Ross Marquand (Thtr’04) was about to give up on Hollywood.
“I was at the end of my rope,” said the 35-year-old actor (top left), reflecting on the summer of 2014. “After about 10 years of living in L.A. and trying to make it work, it just dawned on me that it might not happen.”
He’d appeared in independent and short films, had a role in Mad Men, playing Paul Newman in a 2013 episode, and done a lot of voice-over work. But a career-making role eluded him and he planned to try his luck in New York theater.
Then Marquand got a call about auditioning for a zombie apocalypse show, AMC’s The Walking Dead — the highest-rated TV series in cable history. About a week later, on his birthday, he was cast.
“It’s really changed my life,” said Marquand, an Eagle Scout who grew up in Littleton, Colo., and also counts mountain climbing and firearms among his skills, some of which come in handy on the set of The Walking Dead.
The blockbuster show, based on a comic book series of the same name, is about regular humans trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. Marquand joined the cast in season five as Aaron, an openly gay former NGO worker in Africa who tries to recruit fellow survivors to a safe zone.
Now in its seventh season, with an eighth planned, the character-rich drama is conspicuously gory, a selling point for hordes of viewers: More than 21 million tuned in for the current season’s premiere.
So far, Marquand has appeared in more than 30 episodes. The resulting notoriety has expanded the audience for his spot on impressions of some of Hollywood’s most famous actors. After Vanity Fair magazine published a video called “Nanoimpressions with Ross Marquand,” in which Marquand impersonates Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Spacey, Al Pacino, Michael Caine and others doing everyday things, he found himself performing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Kevin Spacey himself has singled out Marquand’s impression of him as top-notch.
The impressions are funny, but The Walking Dead is primarily a drama — the sort in which heads are bashed, throats ripped out and entrails on display.