Michael James Shaw Talks About The Walking Dead Finale

Taking Charge

AMC’s The Walking Dead has ended and here’s Michael James Shaw who plays Mercer talking about what pushed Mercer over the edge, Mercer’s happily ever after with Princess, and his spin-off idea…

Q: Mercer is the Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth! And Ezekiel is the Governor. What did you think of that? Is it a fitting ending for him? 
A: I think so. My deal is I don’t like to know what’s going to happen, so all throughout the whole process, I told Angela, “Don’t give me more information than I need to go forward and take the next step. I don’t want to know how it ends.” It’s so I can really just be in the moment with every episode. See who Mercer is in that moment and not what he’s going to be, because that’s how we live as human beings. We don’t know the person that we’re going to become. We don’t know what challenges we’re going to face. What I’m excited about and what gets me going is how they deal with those moments that are unexpected. I wasn’t thrown by that. I think there’s a lot of respect for Ezekiel coming from him. They had a rough beginning, but I think that was resolved and I think Ezekiel’s love for the Commonwealth, which we’ve seen expressed in multiple scenes, and his devotion to it is something that he and Mercer definitely have in common. Plus it also leaves room for Mercer to venture off and do things. That’s all I’m going to say…

Q: What was it like shooting that final confrontation with Pamela in the series finale, when you have her arrested?
A: At that point we were pretty tired, because we were shooting nights for almost two weeks. By the time we got to that scene, I think we were all delirious after four or five nights of shooting in the cold. But it was fun because we were all huddled together around heaters and just kind of sharing love. Cooper [Andrews] was giving out massages! It was just still a good vibe even though we were all tired, and it was great to have Greg [Nicotero] at the helm of the last episode. I feel like when his hands are at the wheel, you can let go of it. He creates an atmosphere where everything is fair game. You can always toss your idea into the pot, and it makes for fun play and it brings stuff out of you that you never thought was there.

Q: And how did it feel to be the guy that puts Pamela under arrest and ends her reign at the Commonwealth?
A: It’s f–king gratifying! He’s been plotting the maneuvre in his head for a while, but never really talked about it. I think it’s a big sigh of relief, like finding freedom from oppression. We found it and we’ll keep finding it. As long as we have the desire to live and respect others’ humanity, we will find our freedom as human beings. I think it’s a big part of this journey with the Commonwealth — finding the freedom within, but also establishing freedom for those around you.

Q: And you didn’t interact with him, but what did you think of Walker Lance Hornsby?
A: It was super trippy, the moment with him and Laila [Robins]. Even still in his other form, there was something else going on. I wonder what the story is? I have to pick her brain because I was standing there like, “Oh my God, that’s f–king gross!” I don’t know if it made the cut, but me and Angel [Theory] shared a look at one point. The distortion of reality is a really cool thing to play with. Even though the Commonwealth appears to be all normal, there’s a lot of distortions within the community.

Q: Another great Pamela scene was in Episode 18 during the Founders Day riot when Mercer tells her it’s his job to protect the Commonwealth and not her. How important was that moment for him?
A: The Founders Day celebration in itself, the propaganda of it all, the wrestling match with Captain Commonwealth being Black. I think in Mercer’s mind he’s like, “Oh wow, these people are malicious. They’ve turned my own self-image against me, used it as a weapon. I can’t have that anymore.” I think it’s the beginning. He’s still planting seeds, but I think that pushes him over the edge. From that moment when he realizes what’s happening in front of him, there’s some shared looks in that whole scene between Mercer and Daryl like, “This is bizarre. This is very bizarre.” So when Pamela orders Mercer to protect her, he has to clarify what his job is and what his position is. It creates a definite boundary, and I think it all comes from him watching this display of their power and their use of propaganda to manipulate. I think that’s when he finally sets a boundary.

Q: Did he hesitate because he wanted to protect Max?
A: It’s not just that. I think it’s more you don’t know what can of worms you’re going to open if you make this move. So you’ve got to calculate what are the possible scenarios, what are the possible outcomes? I think that’s where he was. He wanted to do something, but you can’t just act out of emotion. You have to have a foolproof plan so that you have options in case things go awry or things don’t go as planned. I think that’s a bit of what we get in that scene with him and Yumiko in [Episode] 22 when she comes to his office and she’s pleading the case for him to go up against Pamela. When she asks, “Did you know about Princess?”, he did. He knew, but the problem is he couldn’t act on it at that moment. Mercer had to see what was happening. What were the strings that were attached to Pamela’s move? Because you don’t know. You could set off a massive disaster. If you’re not in control and don’t know how things are being supported, everything could come toppling down. I think that was a big part of him assessing the situation.

Q: I was very interested to hear that Mercer and Max’s dad was a general. What did you think of that detail? And how did it land on Mercer when Max says their dad would have been ashamed of him?
A: I thought that it was a clever idea to make their father a general. There’s something about a military legacy that holds a lot more weight. There’s this documentary I watched about kids applying to and some getting into West Point. I can’t remember the gentleman’s name but there was a young kid who was a legacy student, an African-American kid from North Carolina, and his father had gone to West Point. There’s something that was kind of beautiful about honoring his dad’s legacy, but there was also the downside that he identified too much with the legacy and forgot himself. I think that’s where Mercer is. That’s how a person could get so comfortable hiding behind a piece of armor. It definitely ripped him up a bit when Max said that, but it also it made him realize how much she cares about this man.

Q: You mentioned in a touching moment on Talking Dead that you based some of your portrayal of Mercer on your father, who passed away last year. If it’s not too hard to talk about, can you explain which of your father’s traits you brought to Mercer, one of the most admirable characters that’s ever appeared on The Walking Dead?
A: Thank you! So growing up, I was an inside kid. I liked to draw. I liked to create things. Then my dad started pushing me more into athletics and I hated him at the time! He wanted me to start playing football. So in sixth grade, I was a chubby kid. Big guy, but still chubby and I had asthma. My dad wanted me to play youth football and I wanted to prove to him that I could do it, but I had my doubts. The first two weeks of practice, he was right there on the field with me, right by my side, and had my inhaler in his pocket. He just supported me. Then a couple years later I started varsity freshman year at my high school. He instilled a sense of discipline in me, but also taught me how to believe in myself.

Q: Is it true that you improvised “time to f–k s–t up,” your amazing line at the end of Episode 22 when Eugene is brought to you in the hood? How did that come about?
A: Yeah, yeah! Me and Josh [McDermitt], the way we roll, we’d always dare each other to do s–t. We were both chatting about the scene. It was like, “Yeah, we need to figure out what that is because I don’t feel like it’s right.” So we started just riffing and just saying, “It’s time to burn this motherf–ker down!” You know, like whatever we were feeling. Then eventually that night I did several different versions of it. Then I said that line and the whole camera crew, they just erupted. In that moment, I knew, “Okay, that was the one!”

Q: I was so happy to see that Mercer and Princess were still together at the end. They have a heartbreaking scene in Episode 19 when he tells her he doesn’t want her to leave, and she reveals more of her backstory. It didn’t look good at that point for them. Were you rooting for the two of them as much as the audience was?
A: Oh yeah! I remember I had a conversation with Angela before one of the episodes about how all the relationships in The Walking Dead are so traumatic. There’s never a stasis moment where he’s just happy and having a good time. There’s always some trials and tribulations ahead. I love working with Paola [Lázaro]. I think she’s a fantastic human being. Like, that’s my homie. I love her to death. And I was so enamored and moved, even though I was in the scene, watching her lay out her history, the way that she walked through her trauma and let me into her world. It was so beautiful. I bow down to her performance in that episode especially, but across the board she’s a phenomenal actress. Phenomenal.

Q: They have another terrific scene in Episode 23 when she’s on the train and uses the radio to contact Mercer. Afterwards he’s so happy and says, “My girlfriend’s coming back.”
A: That was a fun moment to shoot. I came to set on the day when she shot her part, and then she came to set on the day that I shot my part, and we were kicking it as usual. It was so weird for her to be in the next room speaking to me and I couldn’t look at her. I couldn’t see her eyes, those beautiful eyes that she has. So that was the weird part. But we had a great time throughout carving out the nuances of their relationship. You know, talking about Episode 23, throughout the process of working on the show, I started listening to audiobooks because I have ADD. I revisited some Sci-Fi that I had latched onto as a young adult and I was listening to Fahrenheit 451. In [Episode] 23 when he’s looking over his shoulder and moving with as much stealth as possible, it really felt a lot like Guy Montag when he’s on the run. It gave me a sense of that, and I really enjoyed the writing in that episode and the many things I had to juggle in the playing of it.

Q: Rosita has sadly passed away. What effect do you think she had on Mercer?
A: There’s this unspoken understanding of one another. It’s something that I felt, and the writers went with. In Episode 17, there’s that horde and Mercer gets Rosita back on the field and she lays out her boundaries for assisting him or being there for him. I think that’s a beautiful thing that’s happening throughout this last portion. You see a lot of characters in the show setting boundaries for themselves and drawing a line of “this is what I will do and this is what I won’t do and you can take it or leave it.” Everybody’s f–king standing up for themselves and not taking no s–t, and she’s one of the first to do that. I feel like that imprinted on Mercer a little bit of like, “Oh, this is what my priority should be. She’s taking care of her family. I gotta do the same for mine.” And you hear him say that in the scene with Princess.

Q: There were many big action sequences in this final block of episodes. Which one was the most exciting for you to be involved in?
A: I had the most fun in Episode 17 driving that jeep when Greg was directing. I literally drove it every day. It didn’t matter if the camera was on me or not. I think I only let our stunt driver drive it maybe once or twice because I was having so much fun! Yeah, it’s just always great to live it, you know. There’s the two when Mercer’s talking to Hornsby in Episode 18, and there’s a kill at the top of that episode that I love. We’re walking into the tunnels and Mercer’s leading the way for Pamela with Negan trailing behind them. As I’m walking, I don’t even miss a step and I just slash this walker and keep going! That one was pretty fun.

Q: We know that Mercer survives the series, so we need to see him again!
A: It would be cool to see Mercer right as the plague hits. In the comic book it says that he was on leave, but I would love for him to be stationed overseas and have to fight his way back to America to find his sister and whatever family he can assemble. I think that’d be exciting and you’d get to see different parts of the world that we haven’t shown in the Universe, you know? Tell [Scott] Gimple!


The post Michael James Shaw Talks About The Walking Dead Finale appeared first on TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE.

Taking Charge AMC’s The Walking Dead has ended and here’s Michael James Shaw who plays Mercer talking about what pushed Mercer over the edge, Mercer’s happily ever after with Princess, and his spin-off idea… Q: Mercer is the Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth! And Ezekiel is the Governor. What did you think of that? Is
The post Michael James Shaw Talks About The Walking Dead Finale appeared first on TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE.Read MoreTRIPWIRE MAGAZINE

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