Michael Cudlitz Interview: ‘The Kids Are Alright’ and ‘Walking Dead’ Postmortem

The Kids are Alright
The cast of ABC’s ‘The Kids are Alright’ (ABC/Richard Cartwright)

Well, The Walking Dead never lasts forever, not even for Andrew Lincoln. So, Abraham Ford’s days came to an end, but now Michael Cudlitz is back on the family comedy, The Kids Are Alright, playing the father.

Based on creator Tim Doyle’s childhood, The Kids Are Alright is set in the ‘70s with the Cleary family. Cudlitz plays Mike Cleary who has eight kids with his wife, Peggy (Mary McCormack). Cudlitz spoke with reporters after a Television Critics Panel about the show. The Kids Are All Right premieres on October 16, 2018 at 8:30pm ET/PT on ABC.

You’ve played a lot of very intense characters. Have you gotten to play many dads?

Michael Cudlitz: “Not really, not yet. I’m sort of coming into that age. I think a lot of that has to do with getting to that age. It’s part and parcel of maturing as an actor and moving forward in your career.”

What does Mike Cleary do for a living?

Michael Cudlitz: “He works in the Jet Propulsion, the equivalent of a JPL. He grew up in Glendale. That is actually something different. I don’t think his dad was in the aerospace industry, and he’s a machinist.”

Will we see scenes of you fixing the plumbing like Tim’s dad?

Michael Cudlitz: “Probably. Probably, he’s very, very handy and expects that from his kids.”

Do you have any nostalgia for your own childhood?

Michael Cudlitz: “Yeah, I mean, I grew up in New Jersey in the ‘70s. I was born in ’64 so ‘60s, early ‘70s. For me, it was wonderful. No lack of, I wouldn’t call it parental supervision. I always knew my parents were there. I always knew they loved me but physically they weren’t always there. You grow up differently. I see it in my kids. There’s pros and cons to each. I think my kids actually are able to hold onto their childhood a little bit longer because they weren’t forced to grow up and, in a way, when you don’t have that parental supervision, you’re forced to grow up, forced to deal with things in a way that you wouldn’t necessarily have to had they been there.”

Would you go out on your back and not come back until late?

Michael Cudlitz: “Absolutely. It was like, ‘Hey, I’m going out ‘til whatever.’ And you’d take off, I’ll see you tonight. No real question. ‘I’m going to the beach.’ We lived a bike ride or a moped ride 20 minutes away from the beach.”

No cell phones.

Michael Cudlitz: “No, no cell phones, no helmets, no bike lanes, no airbags, no safety. Seat belts but you didn’t really use them. Steel dashboards, riding in the back of a pickup truck with your buddies. All these things are stuff that we all did. I’m not saying that all those things, we’re not glad that they’re around now because we are. It just made me grow up differently. We all do. We all feel that difference. We didn’t have helicopter parents, for better or for worse. It was just a different time.”

Having lived through that era, what is it like to recreate it on a daily basis?

Michael Cudlitz: “Awesome. We’ve been having a great time. Shooting the pilot was fantastic, a lot of fun. These kids are great. Mary’s hilarious. Tim’s writing really, really fun stories that have a lot of heart to them, so it’s been fantastic to come to work.”

How is the schedule compared to The Walking Dead location schedules?

Michael Cudlitz: “It’s not more abbreviated. It’s a single camera half hour and we have eight kids, so even if it’s a lighter day, that day is still just as long because the needs of the kids having to go to school and all that. It’s an abbreviated schedule in the sense that we shoot five days a week as opposed to eight for a typical one out, 8-12 depending what you’re shooting. We’ll shoot an episode a week.”

Is it more physically comfortable than Walking Dead?

Michael Cudlitz: “It’s more physically comfortable because it’s three minutes from my house. I keep calling it The Unicorn. It’s a half hour comedy in town shooting five minutes from my house.”

How soon did you know The Walking Dead was going to end for you?

Michael Cudlitz: “I got about six months prior. When I came on the show, look, I’ve gone from show to show to show. That’s what we do. That’s not the first show I died on. We knew five or six months before. We didn’t know if it was going to be at the end of six or the beginning of seven. They were deciding whether they could keep that secret, and then we found out just before that it was going to be at the beginning of seven. It would’ve been fine either way for me.”

Did you watch your final scene?

Michael Cudlitz: “I watched it once. It’s pretty brutal. It’s a pretty emotionally and visually brutal scene.”

What would you most like people to know about The Kids Are Alright?

Michael Cudlitz: “It’s funny as hell and it’s got a lot of heart.”