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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 April 2019

'The Walking Dead' star Ross Marquand on his secret life as Brad Pitt

When the star isn't dispatching zombies, you might find him lending his voice to some of Hollywood's biggest names

Ross Marquand's other talents include impressions. Victor Besa / The National
Ross Marquand's other talents include impressions. Victor Besa / The National

Ross Marquand may have only found fame relatively recently, since he landed the role of Aaron in The Walking Dead in 2015 but, as the star revealed to The National at Comic Con over the weekend, you may have already heard him filling in for some of your favourite actors in Hollywood blockbusters without even knowing it.

As well as his acting, Marquand is an accomplished impressionist, a fact that helped him survive during his lean years in Hollywood. “I was doing voice matching for many years before I got the role on The Walking Dead,” he explains.

“Essentially, when a big actor is too busy or unwilling to do dialogue for a film, or maybe they got recorded badly, or they need additional dialogue and the actor’s not available, they’ll call someone like me in and I do their voice as best I can. It’s really been a blessing during those thin years where I was not getting any proper work.”

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In fact, Marquand has provided the voices for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, without ever being credited for it: “I’ve done John Malkovich a bunch of times. I’ve done Johnny Depp, Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt. I’ve done a lot of big people but I can’t say which films I’ve worked on because it’s a big Hollywood secret, but yeah, we’re talking about big films.”

With that bombshell out of the bag, it seems almost churlish to return to the subject of The Walking Dead, but since that’s a topic that Marquand is allowed to talk about, I ask him what he thinks it is about the zombie genre that is so constantly fascinating – The Walking Dead itself is now in its 10th season, and AMC CEO Josh Sapan suggested last year that the show could run for at least another 10 years, along with assorted spin-offs that are already in the pipeline.

“It’s strange. I’ve thought about it a lot. There’s something about this concept of the end of the world that is appealing to people all over the planet,” he says. “I think zombies are especially attractive because, unlike vampires or monsters, the possibility of a zombie outbreak is actually plausible. There could be an airborne virus that turns us all crazy.”

'The Walking Dead' star Ross Marquand at the Middle East Film and Comic Con. Chris Whiteoak / The National
'The Walking Dead' star Ross Marquand at the Middle East Film and Comic Con. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Marquand cites the outbreak of cannibalism in Florida in 2012 as an example. In that instance, a street drug known as “bath salts” was thought to be linked to a string of cases which saw people seemingly going crazy and attempting to eat other human beings. “Cannibalism is a real thing all over the world. There’s real historical and empirical evidence that shows cannibalism and zombieism has existed throughout the centuries. There are deep historical roots based on fact.”

The fact that Marquand has given so much thought to the issue suggests he’s a huge fan of the genre, a suggestion that the actor is happy to confirm. “I was always a huge fan of the zombie genre,” he affirms. “I’m quite a purist, like [Walking Dead producer] Greg Nicotero. He started out as a producer for George A Romero, and he’s really done a fantastic job of paying homage to that traditional slow-moving zombie, but also that constant slow threat.”

Although Marquand classes himself as a zombie purist, he’s not entirely averse to some of the more recent interpretations of the zombie: “I love the zombies on 28 Days Later, but that’s a completely different kind of zombie. I just love zombie culture all round,” he says. “It’s a really fantastical way of telling a story and making commentary on society without being too blatant. Look at Shaun of the Dead. It’s a great zombie film, but it’s also making a comment on the dullness and dreariness of suburban life. Horror movies usually have some sort of social commentary to make, too, and I think The Walking Dead does a really good job of that.”

After six seasons in the grisly, grim and often brutal world of The Walking Dead, Marquand admits that he’s always pleased to get an opportunity to lighten the mood, such as through his occasional voice work on Family Guy and American Dad. I ask the actor if his constant exposure to the zombie apocalypse ever affects him psychologically. Does he ever find his heart pumping at the occasional thing that goes bump in the night?

“Totally. And what’s even worse, I live in a cabin in the woods in the middle of nowhere. There’s always animal noises and branches falling on the house and I’m always freaking out. I keep an axe by the door. You never know when a zombie outbreak might happen.”

Marquand is clearly prepared for the worst, and he has also given plenty of thought to his preferred weapon in the event of the zombie apocalypse – though it isn’t his axe.

“Most people say an assault rifle but I think that’s silly because of course you’re going to run out of bullets,” he explains. “For me, the best weapon would be a crow bar because it’s a great method of dispatching zombies in the head, but it’s also great for opening doors. It’s a dual-usage weapon. That would be the one for me.”

Updated: April 13, 2019 08:36 AM

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