Photograph credit: Viraj Asher/DubaiLAD

Interview: Ross Marquand On The Walking Dead, Playing Red Skull And Challenging Salt Bae In Dubai

Last weekend played host to a slew of actors and artists from pop culture at the Middle East Film and Comic Con, including Ross Marquand from ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and ‘The Walking Dead.’ We chatted with the actor/funnyman about Red Skull’s new role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, what makes ‘The Walking Dead’ a hit TV show and squaring off versus Salt Bae in a salt-off challenge.

Welcome to Dubai, Ross! What are your impressions of the city?

So far, I’m in love with this place. I think that’s gonna’ grow the longer I’m here. I’ve been here for three days now and I haven’t slept much because I’m still very jet lagged but I’m having the time of my life. This place is so bizarre, it’s so new. You know, it’s 47-years old, and everyone here is so committed to the newness, or the spirit of innovation, and building a place from the sand up. Everyone’s been so wonderful here.

You’re a man of many talents, from celebrity impressions to comedy and acting. Regarding the acting, how did it all begin?

It began with my brothers beating me up (laughs). My brothers used to beat me up all the time and they’re quite bigger than me. As a defence mechanism, I tried to make them laugh. So, if I made them laugh, they wouldn’t beat me up. And I thought this is a good skill to learn. So, I just went from there and became an actor.

What does it take to do a good celebrity impression?

For me, it’s all about the physicality. It’s very difficult for me to just do a voice without syncing into that body. James Gandolfini is a perfect example. He sat on his throat for quite a bit and kind off slumped over it. He talks through his nose. And like any person, the sound that comes out from you is like a saxophone or a trumpet. It’s how you hold your body and how the valves are pushed. It’s gonna’ produce a different sound. And that’s how I break down each voice. I study how a person is holding his body first before I do anything else.

Coming to ‘Avengers: Endgame’, we know you’ve been tight-lipped about Red Skull’s appearance. However, did he die after Thanos’ snap in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’?

I have no idea. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea, because that was the question I had as well. But Marvel is very tight-lipped. They don’t really reveal its secrets. So, your guess is as good as mine. He might be in the soul stone with everybody else. You never know.

Red Skull is a character who’s equally loved and hated at the same time. What’s your take?

I think this version of Red Skull is vastly different from the one Hugo Weaving played in Captain America (The First Avenger) because he’s been broken by his ambition. He’s 85 years into the future and his goal was to dominate the world and he lost. Not only did he lose, but he also lost his life completely. He might be a ghost now. He can float. He’s not the Red Skull that we know. You kind of feel bad for him because he’s clearly a slave to the soul stone and he’s locked into there. And his sole purpose is to do the bidding of the soul stone. I think, you don’t hate him as much anymore. You just kinda’ feel bad for him. I think it’s a sympathetic version of Red Skull that we’ve never seen before.

The Walking Dead has been one of the biggest shows this decade. What do you think makes people want to watch the show? Is it because of the fear of what could happen in a zombie apocalypse or if it were the last day on Earth?

I think the reason why this show is so popular is because, unlike vampires, or demons, or monsters, zombies actually seem plausible. They seem like they could be a virus that actually gets spread and people actually become cannibalistic. It’s a deep-seeded historical fear among us that we could resort to cannibalism because there are so many cultures around the world that, over the centuries, actually resorted to cannibalism. So, to survive, I think there’s this cultural DNA that we all have, a looming fear that it could happen someday.

What are the aspects of your character, Aaron, that you apply in real life?

He’s a very diplomatic guy. He’s a guy who likes to judge a person based on content, and not to judge quickly. I think he’s someone who wants to see the good in people, and I try to do as much as I can. I mean, I’m a little less patient than Aaron. I think Aaron has infinite patience, and I try as much as I can to apply. Like, always give people a shot, and forgive them, and just be the best diplomatic person you could be.

You’re in Dubai, the city home to many famous faces including Salt Bae. It’s no secret you’ve been wanting to do a salt off challenge with him. How close Is that from happening?

It looks like we’ve got a reservation tomorrow night at the restaurant. I’m very much looking forward to going there, and I hope he accepts my challenge because I’ve been looking forward to this for a month now. If he’s open to it, and I hope he is, I would really love to do a salt-off challenge with him and just see what he says.

Lastly, we’re here at Middle East Film & Comic Con. We’ve been seeing you share the stage with other headliners, including Zachary Levi, you’re both are known for your comedy! Can we expect a comedy stand-off between you two?

I hope so! He always downplays his emotions and I actually think he’s quite good at them. I want to do that but he’s so modest, he doesn’t believe he’s good. But I think he’s incredible at impressions. I’m down. I’m ready!