‘The Walking Dead’ Star Avi Nash on the Michonne-Siddiq Relationship & What’s Next For the Survivors

Victoria Will/AMC

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 9 episode of The Walking Dead, “Stradivarius.”]

The November 18 episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead — the second episode since the series’ six-year time jump post-Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) — was jam-packed with walker-slashing (and violin-slashing) action, some great heart-to-heart moments and more.

Alongside a Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) reunion, a Rosita (Christian Serratos) rescue, and Hilltop’s overloaded leader Jesus (Tom Payne) sparring with a badass, one-armed Aaron (Ross Marquand), viewers were also treated to the horseback escort of Magna (Nadia Hilker) and her crew by Alexandria boss Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Siddiq (Avi Nash) to Hilltop.

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Walkers, some serious mutual mistrust, and the news of Maggie’s (Lauren Cohan) departure from Hilltop make the journey even more difficult for Michonne and Siddiq. The good news though? Viewers finally got to really see Nash in action in his recently-appointed role as a series regular.

TV Insider spoke to Nash about all things The Walking Dead including Michonne and Siddiq’s comfortable friendship and how the time jump has affected our favorite batch of survivors. (Is love is in the air?)

You joined the show in Season 8, so you were still relatively new when Andrew Lincoln announced his departure. What was it like to be on set at that time?

Avi Nash: It was like a terrible, apocalyptic fate. I think on one level, everyone was a bit scared to know that our magnificent leader wasn’t going to be there, but on the other hand, he did such a good job of letting us know what was happening and why it was happening—that he needed to spend time with his family—and I think the writers did such a good job to make sure his departure wasn’t just some random, you know, ‘Let’s write him off.’

For me, personally, it was particularly tough because last year, he was the actor that I spent most of my time with on set. Most of my scenes were with him and I thought everyone was going to realize what a fraud I am. Acting is like tennis. If you play against someone really good, you’ve got to step your game up. That was a little scary but also, there was a sense of growing responsibility as well. Not just because he was leaving, but also because I was lucky enough to be promoted to series regular and with that comes more responsibility for story and for character. So yeah, the general feeling on set was sadness and trepidation, but also everyone corralled together to make sure the show continued to be really strong and really great. Not just for us, but also for him.

The Walking Dead - Andrew Lincoln

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes

Now who are we going to see Siddiq interacting with most going forward?

All kinds of people [laughs]. He cultivates a really interesting relationship with Michonne. It’s very much fueled by the loss of Rick that they both share. You know, Carl [Chandler Riggs] first brings Siddiq into this world of Alexandria and with his passing, Rick accepts Siddiq and takes his advice to be merciful. And then, I think, as Rick is gone, Rick’s remaining family members: Judith, Michonne—they become Siddiq’s de facto family.

Michonne and Siddiq have an elder sister, younger brother bond. He looks up to her and she also listens to his advice. He’s able to speak to her in a way that cuts a little bit deeper to her core than anyone else because you know, she can be a brilliant leader, but also very stubborn and he’s able to call her out when he has to. They need to present the united front to the rest of Alexandria, but they’re also hashing out, ‘What do we do now?’ The world is six years later. The walkers aren’t the same sort of threat that they were at the beginning of the apocalypse. Michonne has fought to create a civilization. It was a very big deal for them to let in those strangers. If Michonne’s ear is the one that they have to turn, Siddiq is the person best poised to say, ‘Hey, this is what’s happening. And I need to tell you this hard, bitter truth.’ And it’s pretty sweet. I went from working with Andrew Lincoln to Danai Gurira, so I’m super lucky.

Danai Gurira as Michonne, Avi Nash as Siddiq

And what’s Siddiq been up to in those six years? Is he still the main doctor, or is he continuing to train others?

They say every seven years we start a new life, so we already saw in the first time jump of the season that Siddiq has been training Enid [Katelyn Nacon] and I think that he has been training other individuals as well, both within Alexandria and within Hilltop, within Kingdom. Even though in the course of the six years, these communities have obviously grown apart, I think Siddiq’s been able to share the knowledge that he’s had throughout the community. In Alexandria, he’s still very much the No. 1 medical person. But you know, it was only like two years of medical school. “Doctor” in this type of show can sometimes be the death word. So I always like to say, ‘He’s not the doctor. He just has the medical experience.’

What’s with Alexandria’s isolation? It seems like Siddiq is trying to fix whatever’s happened from his insistence on Michonne going all the way to Hilltop with the group.

Alexandria, in particular, exists in this bubble, for reasons that we’ll learn later on in the season. Michonne has taken that isolation very much to heart, but Siddiq bends and mends those rules. I think he realizes that if Michonne does go to Hilltop, despite her possibly being quite upset that Siddiq kept this information [of Maggie’s departure] from her, it will start the process of rebuilding the relationships between those communities and more importantly the relationships between those friends that have been apart for years. Maybe she’ll remember how much she loves these people.

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How does he acquire the information that Maggie is gone?

Siddiq spent quite a lot of time in Hilltop. He delivered Maggie’s baby. He’s very close to Maggie. And when the isolationism begins, he doesn’t follow that right away because he’s fighting for the future that Rick and Carl wanted, which is one in which these communities are very close. So, if Alexandria decides to not speak with or trade to Hilltop or Kingdom, or whomsoever, he’s going to be resisting that for as long as he can.

When we see him in 906 [“Who Are You Now”], he’s accepted that this is the way that things are, but he’s not accepted it happily. He’s still carving out hope that he can change Michonne’s mind. While being isolated was important and allowed them to survive—what’s the cost?

We’re already starting to see a few relationships that have blossomed since the time jump. Have there been any romantic entanglements for Siddiq over the six years?

It’s been a long time. There have probably been many romantic entanglements for him — especially given what I just said. He spent a lot of time in Hilltop. He spent a lot of time in the Kingdom. He’s a very affable, kind person, but also very capable of surviving. I think those are great qualities for a person in the apocalypse.

I think we may see the entanglements that do happen, in real life and in the apocalypse, which aren’t always really clean. It’s not always like, ‘Hey I really like you, let’s go out.’ It’s messy, like life. The writers have done a really good job this year of addressing certain elements in the show like love and relationships.

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And finally, what’s in store for him for the rest of Season 9?

We’re going to see that he’s not afraid to fight for what he believes in and that he’s very much a man of his word. He’s held onto the promises he made to Rick and Carl to create a future that’s not just one of survival, but one of beautiful relationships and family and love. I think he’s willing to put his own values and relationships on the line for that greater dream. How that plays out, we’ll see.

By the end of this, he’ll be a changed man. I think he’s had a really interesting journey this year and it’s been really great to see him as someone that’s a fighter. We’ve had characters in the past like Herschel [Scott Wilson] and Glenn [Steven Yeun] who really fought for what they believed in. He’s trying to not just survive the apocalypse, but flourish in it and stay moral.

The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC