Warning: There are spoilers ahead if you have not watched “The Walking Dead” season 8 premiere.
“The Walking Dead” season eight premiere kicked off Sunday night, and the season wasted little time with Rick, Maggie, and Ezekiel bringing their communities to go to war with the bat-wielding Negan.
One of the main players in this “All Out War” is Dwight (Austin Amelio), one of Negan’s high-ranking Saviors, who appeared to switch sides at the end of season seven. Right now, he’s working undercover for Rick, Daryl, and the gang to give them the inside scoop on the Sanctuary.
INSIDER spoke with Amelio about his allegiances in the war this season, what he thinks of Rick as a leader, and how his relationship with frenemy Eugene may fare this season now that Dwight’s working for the other side.
Kirsten Acuna: There are so many great little interactions in the episode. One of the moments that got to me was seeing you and Daryl interacting via arrow notes. You guys were like pen pals.
Austin Amelio: [Laughing] Yeah, old classic pen pals relationship.
Acuna: It seems like Daryl doesn’t totally trust Dwight. After Daryl grabbed the arrow from you he didn’t give a little nod, like the ones he’ll give to Rick or an ally. It seems like you guys maybe still have a little ways to go.
Amelio: Yeah, I’d say we do.
Acuna: Maybe for those dog food sandwiches that Dwight was feeding him in season seven.
Amelio: Yeah, I mean that’s the thing with his relationship. In season seven, [Daryl] comes in and he gets a little bit of an understanding of my world and [sees] kind of what I’m fighting for and what I’m going through. But we’re also on two different sides of the spectrum and it’s going to take a while to bridge that gap. It’s not going to happen right off the bat.
Acuna: Of course. I want to go back to the season seven finale real quick. Dwight left Daryl a little note on a sculpture. How did Dwight know someone would find that chess piece he left behind? And, of all people to find it, it was Daryl. Was he banking on that?
Amelio: I think Daryl got a glimpse into his room in season seven or actually when I came on in season six [Daryl] knows that’s like one of the first things we introduce — the little chess piece.
He was banking on that. I think it was a very smart move on Dwight’s part. I don’t know how Daryl ended up finding that. You know, some movie magic involved there. That’s kind of the beauty of that.
Acuna: Their relationship, as you said, it goes back to those chess pieces. One of their first interactions, I think Daryl says to Dwight, “What is that thing there? Give it to me.” And you explained that you carved those with your grandfather. It totally made sense why you left that behind. At the end of the day, I guess it’s Dwight hoping that Daryl would be the one to find it.
Amelio: No one else would catch on to that. If it came across to Rick or anyone else, they’d just f—ing toss it. There’s got to be some sort of chance that Daryl walks past that and notices it.
Acuna: Yeah, it was a sweet moment in the season seven finale to see. Going back to the season eight premiere, it seems pretty safe to say that Dwight is Team Rick or at least team Daryl at this point. From my understanding in the episode, you gave Daryl a note with the locations of Negan’s men to take out. Or am I wrong?
Amelio: It’s a good assumption. I like that.
Acuna: OK. So when Rick show’s up at the Sanctuary and Negan asks what he can do for Rick, he immediately yells out Dwight’s name. For a split second while watching the episode, I thought Rick was going to sell you out. Did you have that feeling at all either while reading the script or …
Amelio: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. For that split second, my heart sank. And that’s how, I think, they wanted it to play, where it’s like, ‘DWIGHT!’ And then it’s like, ‘Oh, f—.’ But then all of a sudden [Rick] moves on. I love that part.
Acuna: And Rick, he’s very aggressive in this episode when it comes to the Saviors. He’s not taking any crap. He’s interrupting Negan. Dwight’s really never seen Rick in full-on Ricktatorship mode — ripping people’s throats out and stuff — what is it like for Dwight to see Rick in action here as opposed to him pretty much being the opposite in the season seven premiere?
Amelio: Dwight’s sort of assessing the whole situation out. Where we left off in season seven, he’s going back and forth. He’s really wearing his heart on his sleeve and he’s … I don’t want to give anything away, but he has to make some high-stake decisions.
It’s definitely weighing on Dwight to see this sort of leader take charge and stand up for his group. It’s definitely something Dwight is putting on the backburner in his mind and considering. I think it’s going to help him further his decision-making process, if that makes any sense.
Acuna: Yeah. Also, you’re seeing two different leadership styles. Is Dwight questioning at all whether or not Rick may be a little crazy or as crazy as Negan?
Amelio: Crazy in this world … There are so many things involved. I don’t even know where to start off. [Dwight’s] taking everything in. He has some really, really interesting decision-making that he has to do to figure out what he’s going to do.
Dwight, he said at the end of season seven that he hates Negan. He hates him. So, it’s good to see another leader and see what they’re about.
Acuna: Well, when we last spoke you said Dwight was kind of putting — to mention the chess pieces again — he was putting his chess pieces in place to come up with some bigger plan to help take Negan out at some point.
Acuna: Now, Rick’s plan doesn’t totally go according to plan. Negan gets away or Rick let’s him get away. I have to imagine Dwight isn’t too pleased because Negan’s still alive. Isn’t Dwight at all concerned that Negan may suspect him of spying or double-crossing? Dwight’s not looking for that iron to the other half of his face.
Amelio: [Laughter] No, no. I mean, yeah, in this season you see him [Dwight] put everything on the line. He’s fighting out of love for his wife and hate for Negan. When you put those two together, you’re going to make some seriously crazy decisions and hope that he [Dwight] goes for the best.
Acuna: I was thinking, even if Negan does find out Dwight is working with Rick, or if Negan suspects him at all, would Dwight throw someone else under the bus to save his own skin?
Amelio: He’s got a backup plan. No doubt about that.
Acuna: Dwight did feel bad about getting Dr. Carson getting tossed into the oven though last season.
Amelio: Yeah, I mean of course. None of that stuff goes without some sort of human emotion. You’re not just completely numb to it even though you’re in that world unless you’re an absolute monster and I don’t think Dwight is.
Acuna: I don’t think so either. You’re helping Rick and the group try to take out Negan.
Amelio: Considering who’s sticking to their values and their morals and trying to be honest? Dwight kind of covers all of that. He really wants to do well. He’s just stuck in a sh—y spot.
Acuna: Exactly. The decisions everyone has made on the show has brought them to the points they’re at now. I want to ask a little bit about Eugene. Does Dwight know or suspect that Eugene had anything to do with Sasha becoming a walker? Or does he even care?
Amelio: No, I don’t think he knows that. That was it’s own circumstance and situation. There’s so much going on, but I think he definitely suspects … Their whole relationship is sort of walking on eggshells around each other. Suspect? Sure. They do suspect each other of something, for sure.
Can we be advantageous for each other for something? That’s really Dwight and Eugene’s relationship wrapped up. What the f— can I use this guy for? Dwight knows he’s smart. He’s coming in, he’s already making moves. He’s calling shots. I’ve been through a lot of sh– in order to get where I’m at — climbing the ladder. Here he is just already up there with me. I think Dwight has a problem with that, you know?
Acuna: Yeah. Eugene seems super comfortable listening to the song Easy Street. In contrast, Daryl’s like, get that away from me.
Amelio: Right, right. I loved how they used it. It’s kind of a double meaning. [Eugene] kind of uses it to get pumped up or amped. To me, that song is just absolutely tortuous. It was part of something [Dwight] didn’t want to do. Daryl had to listen to that song. I love the way they use it. It’s really interesting.
Acuna: And now everyone knows that song. On the flip side, does Eugene know you’re helping out Rick? You mentioned that he’s smart. Maybe that’s something down the line we’ll see play out in the season.
Amelio: Yeah, I can’t answer any of that, but he would be the first one to sniff it out. I think.
Acuna: I absolutely agree.
Amelio: He definitely puts things together really quickly and he is around me a bunch. We’re in the same vicinity a lot so, yeah, we’ll see what happens.
Acuna: We see a few new characters interact for the first time in this episode like Enid and Jerry. Are there any characters Dwight hasn’t met yet that he would like to interact with?
Amelio: It would be nice to interact with Carol.
Acuna: Why’s that?
Amelio: Just because I haven’t yet and I like Melissa [McBride] as a person. I want to act with her. She’s kind of a lone wolf as well. I feel like they may have something to say to each other.
Acuna: I think that they definitely have some stuff in common with losing people they love, but I don’t know how Daryl would feel about that.
Amelio: Yeah, he’d probably get a little mad. But that’s all right.
This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.
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