway of Milton then?
The description probably said, “bookish, uncomfortable around people, more in love with his books and instruments than people,” but auditions don’t tend to be a forthcoming place in terms of information about the show. You just kind of put your spin on it and cross your fingers.
Milton’s been aware of the Governor’s extreme methods for awhile. Why is he only turning now?
It may be that Milton sees him slipping further into a self-centered madness, as opposed to a community-centered guy. He’s always had the self-centered madness in him, what with the fish tanks and that sort of thing, but that monster inside of him is growing out at an alarming rate.
I thought you’d say it was because of his new bud Hershel!
Oh, totally. Hershel and Milton would definitely hang out in real life, if they weren’t two fake characters. But I think Milton certainly has always been uncomfortable with the brutality necessary to provide the shelter and comfort of Woodbury.
Milton hasn’t killed one zombie. Does that bum you out?
Well, my first day on the set, the makeup lady was very specific: “No dirt on Milton. He can never get dirty.” And I thought, Oh, that’s interesting. Then I found out the dirt they put on all the other characters is called sexy dirt, and then I was like, “Well, I want sexy dirt, too.” A couple of episodes ago, he did go outside of Woodbury and kind of helped Andrea clobber a zombie.
Oh, that’s right. He didn’t really do any of the clobbering, though.
He got a little dirty! [Laughs.] The blood splattered upward all over my legs, and the costume people were just horrified. I was like, “No, he should have blood on his legs! He’s allowed to be dirty in this moment, I think.” I’ve been striving for it, like, “Can he untuck his shirt? Please?” When you get a gig on The Walking Dead, you think you’re gonna be running around with zombies. Milton didn’t experience that for a very long time.
You’ve also said that the end of the season would be getting “weirder.” What do you mean by weirder?
I have to tread thin ice to talk about the end of the season. But I really do think that … like, I read Starlee’s recaps of The Walking Dead.
Yeah, and I read the comments after, and I can sort of sense people’s theories about what’s about to happen, and no one sees it yet. So, you know, it’s gonna be weird! [Laughs.]
Just because: Why do you think people don’t like Andrea?
When my lady and I sit down and watch TV, I find she gets annoyed at characters because they don’t do what she would do in the situation. I’m always like, “Well, she has to do that because that’s what the story is.” Yes, it’s annoying that Hamlet doesn’t kill his stepfather ten minutes into the play, but if he did kill his stepfather ten minutes into the play there wouldn’t be a play. He has to be annoying, if you will, and not do what would be the thing to do. I just chalk it up to people experiencing a story and going, “I wouldn’t do that,” or, “I want this character to do something that this character isn’t doing.” I guess that’s sort of the fun, people get to play along, even if it annoys them.
Who’s more far gone, Rick or the Governor?
I love that it’s both. The two kings on the chess board are both insane. They both think they’re doing the best thing, and everyone around them is questioning whether they’re doing the best thing, and they’re doing their best to hold on. I think that’s one of the more riveting parts of the story.
Who’s more Method? I’ve read that Andrew Lincoln’s pretty intense on the set.
Last Sunday’s episode was the first time Milton had ever seen Rick, so I didn’t have a whole lot of time with him. I can certainly tell you that Morrissey is hilarious between takes. He’s a cutup and a prankster.
Did you pass any notes on the makeup trailer mirrors?
No … it felt like something that was part of a family that I wasn’t yet a part of. I didn’t write anything. But I read them all. [Laughs.]
Can you say?
They descended into bathroom locker-room humor very quickly.
Are we going to see Owen back on The Good Wife this season?
Yeah, I’m going to jump off of this phone call and into a van and go make sure that you see Owen before the season’s out.
Why does he come back?
Owen’s back for the weirdest reason. Now I sound like I’m talking about The Walking Dead; I’m sorry. But yeah, Owen’s back and he’s … got some different ideas. I’m finding that really challenging and interesting.
About Alicia’s personal life?
I can’t go too crazy about what it might be, but yeah, suffice it to say, when Owen pops up, you’re going to be surprised. I feel like I can’t talk about anything I do! Maybe all interviews should be a year later.
Well, if Owen does come back to help Alicia make some life choices, I hope she continues to choose herself.
[Laughs.] I think that’s the wise thing to do. The writers do such an extraordinary job there. It feels like real love and real people. You fall for people you shouldn’t. You fall for people you should, and then they do things you don’t like. All that feels true.
What’s it like working with Stockard Channing, who’s also back as Alicia and Owen’s mother?
It’s so very, very fun. She’s very much a master of what she does, and it’s just great fun to stand next to her while she’s doing it. She had me laughing so hard yesterday with just one word. I was folded over laughing. Growing up with her and being able to stand next to her and feel like we’re talking, it’s great. She’s amazing.