Mild-manned Milton was obsessed with learning how zombies act and what they think after being turned. Well, he got some first-hand experience on The Walking Dead’s season 3 finale after being stabbed by the Governor, bleeding out, dying, turning into a zombie, and then biting Andrea (forcing her to kill herself before she turned as well). We caught up with the man who played Milton, Dallas Roberts, who talked about portraying the impeccably dressed and coiffed assistant to the Governor while also revealing how the entire sequence was originally shot before the cast was summoned a few months later to return and re-film Milton and Andrea’s harrowing encounter.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So I kind of guessed you weren’t going to make it out of this season alive once I heard you had been cast on CBS’ Unforgettable.
DALLAS ROBERTS: That was a good guess. I was obviously dead by the time Unforgettable came up. It’s so nice to not have to spin or lie anymore, like, “Well see what happens with Milton in season 4!” It’s nice to not have to pull that off anymore.
EW: I actually thought there was a good chance that Milton might be the one to kill the Governor, so that shows you what I know.
ROBERTS: I’ve heard that from several people, and I think that Milton easily could have turned into some sort of power-broker there, but they obviously decided the Governor was too valuable to kill right now.
EW: I do have to say, that was a pretty lame attempt you made lunging at the Governor to try to take him out. That was way too easy for him to block and counter.
ROBERTS: Yeah, absolutely. Milton is a little rusty on his Krav Maga karate moves. His knife skills are not up to snuff, certainly.
EW: So how and when did they break the news to you about Milton going down? I’m assuming showrunner Glen Mazzara gave you the call.
ROBERTS: It was in the fall. They had shut down production for a week or 10 days to retool the third to the last episode so I was back in New York City at the time and the phone rang from Glen. I wasn’t surprised by it, and then he told me how it was going to happen, which varied a bit from what you saw.
EW: Yeah, I know you guys originally shot a much different version of this whole scene. Walk me through how it was originally shot.
ROBERTS: Originally, the beating scene that started the episode wasn’t there. Originally, I showed up and was led into the room where Andrea was and I took the tools out – the instruments of torture that were laid on the table — and then he shot me in the stomach, completely unexpectedly. And then I was left to bleed out in the same idea basically — you’re going to kill her now. There was a lot more of Milton trying to open the door and him trying to free her from the chains. And then there was a section where he was going to wrap the chain around the neck and try to choke her to death before he turned so she wouldn’t have to deal with Walker Milton, or Biter Milton, as it were.
And then at the end of that, it was just Tyreese and someone else who found her. Rick and Daryl and Michonne weren’t there. So it was essentially the same idea, except you saw me taking chunks out of Laurie Holden in that version. And then they called us back a few months later to reshoot it and made all those changes. So now you’re not sure if I’ve gotten her until after that door opens, and I think that’s probably why they did it.
EW: So they actually shot the scene of you as a zombie biting into her?
ROBERTS: Yeah. It’s funny, in the articles and on Talking Dead last night, you’ll notice stills of Milton where he has glasses on [Ed Note: See picture above!]. They are from the scenes that we shot and weren’t aired. Because Milton gets his glasses knocked off and never has glasses in the interrogation scene in this finale. But I’ve seen a lot of pictures where Milton has blood on his mouth and glasses on that were from that first shooting.
EW: So tell me about the part where you were trying to strangle her.
ROBERTS: They both desperately wanted for that to work but at that point he had bled out so much. So he pulls and pulls and pulls but he doesn’t get it done and he falls against the wall and is passed out. And he never comes back from that until he turns into a walker.
EW: When you came back to do the reshoot, was that after Glen Mazzara had moved off the show?
ROBERTS: Yes, it was after he and AMC had decided to part, but he was still theoretically in charge of the back half of the season. I didn’t see him there. I don’t know if we was in L.A. pulling those strings. Scott Gimple, who ended up taking the showrunner position, was there, so some of those changes may have come from him.
EW: Was there even a small part of Milton that was maybe curious about transforming into a zombie after all the research he had done? Any sort of allure to becoming the ultimate test subject case right there?
ROBERTS: Yeah, I’m sure if he wasn’t so terrified that he was going to turn and take out his friend, I think he probably would have sat with it and tried to feel it all happening and to examine himself during it. Unfortunately, he gave himself to science, but he was too worried about not killing the girl in the chair to notice.
EW: I think viewers really responded to Milton because he was so unlike the other characters on the show with all the machismo and aggression. Was it nice to be able to have a character that stood out in that way because he was so different from everyone else?
ROBERTS: Some of that was just stuck on me by production. I walked in one day one and they cut my hair that way and the clothes went that way. They were like, “No, his shirt’s tucked in all the time,” and the makeup people were like “There’s no dirt on him.” So I thought there’s some reason for this that we’ll get to at some point. I never really could figure out why he was so pressed and neat and clean, but the contrast with Rooker at the beginning and those two guys fighting for attention with the Governor, and as the role played out — I did start to relish the difference between Milton and the rest of the crew and his ability to be odd, even If I didn’t understand necessarily why. I had no idea that oddness would play so creepy! For a while people kept telling me, “Milton’s so creepy!” And I was like, okay. I never tried to twist the mustache and creep ‘em out.
EW: What was your goodbye like? You didn’t really get to work a whole lot with a bunch of the main cast since you only met up with a few members of the prison group at that one Rick-Governor summit episode. So what was it like when you had to say goodbye, and then come back a few months later and say goodbye again?
ROBERTS: The first time we shot it, the prison gang showed up in force to be there for Laurie Holden, because she was going out at the same time. So I knew my place in that and was happy with my place in that. The goodbye there was very much “It’s been a pleasure and thanks so much. Now go focus on the lady that you have come to focus on.” And it was similar the second time around. I was caked in fake blood and contact lenses and that sort of thing, and part of the shortness of the goodbye was me wanting to get those things out of my eyes and get my face cleaned back up again and get all the fake blood out of my pants. I understood that that was Laurie’s moment and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
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