The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live: Matthew Jeffers on Nat’s tragic fate, and whether he would trust Rick

Matthew Jeffers on The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live
Nat’s journey was harrowing. Pic credit: AMC/Gene Page

Through two episodes, The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live has proven to be just what the long-running zombie franchise needed to recalibrate.

A big part of the show’s success is its ability to fill in the gaps about what happened to Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) after they departed the main series several years ago.

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Season 1, Episode 2, was a Michonne-centric hour, telling us about her journey to reunite with the man she’s held on to hope has been alive for so many years.

Early into her mission, she comes across Nat, played by Matthew Jeffers, who crafts the incredible weapons and armor she’s seen with during an epilogue of the main series.

Just as their mission was gathering steam, they found themselves in danger when the CRM dropped gas from a helicopter, and ultimately, it claimed the lives of Aiden (King Bach) and Bailey (Breeda Wool).

After watching Nat and Michonne’s grueling recovery, they proceeded on their mission, determined to find Rick and make all the pain they’d endured worthwhile.

They shot a CRM helicopter out of the sky, only to find that Rick was one of the people on board as a soldier of the group that attacked them earlier in the episode.

Sadly, Nat’s journey was cut short when he got shot by CRM soldiers before he even got the chance to meet this man he heard so much about from Michonne.

Monsters and Critics got to speak with Matthew Jeffers about joining this universe for a short while.

Monsters and Critics: How familiar were you with The Walking Dead before joining the cast of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live?

Matthew Jeffers: I moved to New York City in 2013 to pursue an acting career. During the day, I would go to acting class and then come home. I would have The Walking Dead watch parties with my roommates and some friends, and then we would watch The Talking Dead afterward. It was like a whole night.

In the past few years, I’ve gotten a bit busy, and I haven’t been able to sustain that. The show meant a lot to me at a pivotal point in my journey. Fresh off the boat here in New York, I was trying to figure out where I would fit in this industry.

I looked forward to it. At the time, it was one of my favorite shows. It was wonderful to step into this world I’ve admired from afar, as millions of people have for over the last decade.

Monsters and Critics: We learned so much about Nat in a short time, so it was pretty upsetting that he died in the same episode we were introduced to him. What was your reaction to his death?

Matthew Jeffers: Well, I was really sad. As an actor, you always want to continue the journey.

What was so beautiful about my reaction was that my strong reaction was a testament to this character’s beauty. That was like the litmus test.

That’s the kind of internal compass because if I read the script and then I get to page 80 or whatever, and I see that he dies, and my reaction is, “Okay. All right. Well, all right. Got it,” you know that then that means that I wasn’t really connected to that character.

But if I’m turning the page, creating fire, turning these pages so fast, and then I get to the point where he dies, and my heart is a little broken, then that’s a sign that [Scott] Gimple, the creative team, and Danai are doing something right.

Because they’re creating characters with whom I can develop connections on the page. Imagine the connections we can create on screen because of these stories. Film is a visual medium, and you tell stories visually. So, I knew we were already set up for success because the words on the page were so strong.

Monsters and Critics: Right before Nat dies, he’s shocked because he sees Rick, this man Michonne has talked up to him, wearing the same uniform as the people who bombed the city. What do you think Nat’s relationship would have looked like with Rick if he survived?

Mathew Jeffers: That’s a good question. I want to think that Rick and Nat would have gotten along because I got along so well with Andy. I love Andy. He is the sweetest, most sincere, and I mean this: one of the most genuine actors I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a set with.

He does a really good job infusing that, and that’s why people love Rick. His heart is like a human being; he has a really good heart.

I think Nat, who is especially attuned at finding the heartbeats that beat on us in a specific rhythm, like Michonne, Is adept at that, like a tool master. Heartbeats are tools to the body, so I think when he sees if that relationship would have continued, I do think that he would have seen similar traits in Rick that he found so appealing and mesmerizing in Michonne.

Maybe there’s a whole spinoff in some other alternate universe where they create a circle of friendship, but Andy is a really cool guy. It’s such a joy to work with him.

Monsters and Critics: Before we get to the point that Nat dies, he’s already lost Aiden, Bailey, and the people who left to go on the road with him, thanks to those pesky CRM bombs. The aftermath of all that loss and his nearly dying changed him. What was it like for you as an actor to play a more hardened version of Nat in the second half of the episode?

Matthew Jeffers: I think anytime you take on physical acting right after being bombed, having kind of this really intense makeup, and physicalizing an injury like that helps transition you into that space of feeling more vulnerable, bleak, and tired, and like you don’t have so much more leash to give.

The costume and makeup departments did a beautiful job of really helping me. For example, seeing myself in the mirror, looking like I’ve seen better days, really helped inform how I walk and talk. I myself have a past littered with medical complications.

My first surgery was at five months old. I’ve had over 20 surgeries, some very life-threatening, some very minor. It’s really run the gamut throughout my life. And so I’m no stranger to feeling physically vulnerable and hurt. And so you’re talking about how that transition from a lighter Nat to a darker Nat, both Nats are in me.

I have a lighter side and a darker side that’s filled with a lot of pain, trauma, and hurt. It’s just wonderful. Gimple and Danai didn’t really know all of that about my history, but I guess they trusted the story. It was just kind of a beautiful alignment, a convergence of Matthew’s history and what Nat was going to go through. It just worked.

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC. Episodes are also available ahead of their debut on AMC+.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments