The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live star Matthew Jeffers got cast thanks to Danai Gurira: “That was beautiful”

Jeffers and Gurira appeared in Richard III in Shakespeare in the Park together.

Matthew Jeffers as Nat - The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live _ Season 1, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Matthew Jeffers as Nat - The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live _ Season 1, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /
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Back in 2022, The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira, better known to fans as Michonne, starred in The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Richard III. In the ensemble? Actor Matthew August Jeffers, who, unbeknownst to him, was about to join Gurira in one of the biggest new TV series of 2024: The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live, co-starring in this week’s episode “Gone” as a new zombie apocalypse survivor named Nat.

“We had a couple of scenes together and it was very clear that we worked really well together and that there was this kismet and synergy that the two of us shared onstage and offstage,” Jeffers told Bam Smack Pow.

By that point, Jeffers had already recurred regularly as Dr. Mark Walsh on NBC’s New Amsterdam since the show's first season and had two episodes guest starring on Amazon’s Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. But as of yet, Jeffers hadn’t starred as a series regular.

“I was up for my first series regular role,” Jeffers continued. “I was really close to getting it, it was a pretty big production, and my head was starting to kind of yo-yo like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is this going to do? I'm going to move to…’ It was all of the things that I was feeling. And then I got a call from my agent a couple of weeks later saying that it was a respectful pass. It was just devastating as an actor feeling that close to something you want so badly. And two hours later I had to perform.”

As Jeffers recalls, during the warmups that day for Richard III, he approached Gurira and explained that he was feeling “vulnerable” and “hurt” after losing out on the role. Given her long list of experiences including TWD, playing Okoye in multiple Marvel movies, and much more, it made sense to ask the actress how she got over it when you lost out on something you desperately wanted.

“She offered her wisdom of, it's always going to set you up for something else, and it's part of the journey, and it's not linear, it's like that. She gave some great wisdom and then walking away, she turned around. She was like, ‘but something's coming. I know something's coming.’ And I took it as, ‘hang in there, something will come.’ I had no idea that she was literally saying like, ‘I'm about to cast you in the Walking Dead.’”

But that was, in fact, what Gurira was teasing. The long-development The Ones Who Live doesn’t just count Gurira as a star, she’s also an Executive Producer, and showrunner, and The Walking Dead Universe head collaborated with her and co-star Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes, in both crafting and writing the overall six-episode season.

“Scott Gimple came to one of the productions and they talked and they were like, ‘let's bring him on,’” Jeffers said. “It was a beautiful story of what acting can do. You can take you from 15th-century England to the post-apocalyptic zombie apocalypse. It was a great journey to go on.”

For much more with Jeffers, check back here after the East Coast airing of this week's episode for our longer interview with the actor.

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC and AMC+.

Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira were “complete equals” in crafting The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live. Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira were “complete equals” in crafting The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live. dark. Next