BE: I’ve seen the Season 2 premiere, and from what I can tell, it seems like you guys are still playing at the same level that you were in the first season.
Jon Bernthal: Aw, thanks, man, I appreciate you saying so.
BE: So you guys got to play the love triangle in Season 1, and it’s obviously still ongoing in Season 2. Is it a challenge to play something like that in the middle of a zombie thriller?
JB: I don’t really look at it so much as a love triangle. I look at it more as a family that…these horrible circumstances, this disease that’s turned the world into this apocalyptic state, I look at it more as a family that’s been severely fractured by it. I think that it’s not as simple as two guys in love with the same girl. I think Shane is very much in love with Lori, but I think he loves his best friend, too, as well as their little boy, Carl. I think these are relationships that are immensely important to him, and unfortunately, they’re forever tainted and they’ll never quite be the same. In this world that we’re trying to create, all of these characters have lost so many people. I think what’s very interesting for Shane is that the people in the world who mean the most to him are still alive. It’s just that their relationships will never be the same because of what’s gone down.
BE: Shane is a pretty complex character because of his situation. Do you find it hard to find that balance of personality when you’re playing the part?
JB: No, man, I love it. As an actor, it’s the kind of part you look for. When I first talked with Frank (Darabont) about this, our goal was to not just make him sort of this one-dimensional villain straight out of the comic. We wanted him to be a layered, nuanced character that wasn’t a good guy, wasn’t a bad guy, but was a real guy. I think he’s just operating from a place of being a loyal friend and trying to do what’s best, trying to protect these people that he loves so much. I think he’s always coming from a place of trying to do the right thing, but it’s fractured. It’s just such a different, cold, brutal world now. Also, what’s very interesting about the character is that he’s the first one in the series, I think, to just sort of recognize the lawlessness of this world they’re living in now. He does it when he beats down Ed by the water in Season 1, and also when he trains the gun on Rick in Season 1. I think he recognizes that there are no real circumstances for your actions in this world, and I think Season 2 is very much about Rick and Shane splitting on how they feel the best way to go forward in this world is. I think Shane feels that, to survive, you have to make very brutal, very harsh decisions, and you really have to abandon emotion and morality and just do what’s best for survival, whereas Rick, I think, is kind of plagued by trying to do the right thing. They really become at odds with each other over those philosophies.