1 of 5 | Ross Marquand's "The Walking Dead" is wrapping up its 11th and final season on Sundays. Photo courtesy of AMC
NEW YORK, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Zombie-apocalypse drama The Walking Dead might have the highest body count on television, but star Ross Marquand insists it always has had an optimistic angle.
"Everyone who watches the show comes away with the sense that it is not just a zombie show," Marquand, who plays Aaron, told UPI In a recent Zoom interview.
"It's actually about how you might react given these terrible circumstances," the actor said. "I like how most people who watch can see themselves as various characters.
"I think it's a very hopeful show. At the end of the day, it's about, 'How do you get back on your feet after losing everything? Who do you surround yourself with in times of struggle?' I love that."
Marquand said the show's reruns saw a surge in viewership during the coronavirus pandemic during the past couple of years.
"I think a lot of people were looking to The Walking Dead as like a blueprint for how to survive an apocalyptic event," he said.
His longtime co-star, Seth Gilliam, who plays Father Gabriel, said he doesn't want to give away any secrets that will be coming in the next few weeks as the 11th and final season wraps up on AMC.
He also said he isn't trying to analyze what the overall show means at this point, as he is still processing Father Gabriel's perspective and place in the story.
"I don't know what the show is saying. I don't know if it's hopeful or a darker version of hope. I guess we will have to see how it all wraps up to see whether it's all 'kumbaya' or 'welcome to the jungle,'" Gilliam said.
Although many characters have come and gone over the years, Gilliam recalled only one time when a sense of nostalgia nearly overtook him emotionally -- the last scene between Father Gabriel and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), which was filmed in 2018.
"It was a simple line and I said, 'This is the last thing that we say to each other,' and he said, 'Oh, is it, really?' And then we did another take and it was just way over the top dramatic, and he said, 'I think I'm putting too much into it because it is the last thing I say to you.' And I was doing the same," Gilliam said.
"That was a few years ago, and I didn't have any of those moments in these last episodes, but that does stand out to me as a funny moment in terms of 'the last' of something."
Marquand said he was "killing things" up until his final night of filming, and he now misses the grisly activity.
"Hopefully, that isn't too much of a spoiler," Marquand joked.
"Once I killed my last person in that last hour of shooting, I was like: 'Awww. I won't get to stab someone in the head for a while. That's kind of sad.' Hopefully, I'll get cast in something where I can stab people in the head at some point. It's fun. It felt good to do that for eight years."
He said when he was hired, he worried Aaron was going to get killed off immediately. But going into Season 11, he was less concerned since he had made it so far, and dying at this point could be a badge of honor if it were done in a particularly memorable fashion.
"When I first got on the show, I had a mountain of debt. I was like, 'Oooh, work! Hope I don't die,'" Marquand said.
Josh McDermitt, who plays Eugene, took him aside one day and told him not to be obsessed with how long he will be on the show, but to just take pleasure in the experience.
Marquand quoted McDermitt as saying, "They'll kill you off when they kill you off and there's nothing you can do about it."
"I think that advice was not only really great for the show, but also great for how to live your life," Marquand said. "We don't know when we are going to have our ticket punched, so just enjoy it while it's there and have a good time."