As the brutal first half of The Walking Dead’s sixth season draws to a close, there’s still some glimmer of hope in the form of Aaron, played by Ross Marquand. He’s the series’ second major openly gay character — the first being Tara (Alanna Masteron) who has maintained her place in Rick’s group since she first arrived in season four — and is something of an anomaly among conflicted and guilt-ridden survivors. Aaron is a levelheaded good guy.
“I usually play villains, so I was very excited to play an affable, cultured, layered man,” Marquand says. After a string of independent film and voiceover work (he does spot-on impressions of Harrison Ford and Kevin Spacey), the 34-year-old actor has found his most visible success on the hit AMC zombie drama.
Marquand plays a recruiter for the Alexandria Safe-Zone and has since established himself as a reliable shoulder to Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Daryl (Norman Reedus), some of the show’s longest survivors. The latter — who many speculated was gay after creator Robert Kirkman suggested his sexuality would eventually be addressed on the series — has formed an unlikely bond with Aaron. “It’s a beautiful bromance,” Marquand says of the two, who are both outcasts despite the value they bring to the group. Though Marquand maintains that Daryl is "asexual."
Aaron’s most important relationship is the one with his boyfriend Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson), and it remains one of the series’ few healthy romances. “I’ll admit, it was a bit surprising to see the reaction we got — the strength of which people responded to that first scene when Aaron and Eric are reunited after both believing the other to be dead,” he says. “There were so many coming to support not only Kirkman’s original vision but also these two nice guys, who just happen to be gay, in this really, wonderful relationship.”
Their romance, which has slowly unfolded over the past season, has added another layer to a show often focused on blood and guts. But even Marquand knows there’s potential for more.
“This show, at the end of the day, is about relationships,” he says. “I think it’s wonderful that Aaron and Eric have this beautiful bond, and I want to see it developed in a big way.” And for the actor, it’s about seeing that potential through as The Walking Dead continues on.
The Walking Dead midseason finale airs Sunday, Nov. 29 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.