Vincent Martella was one of the newest “The Walking Dead” cast additions for Season 4, but viewers discovered during the premiere episode, “30 Days Without An Accident,” that the “Phineas and Ferb” star’s character arc was very short-lived. But Martella’s Patrick was arguably the most significant new addition in the first episode of Season 4, as it was through Patrick that viewers were introduced to the survivors’ newest threat.
Patrick’s death and subsequent turn into a walker was caused by a mysterious fast-moving illness that was also seen affecting Rick’s pigs and a wild boar. Though little is known about the disease, Martella tells Zap2it that he was excited that his character was the one to highlight its danger.
“[The producers] gave me the episode and they talked to me about the kind of impact that my character was going to have and the significance it was going to have to the entire group of survivors,” he explains. “Once I heard that I was really excited and I thought that it was a really, really cool way for me to be a part of the show was introducing this whole new terrible threat for this entire group of people.”
It wasn’t until after Martella agreed to join “The Walking Dead” that he found out Patrick would die in the first episode of Season 4. But he has no hard feelings — “I would do one line on ‘The Walking Dead’ if I could. I love the show,” he explains — and is also excited about the new direction this illness heralds for the series.
“I think it reminds all of the survivors and the audience watching that there are a lot of other dangers to living in this type of environment, this post-apocalyptic world that they live in,” Martella says of the introduction of the sickness. “There are a lot of other dangers besides the walkers, and I think sometimes everyone forgets about that. Something as simple as sickness, without the proper supplies and in the wrong living conditions, can actually be just as deadly, if not more so, than a group of walking dead outside the gates of your prisons.”
He adds, “I think it’s definitely a gamechanger, and I think audiences are going to love how this group has to deal with this problem, because everyone’s going to have to deal with it in their own way.”
Though audiences saw Patrick turn at the end of “30 Days Without An Accident,” they didn’t see his zombie form get discovered. Martella teases that viewers “may get to see me next episode,” so that is something to look forward to. After all, he was well-trained by the premiere’s director, Greg Nicotero, on how to act like a walker.
“You get to wear all these cool, interesting colored contacts — they actually went through a couple different ones to make sure that they looked just right with the lighting in the scene. Then I get to get covered in blood and get to have some crazy facial makeup that they put on me,” he says. “It was very specific, the way that my eyes had to move as the zombie and the sounds that I had to make. Zombies don’t really breathe or anything like that, so there’s very specific things that I had to do.”
Beyond his death scene, one of Martella’s most memorable moments in the episode came when he had a fan moment upon seeing Norman Reedus‘ Daryl. Though it’s obvious for any “The Walking Dead” viewer why people would idolize Daryl, Martella explains the backstory the cast came up with for the character’s new rock star status.
“Rick was always the leader of the group — the original group of survivors that came from Atlanta as well as the farm,” Martella say. “What ends up occurring at the end of Season 3 is Rick realizing just how much his situation has tormented him throughout Season 3. He really almost lost control of himself, and he doesn’t want to have to be the one making all the decisions anymore, so instead now he’s sticking closer to the camp and this garden that he’s built, and he’s trying to help out that way rather than going on runs all the time and bringing new people in. He’s leaving that to Daryl.”
He continues, “Now Daryl has this position and this relationship with all these new people that Rick has with the original group but doesn’t have with this new group because they haven’t seen that side of him. All they see is Daryl, this guy who’s riding a Chopper with this awesome crossbow and saving all these people, so they really do idolize him. They thank him for all the things that he’s doing.”
After “The Walking Dead,” Martella says he has the latest season of “Phineas and Ferb” as well as an indie horror film that he shot called “Clinger.” Though he couldn’t say much about that project, he did tease, “I definitely don’t play a very nice character. … He’s not as sweet as Patrick.”
“The Walking Dead” airs Sundays on AMC at 9 p.m. ET.