The Walking Dead: Exclusive Interview with Justin Kucsulain

Justin Kucsulain. Ethan. The Walking Dead. AMC.
Justin Kucsulain. Ethan. The Walking Dead. AMC. /

Justin Kucsulain made a lasting impression on The Walking Dead fans as Ethan of Hilltop in season 6. The Detroit native graciously answered some questions for Undead Walking.

When Jesus brought Rick and the group to Hilltop for the first time, Ethan delivered a message to Hilltop’s leader, Gregory, in order to save his brother when a supply shipment allegedly came in short. Not understanding what was going on yet, Rick stepped in and Ethan and Rick tangled leaving Ethan dead and Hilltop stunned.

Ethan’s actions initiated the negotiations with Gregory to kill Negan, free Ethan’s brother and help Hilltop free itself from the grip of The Saviors, leading our group into their current predicament with Negan and Lucille.

Justin is at his first Comic Con right now. He took some time in his hotel to answer my questions. He shared some fantastic stories about his time on the set, his perceptions of his character, Ethan, the audition process, the man bun, and more.

Justin is a terrific person to follow on Twitter. He is very personable and responds to almost every tweet. The story about why he does that is a particularly adorable one, especially considering the transition to social media of today.

Before we started discussing The Walking Dead, I congratulated Justin on the Detroit Red Wings’ recent playoff run. Hockey is no joke! I shared some of my family history with hockey and sent some pictures. His answer about Detroit sports?

“Yes, I support anything and ALL DETROIT!” (He included this picture for me.)

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When you auditioned for The Walking Dead, did you know what role you were auditioning for or was it a fake name and situation as is common and we’ve heard actors tell about before?

•• I was actually robbing a convenient store. I believe my original audition was for Dwight. Then Scott Gimple requested that I audition for another role, which was Ethan.

Did you know once you got the role that it was a one episode role?

•• My good friends Jenna and Billy Wells went to the comic book store immediately and found the comic. We were so stoked. I mean I fought Rick Grimes.

The Walking Dead has many memorable characters with one episode story lines. In season 6 alone, we’ve had Carter, Paula, Molly, Chelle, the two Savior guards, Primo, etc., were you aware that you’d make such a lasting impression as Ethan? 

••Honestly I never imagined the love would be so intense. The Walking Dead has the best fans in the entire business. I love ’em all and appreciate all of what has come post “Knots Untie”.

How was Ethan’s hair style determined? Did the costume or hair and make up people let you in on their thought process for the bun. I know the man bun gets mentioned quite a bit on Twitter.

•• I just walked in and they said, “Ya look good.” That “okay” came directly from Scott Gimple. Funny story–I was the only one during the fight scene that could fix the man bun to where continuity said it was good, and believe me, Michael Cudlitz was laughing and shaking his head. I can only imagine he was thinking, ok princess… 

You’re quite popular on Twitter, do you enjoy interacting with the fans? Are you surprised at how excited they get when you respond?

•• When I was a kid my ultimate favorite actor was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not from Terminator, which is also still a favorite, but Commando with Alyssa Milano.  I wrote so many letters to him and my mom would write back to me. Hahaha And it was the best thing ever! I feel compelled to always respond if I see a message. It’s just how I roll. Until I can’t, I will, that’s a promise!

Was it Ethan’s intention to kill Gregory?

•• I believe so. As seen in the finale, Negan does not mess around. So it was either I carry out that assassination or my brother dies right off the bat. 

How did Ethan think the rest of Hilltop would react to his message to Gregory from Negan? How did Ethan foresee or project how Hilltop would deal with an ever escalating Negan?

•• I believe Ethan is a smart man, a crafty man, and I believe he knew that there was no getting around Negan. I also believe he was kind of blinded with the thought of having to save his brother. I felt he had tunnel vision walking in to the hilltop and he didn’t wake up and realize what he had done and what he was doing until he was on top of Rick. When he finally calmed down… about to surrender, then Rick, well, you know. Over all, I believe Ethan was a good man and a strong asset to the hilltop community.

Justin Kucsulain. Ethan. The Walking Dead. AMC.
Justin Kucsulain. Ethan. The Walking Dead. AMC. /

Were there walkers on set during any of your filming days? How were they to look at in person? Their looks are spectacular on-screen and in still photos.

•• They look just as good live, in person. The Walking Dead does not cut corners anywhere. I saw one Walker at lunch and that was it. 

Stephen Vining is a featured walker who will be at Monroe Comic Con in Michigan in October. I know you will be there as well. I will meet you then. How is the con scene for you?

•• I’m in Knoxville Tennessee right now, answering these questions in my hotel. Tomorrow is my very first comic-con EVER and I’m happy to say Marble City is run by very nice people, so I couldn’t be happier to be here. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little nervous, but I love every bit of it.

The walkers usually enjoy being taken out by a main character. You got taken out by Rick and you got to give old Gregory a nice stab. Is that a source of pride for you?

•• I mean I stabbed Xander Berkeley. He’s a fantastic actor and I respect and enjoy his work. I’m also one of two people to stab Mr. Berkeley. The other being Mr. Robert Patrick T-1000 from my 2nd favorite childhood films Terminator 2. It gives me validation that my hard work is starting to pay off .

If things had worked out differently and Ethan had lived, would he have liked the plan to take out Negan?

•• Absolutely. Ethan busts his butt providing for two villages. Negan is a bully that comes in and takes from his people. 

Would you be a good guest on Talking Dead?

•• I would absolutely love to be a part of that show. Chris Hardwick is hilarious and it always looks like such a good time. So….. TALKING DEAD BRING ETHAN BACK!! 

What can you tell us about your time on set that we might find fun or interesting?

•• Every time they called second team, which are stand-ins to set up camera shots, I hung out with the main cast. Sat and chatted with Norman and Andy. On the way to the Hilltop we were all driving in the van and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody  was playing on the radio. We all sang out loud and as we hit the hill, that was when it busted into the iconic scene in Wayne’s World. hahaha It was epic. Lauren Cohan and Steven Yeun sat behind me. It was so surreal.

What can you tell us about anything you’re doing now or in the near future that you’d like your fans to know about?

•• My next jobs/goals: I want to be in a Marvel film. I also want to be in WGN Outsiders. Other than that, I’ll be in Netflix’s Bloodline Season 2, out on May 27th and the world will meet Henry Rourke.

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Next: A Timeline of events in The Walking Dead

Note: Justin had a few emojis in his text that showed some of his personality in the comments, but our WordPress gets stressed out by emojis so they aren’t included. (Right off the bat had a few nice “laughter with tears”, being killed by Rick Grimes had some “rock on” hands, Alyssa Milano had a cute hearts in the eyes, and his “hard work paying off” had a sunglasses emoji.)