There's a badass new character on The Walking Dead — and he's wearing a pumpkin-colored space suit. Meet General Mercer (series newcomer Michael James Shaw): the burly commander of the Commonwealth Military and the protector of the Commonwealth elite. The as-yet-unrevealed community governed by Pamela Milton (series newcomer Laila Robins) is home to the white-armored soldiers that apprehended Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and his traveling companions last season, relocating them to a Commonwealth outpost for "Level One Assessment." It's there that Eugene, Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), and Princess (Paola Lazaro) meet Mercer in "Acheron: Part 1," the first episode of Season 11 premiering on August 22.
"General Mercer is the head of the military at the Commonwealth, and with that, he also has to act as security detail for the elite," Shaw said when describing his character on The Walking Dead Season 11 Preview Special. "He is a West Point graduate, and former Marine, and pretty badass."
Like his comic book counterpart, the high-ranking Mercer acts as personal security for the spoiled Sebastian Milton, part of the upper-class of the Commonwealth. It's there that Milton, a member of a pre-apocalypse political dynasty, exercises her authority over a new world order home to some 50,000 survivors.
"A lot of incredible actors auditioned for this role, but there was just something about Michael's audition that kind of caught all of our imaginations," showrunner Angela Kang said of Shaw on the Preview Special. "He just made such interesting choices as an actor. That's always exciting when there's a piece of writing and you're like, 'Oh, I didn't think the actor was going to do it that way,' and then, 'It's so much better than I could have imagined the read could be.'"
Shaw, whose credits include roles in Avengers: Infinity War and the television series Blood & Treasure and Limitless, is "one of those actors that brings really cool, nuanced ways of playing the character," added Kang. "He had the toughness, but he also had to do a scene that was very vulnerable — he nailed that, too — could be scary, could do all of the things that this character needs."
"He looks like he's gonna kick your ass," Kang said, "so he was just perfect from day one."
"Acheron: Part 1" is now streaming on AMC+ and airs Sunday on AMC.
Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD. The Walking Dead: The Final Season Part 1 premieres August 22 on AMC.