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Chad L. Coleman: 'The Walking Dead' is TV gumbo

The zombie apocalypse's reigning pacifist dishes on the dangers of being on a show with a high death toll.

"The Wire" vet Chad L. Coleman has been having a blast playing violence-averse Tyreese on "The Walking Dead," but he knows not to get too comfortable on a series rife with life-threatening dangers.

When you work on a show set during a zombie apocalypse, how worried are you usually about job security?
We all talk about it, but we don't let it overwhelm us. We get to the task at hand. If you're alive, then you have something relevant to say, so let's say that, you know? But we all know that that aspect of the show precedes itself, and we know that's a part of the deal, so everybody stays amazingly focused and present because of the very fact that we don't know when it's going to be your day.

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That has to be an interesting way to approach work.
I've had experience in the area before. I was on "The Wire," and I just knew they weren't going to kill off Stringer Bell, but they did. (laughs) So to me, all bets are off. This is how it goes down. If you're playing with that kind of element, then hey, that's a mighty hammer that can get swung around. But that's just the way it is. So it doesn't trip me out too much. The most you want to do is participate in the progress of the story and the continued momentum of the show. That's the main thing. Because once you're a part of it, inevitably you're a part of it for life, you know?

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Since you've been on the show, has its popularity affected your life?
Oh, absolutely. Whenever you've got a show that's rocking these kinds of numbers — and you're talking about around the world? Oh yeah. You get a little rock star status going on, and that's a lot of fun.

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What's been the most fun aspect of that?
Well … (laughs) I don't know if I can say it in an interview. Um, actually, you know, being able to go to these conventions and to really meet the families — like three generations of "Walking Dead" fans — that kind of stuff, has been most gratifying because I just feel that the show in one respect is a throwback. We live in a time when everybody's watching TV on their phones, their laptops, but this show brings everybody back together in that classic way we used to watch TV. And you have something in common now with your teenager who normally wants to be off with their friends or in their room!

It's really been impressive how huge the ratings are.
Well, it's gumbo, man. It's got something for everybody. But at it's core I think it's appealing to that child in us all that likes scary things. Halloween, the ghosts under the bed, what's going to happen? And I think at its core, it's definitely pushing that button, and whether you're repelled by it or not, you're still having an experience.

It's great how effortlessly diverse the casting for "The Walking Dead" is compared to other shows. How long do you think it will be until networks start following suit?
That's a good question. I hope it's happening as we speak. I really do. And the world, it's changing, man. We live in an international world now, so you've just got to teach these executives and make sure they're opening their eyes, because that's the real key. What are they green-lighting? If we can get the real fierce, dynamic network folks in place, you'll see it. It's happening all around us, and so it's time for network TV to reflect.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter:@nedrick

 
 
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