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Austin Amelio talks Dwight and his big role in ‘The Cell’

If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, chances are, you’re still coming off of the emotional roller coaster that was episode 3 of season 7.  ‘The Cell’ was a dark episode focused on the battle between villain and fan favorite but also a bit villain vs villain and one of the main components of those battles was Austin Amelio who plays Dwight.

Dwight isn’t a new character by any means but his story has never truly been explored until now.  While some people are seemingly born evil and others experience a tragedy that turns them that way, Dwight seems to embody the latter.  In the latest episode, there are moments where he seems stuck between trying to find a sense of humanity within a life where he abandoned it and trying to stick to what he knows which is what has kept him alive.

Austin Amelio spoke to Entertainment Weekly about Dwight in ‘The Cell’ and what it meant for fans to get a deeper look into his character.

EW: How excited were you when you got this script and saw what a deep dive we were going to get on Dwight?
Austin Amelio: ‘Extremely excited. It was something I’ve been waiting for, and a little nervous too because of what happens in it, but yeah, really, really excited, man.’

The opening scenes of ‘The Cell’ show Dwight gazing into the cage where zombies are kept in an inhumane, if you can use that word to describe this scenario, way and he seems to be at odds with himself. Austin explained that further when he spoke to EW.

Well, there’s two moments, one then and then one at the end, and I think it’s the theme of, am I freer in this world where I’m at, or being a walker on the other side of the fence? So I think he’s just kind of getting lost in thought about that. I think that’s kind of like a running theme with him. Also, that walker is like… what a gnarly walker, you know? 

In addition to the gnarly walker, there are some gnarly scenes in this episode where Dwight is tested and it’s by Negan but also by himself.  One of these scenes is when he performs what appears to be a mercy killing but still an act of service to Negan.

EW: ‘You mentioned the one at the end where Dwight has gone out and he gets this guy who pulled the grab and go. He ultimately shoots the guy, and when it happened, I thought, is this maybe an act of mercy of Dwight shooting this guy because you choose to shoot him rather than bringing him back? But then it turns out you did bring him back and you put him on the fence as a zombie. So what does that say about Dwight at this point?
Austin: ‘Well, first off, it’s me getting the job done, and second off, I think it absolutely is an act of mercy because Dwight was once in that situation and I think he battles coming back to the walkers on the other side of the fence. It’s like, am I better off that I came back to the Sanctuary, or should I have just stayed out there and ended it there? It’s also, that guy is, we’re acquaintances in the story, and I get my vegetables from him, and he lost his wife, and it’s that he’d be better off being put out of his misery and taken away from the misery of the Sanctuary.’

In addition to the aforementioned battles and obstacles in the way, he is also faced with his ex-wife, Negan’s new wife, Sherry who seems to still feel a sort of love and compassion for Dwight while being enamored with Negan.  Dwight likely feels inferior because the man who seemingly owns what’s left of the good in this world stole the good in Dwight’s world from him, even if it was just part of the plan to keep Dwight alive.

EW: Let’s talk about the two very awkward scenes between Dwight and Sherry, his former wife who agreed to marry Negan to save Dwight. He sees her getting a pregnancy test and then again in the stairwell. What is he feeling when he sees her in these scenes? Is it disgust with himself, or shame, or something else? He says to her, “We did the right thing. It’s a hell of a lot better than being dead,” but I’m not sure he honestly believes that.
Austin: ‘No, I don’t think he does either, and I’ll talk about that scene first. I think what he’s trying to do is comfort himself and her in that moment. I don’t necessarily think he 100 percent backs that because going back to him watching the walkers, it’s like he keeps comparing, is it better to be here or f—ing on the chain? It’s a tough decision. And then in the first moment when I see Sherry, it’s kind of a moment you want to get over with quickly. I come in there with Daryl and she sees him and then I see the pregnancy test and it’s like, how horrible is that for like to see your ex lover’s pregnancy test? I mean, like, God, what a disaster!’

If taking Dwight’s wife wasn’t enough, Negan also taunts him through the episode with small stabs here and there that questioned everything from his character to his manhood and Dwight had no choice but to take it.  Negan is relentless in his rule, in his confidence, and in his fierce sense of self and that makes him untouchable, at least for now.

‘I’ve got to swallow my pride. And the guy’s making a mockery of everything that I’ve been through, so it’s not fun having to sit there and not be able to say anything. It’s a weird relationship between me and him. It’s like a double-edged sword. He’s letting be one of the top leaders and take whatever I want and make egg sandwiches, and on the other hand, he’s making me torture Daryl. So we have an interesting relationship, to say the least, and one that I’m not very fond of, to be honest.’

While Dwight may not love his relationship with Negan, Austin does enjoy working with Jeffrey on set. Like the other cast members who have been interviewed about his presence, Austin says Jeffrey is an easy guy to like, it’s actually hard to look at him as a villain or a threat, he’s got a genuineness to his spirit that even comes out when he’s in character.

‘It’s an absolute pleasure working with him. He’s awesome and he’s very charismatic and docile, and he’s like, “Can I do anything? Can I help you out?” And it’s just great, man. I get to work with some of the best, so it’s awesome.’

While season 7 is just getting underway and there will definitely be more from our favorite, and not so favorite characters in the future, this episode was definitely one of the most enlightening so far this season, and will likely remain as such.

Catch new episodes of The Walking Dead on AMC Sunday nights at 9/8 c.

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