The third season of AMC's The Walking Dead has introduced several new characters into the mix, many of which have been adapted from Robert Kirkman's original comic book series. Perhaps the most underutilized character so far is fan favorite Tyreese, portrayed by Chad L. Coleman of HBO's The Wire. Along with the rest of his group, Tyreese made his TV debut during the midseason finale in December and hasn't done much of note yet.
After Rick booted them from the prison during one of his crazy spells, Team Tyreese arrived in Woodbury and will likely play an important role in the final two episodes of the season. This week's edition of Dead Alert, the official newsletter of The Walking Dead, features an interview with Coleman talking about similarities to his most famous TV characters and how he relates to them.
As mentioned, Tyreese is only one of many new characters to come aboard in Season 3, a list that includes Michonne (Danai Gurira), The Governor (David Morrissey), Milton (Dallas Roberts), Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo), and the other members of Tyreese's group, sister Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Allen (Daniel Thomas May), and Allen's teenage son Ben (Tyler Chase). How did Coleman fit in among the existing cast when he showed up?
"Well, Danai and I had done Broadway together; August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone at the Lincoln Center in Manhattan," he noted. "So we already had a relationship and that helped. But everybody was just amazingly good people. It was just easy that way. Many of them were fans of The Wire, and on some level it helps when people appreciate what you do and know your work."
Generally recognized as one of the great TV series of all time, The Wire featured Coleman in the role of Dennis "Cutty" Wise, a reformed criminal who ran a boxing gym for neighborhood children. He compared the differences between Cutty and Tyreese.
"Cutty had a chance to find himself, but he also has a sense of his own limitations," said Coleman. "With Tyreese, I really feel the sky's the limit. Cutty says, 'All I can really do is be in the gym and try to help these kids if they come.' He recognized certain restrictions in himself, and I don't see that in Tyreese, who's a bona fide leader that can probably find his footing in any situation."
Unbeknownst to him, Coleman was already training for his role in The Walking Dead before he even became an actor.
"I spent four years in the United States Army between 1985 and 1989, and I certainly learned how to survive out in the woods," he recalled. "I served at the Pentagon and at Fort Leavenworth — my job was video cameraman, and that allowed me to travel to places like Korea, Japan, Alaska, Germany and the Netherlands. But for my training, I learned everything: firing M-16s, working with grenades, bivouac, first-aid, concealment, doing the low-crawl, working around barbed wire, rappelling. You name it, we did it."
Tyreese's younger sister Sasha is a new original character created for the TV series, but Coleman already had experience with female siblings growing up. He sees some similarities between Sasha and his own youngest sister.
"I got four sisters. They're all very fierce," states Coleman. "In terms of my baby sister, yeah, she's a very strong-willed lady and I can certainly see some aspects of her in the character. She's going to assert herself and I'm going to gently correct. Now, Sonequa [Martin-Green] is also very much her own woman and I love that. If you watch, you'll see us checking in with each other; I don't just play her straight as a baby sister. We're a team. I just felt like a natural bond with this young lady from the beginning."
When pressed about any similarities between himself and his character, it's obvious that Coleman is the living embodiment of Tyreese in his own personal life.
"I've always been a person who tries to build bridges and not walls," he explained. "Whether it's my ex-wife and my step-son, or my daughter and my ex, I'm that guy in the middle and I try to make sure we all stay together. I think that honestly when you grow up in a foster home, in one respect you learn to sit back and observe. You start to understand a lot about human behavior. For me, it's incredibly important that we find a way to co-exist in a peaceful way. You live to fight another day and live to fight in a different way."
Let's hope that Tyreese lives to fight another day and plays a bigger role as The Walking Dead wraps up Season 3.