Out of all the new characters to appear on The Walking Dead during the first half of this third season, the one that arrived with the least fanfare is Woodbury’s resident scientist Milton Mamet. Played effectively with an understated cautiousness and optimism by Dallas Roberts (The Grey), Milton has become slowly but surely become a bit of a fan favorite while trying his best to stay in the Governor’s good graces by doing his evil experimental bidding. Will Milton suddenly decide to toss aside his glasses and pick up a weapon during this Sunday’s midseason finale on AMC? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
FEARnet recently sat down with actor Dallas Roberts to discuss his allegiance to science and the Governor, working with the “insane” Michael Rooker, and the prospect of watching Matthew McConaughey chow down on a tasty hamburger.
It looks like things are really about to fly off the handle between the prison and Woodbury. Do you think Milton is ready for what’s coming?
Milton is as ready as he’s going to be. (Laughs)
Do you think there’s any chance we’ll see him grab a gun, or another weapon, and turn into a total badass all of a sudden?
I keep joking with them that he should suddenly just appear with some rocket-powered grenade and just be an expert at it. Like he’s just a stone killer behind all the bluster.
Milton’s been a really interesting character so far because he walks this fine line in allegiance to both science and the Governor. Do you think it’s his love of science and experimenting that keeps him so hopeful that he can find a “cure,” or do you think it’s more his allegiance to the Governor that’s the bigger motivator?
I think that it’s definitely his need to know more about what’s happening and try to get a handle on it that drives him and, fortunately, that skillset is valuable to the Governor. It’s a symbiotic relationship in that way. He enjoys the protection of being at the Governor’s side and the Governor doesn’t have to worry about the research part.
Do you think that’s his own little sense of normalcy that he finds in the midst of this craziness that’s going on around him?
Yeah, I definitely think so. One of the benefits of Woodbury is that the walls are up and the guards are on the post. So you do have what’s a version of normalcy to return to, and that amount of civilization allows for Milton to do what he does best.
Do you think that Milton actually believes in Woodbury and what the Governor is doing or do you think he’s more scared and intimidated by him?
I think it’s a healthy mix of both. Woodbury is the closest thing we’ve seen to an actual, functioning society, and the ability to build that out and to get a hold of the situation is being led by Woodbury, so I think that Milton firmly believes in that. He also understands that the Governor has to use intimidation and, sometimes, force to keep that society going.
After last week’s episode, and the scene with Laurie, do you think that Milton is finally going to come around now to the truth or do you think that he’s so steadfast in his belief in science and medicine that he’s still going to keep trying?
I think that his initial test returned an answer that he wasn’t happy about. I’m not sure about whether his belief system will overtake him again or whether he’ll trust the science. One would imagine that the scientist would follow the science.
How was it joining the cast this year after last year’s finale gave so many people chills? Was it very intimidating joining this already-successful show?
It wasn’t intimidating. It was exciting. I was thrilled to be a part of it, having been a fan of the show and the comic books before, so it was charged to show up. What’s wacky about it is, having watched season one and two, and knowing The Walking Dead as that band of eight people, and then I’m transported to Woodbury, which is completely separate so far from those guys at the prison. That was an odd transition as I was thinking, “I’m going to go be on The Walking Dead! But I’m not going to recognize anyone from The Walking Dead.” (Laughs)
How has it been working with David Morrissey and a legend like Michael Rooker?
Incredible, both of them. They’re both just great. David and I have just a ball of a time working together. And Michael Rooker and I – that dynamic between Merle and Milton in their sort of one-ups-manship in their allegiance to the Governor – is incredibly fun to play. Michael’s insane, so every time you’re in a scene with him, you have to be on your toes.
How about the zombies? Do you ever get the urge to ask makeup to get you all zombified?
I totally would, just out of curiosity, but it’s a two-and-a-half or three-hour process so I’d probably want to be asleep for most of that. (Laughs)
What are the chances you think we might get to see a zombie version of Milton at some point?
I don’t know, man. I can tell you that every script I get, I open it up to make sure that it hasn’t happened yet.
Is that something that you worry about working on a show like this? That your days are always kind of numbered?
Yeah, you can’t really worry about it, but it’s something that you take on when you take on the part. I imagine that’s what it must have been like to be on The Sopranos or what it’s like to be on Boardwalk Empire now. You know that they’re willing to take anybody out at any time, so if you worry about it then you’ll just spend your whole time worried. If it comes, I’m going to try to prepare myself for it.
I’m sure they have you pretty hush on the details, but is there anything you can tell us about this Sunday’s upcoming midseason finale?
I can tell you that when the screen goes black at the end of the episode, everybody is going to be really, really mad that they have to wait two months to find out what happens next.
You’ve worked on some great movies over the past few years with The Grey and 3:10 to Yuma as well as your work on TV shows like The Good Wife and The Walking Dead. Do you have a preference between the two formats?
I find them essentially the same in terms of what I do. Film and television feel very similar because I’m also a theater guy. I came up in the theater, so that really feels quite different. The only difference between television and film, for me, is that with film you know the end and in television you don’t know the end. Film feels like you sort of draw a line between where you start and where you finish, but in television you’re drawing the line as you go episode by episode.
You recently signed on to Dallas Buyer’s Club with this incredible cast. Are you excited to work with folks like Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, and Matthew McConaughey?
Yeah, it’s going to be awesome. The script itself is really cool and powerful and meaningful. I leave on Sunday to jump on a plane to join them, but I’m proud to be in it already.
What can you tell us about the film and your role specifically?
The film centers around a guy in the 80’s who contracted HIV and was dissatisfied with the drug companies pushing profitable drugs over healing drugs, so he figured out a way to import drugs from Mexico that weren’t approved by the FDA yet. He would then sell the drugs to other sick people and, in fact, improved their lives and extended their lives through that action. I play his lawyer.
It sounds really interesting. Obviously a lot of the attention given to the film so far has been about Matthew McConaughey’s dramatic weight loss for the part. He’s talked a few times about how he can’t wait to have that first hamburger. Do you want to be there to see that first hamburger go down?
(Laughs) That would be fun. Although, I’ve got to imagine that first hamburger is going to hurt like hell. His stomach is going to be like, “What the heck is happening?” (Laughs)
Anything else coming up for you?
You can see Dallas Roberts as Milton Mamet in “The Walking Dead” when the Season 3 midseason finale airs on AMC this Sunday December 2.