'Walking Dead's' Coleman enjoys escapism of series

Chad Coleman
Chad Coleman
Photo by Bobby Quillard
| Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of the undead might as well be the national mantra these days. Zealously defending ourselves against an army of blood-thirsty corpses has inspired a new wave of mainstream media from which neither historical figures nor iconic works of fiction are immune. “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”? “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies”? Nothing is sacred.

For actor Chad Coleman, it all boils down to the mass appeal of escapism. Playing the character Tyreese” on the AMC smash “The Walking Dead,” has given him a unique look into a world where no one rests in peace. It's a struggle for survival for a small group that has managed to make it through the zombie apocalypse. Survival of the fittest, however, is just one part of the equation. Most people will claim that they would do what they needed to in order to protect friends from foes. But can they live with what they've done?

The fourth season, which premiered Oct. 13, brought in a record-setting 16 million viewers — topping the network's other golden eggs, “Mad Men” and the finale for “Breaking Bad.” According to Coleman, the formula is simple: It's more than just entertainment. It's an experience that has become hopelessly addicting for audiences across all age demographics.

The Walking Dead can be seen at 9 p.m. Sundays on AMC.

Question: We are a nation obsessed with the possibility of a zombie apocalypse, aren't we?

Answer: It appears that way, that's for sure. It's hard to tell (why). I really think, first and foremost, even though the show does deal with a lot of petty stuff and issues and great relationships, complex characters, it is a level of escapism. It's something that obviously appeals to a wide age range. You go from 8 to 80, so you have family members being able to come together and have an experience. I think that has a lot to do with it. And this is the first time we brought the horror film to TV. So, now, people are able to have this amazing experience in their homes because the technology is so superb that when you put that combination together with great storytelling, well, you get this.

Q: Is the prison, which represents a place of safety, symbolic of the walls we put up around ourselves that lead us to believe we are protected?

A: Absolutely. Especially in the post-apocalyptic world, the woods are the unknown. Going into the forest is the unknown. So yeah, you want to build that fortress, but at the same time, no one is 100-percent safe, you know? And also, just trying to negotiate what type of walls you're building, so you're not shutting people out or eroding trust, things like that.

Q: In an interview, executive producer Greg Nicotero said Season 4 begs the question, “What would you be willing to do to survive?” but even more so, “Can you live with what you've done?” Do you think most people consider the latter?

A: I would say most often not. People leap before they think. So, I don't think so. But, then, you're in the midst of the aftermath, and oh, boy, it's probably either eating you up or you're trying to deny it or not confront it, but it's there. That's why I like Tyreese. He's a contemplative person. He tries to think through things before he reacts. But, sometimes, we operate in situations in this world. You deal with a situation where you don't have the luxury to think. You just have to act and hope — hope that you've made the right decision.

Q: When it comes to survival of the fittest, are there ever really any true “survivors,” or do those scars end up negating what you so desperately fought for in the first place?

A: That's the thing about winners. And with the stakes being so high, it's just like Greg (Nicotero) said, “What can you live with?” Or you have to learn to live with it, you know? All those luxuries that come in the regular world just don't come in this world. You've got to have some level of acceptance that there's some baggage that's gotta be carried, period.

Kate Benz is the social columnist for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kbenz@tribweb.com or 412-380-8515.

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