Hailing from Colorado, performer Ross Marquand grew up impersonating celebrities that eventually led to a career in voiceover work. His talents have been heard on the cartoons Robot Chicken, and Phineas and Ferb, as well as video games like Battlefield Hardline.
It was when this straight actor grabbed the opportunity to portray The Walking Dead's first openly gay character that people began to take notice.
As Aaron [no last name] he portrayed the recruiter for the community of the Alexandria Safe-Zone. He met his character's boyfriend, Eric Raleigh, before the apocalypse and stayed together until Raleigh met his final end.
At the recent Walker Stalker Fan Fest convention, he stopped to talk with Windy City Times about his experiences on the hit AMC television show.
Windy City Times: First off, what's you favorite celebrity impersonation, currently?
Ross Marquand: Right now, it's John C. Reilly, which is good for Chicago because he has his roots here. He has one of the most amazing and goofy voices. There is a lot of range and complexity to it. I have a lot of fun with that voice.
WCT: Have you ever heard from a celebrity that you have impersonated before?
RM: Yes. Ian McKellen actually tweeted me about something I did once. It was incredible and one of those moments that didn't make any sense whatsoever.
WCT: How was playing Paul Newman on AMC's Mad Men?
RM: Cool, except it was the worst audition of my life. I stupidly smoked a pack of cigarettes the night before to get close to his voice. When I showed up at the auditions they looked at me like I was a joke because I sounded like a frog essentially. I could barely talk.
Luckily, the people that had seen my impression videos vouched for me and I was able to get the job or they would have gone a totally different route.
WCT: Was it hard to get on The Walking Dead?
RM: Yes. I auditioned for the show three times over several years. It was one of my favorite shows to begin with, so I feel very lucky.
WCT: Have you heard from a gay fan that meant a lot since your character is out?
RM: So many. The craziest thing about the show is that on the surface it is just about zombies and a horror show. Nothing could be further from the truth. It has incredible, rich themes about love, forgiveness, and survival.
So many LGBTQ youth and adults have come forward and said, "You, Tara, and Jesus are the reason I was able to come out to my family." Even today a young man came up to me and said that. I just started weeping.
It's incredible that a show that is from the horror genre could have an impact on people like that.
WCT: Are there LGBT people on the crew?
RM: Most definitely.
WCT: Why did it take so long to have gay and lesbian characters on the show?
RM: I think in the comics it was about the time that we were first introduced to Aaron. I think he's the first gay character on the show and in the comics. The character Tara Chambler was not in the comics, but she came in on season four.
Now we have several LGBT characters on the show.
WCT: Was it emotional for you when your TV lover, Eric Raleigh, died?
RM: It was awful. First of all, Jordan Woods-Robinson is one of the best actors I have ever worked with. He was such a sweet guy. He would drive in from Orlando where he lives. He works as a Blue Man as well, so every time he came in for a job, he would have to get his shift covered. We would drive right after he finished, around 10 o'clock at night, seven hours to Orlando to be on set the next day. He was a dedicated actor and incredible. I miss him like crazy.
WCT: I heard they have a group dinner with the Walking Dead cast and crew for the actor when [that person is] killed off.
RM: Yes, that's true.
WCT: What have you enjoyed about Fan Fest?
RM: I think it's just thatit's a fan festival. I was a fan of the show before I got on it. For me it's incredible, the interaction between fans and actors. We realize this show, and any other show with any amount of fandom, would not exist without that interaction with the fans. I am very grateful for it.
WCT: What's the best gift a fan has given you?
RM: Someone did a watercolor portrait of me. We see fans from Japan, Australia, and there were some from Germany today. We are very spoiled I would say. I was going to say blessed, but we are actually quite spoiled.
WCT: Where do people follow you?
RM: Twitter and Instagram @RossMarquand.
WCT: Your fans were just telling me that you are very entertaining on Instagram.
RM: I make really dorky videos. That's what they were talking about!