The Actor Who Plays Red Skull Is Gorgeous In Real Life

If you were one of the millions of superhero lovers who saw 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, which pre-sold more tickets than the seven Marvel movies that came out before it combined, then you'll remember watching Red Skull's surprise appearance in all his terrifying glory. But did you know that underneath the prosthetics and red makeup was a relatively new Hollywood star who is, believe it or not, a total hunk in real life?

His name is Ross Marquand, and, if you like watching The Walking Dead, you'll surely recognize him. A Denver native, he studied theater, then tried his hand at voiceover work, video game dubbing and a slew of other gigs before scoring his major breakout role on the small screen. Here's everything you need to know about the up-and-coming actor, plus all the proof you need that Red Skull is seriously gorgeous in real life.

He's a Colorado boy and proud

While attending Denver Comic Con in June 2018, Marquand didn't shy away from professing his love for his home state of Colorado. In an interview with Westword, the star, who was raised in Fort Collins and attended the University of Colorado Boulder, revealed that although he's "been gone so long," there are a slew of places he still holds close to his heart. Proclaiming that "Colorado will always be home for me," Marquand shined a spotlight on "Casa Bonita, Beau Jo's, Illegal Pete's, Larimer Square... Paris on the Platte."

What he misses most of all, however, is intangible. Admitting that he "never would have left if there were more filming opportunities there," the actor said that although he'd like to take his family with him to Los Angeles, "I know they love it there too much, and it'd be rude for me to take them away, so I'm gonna have to go with the air. Quite possibly the tastiest air I've ever inhaled," he joked. "I'm surprised it hasn't already been bottled up, Spaceballs-style."

He joined Marvel after the original Red Skull quit

As it turns out, one of Marquand's biggest roles to date wasn't originally supposed to be his. When The Walking Dead star showed up on the big screen in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War in full Red Skull gear, he not only surprised his TV fans, but all Marvel Universe devotees too. That's because when the character last appeared as the villain in 2011's Captain America, he was portrayed by famed Matrix actor Hugo Weaving.

As Vulture discovered in April 2018, the change shouldn't have been a total shocker, as Weaving's feelings about the Marvel Cinematic Universe seemed to diminish over time. However, even right after Weaving's first and only stint behind the demonic red makeup, he didn't seem all that thrilled with the role. Speaking with Collider in 2012, Weaving said he wasn't interested in reprising his Red Skull role, despite having signed a multi-film deal. "[I]t's not something I would want to do again," he said. "I did sign up for a number of pictures and I suppose, contractually, I would be obliged to, if they forced me to, but they wouldn't want to force someone to do it, if they didn't want to."

Turns out he wasn't bluffing, which worked out well for Marquand who, despite not having any major movie credits to his name, was plucked to don Weaving's full Red Skull gear.

You've likely watched him fight zombies

If you've been keeping up with AMC's The Walking Dead and have tuned into the show since 2015, you'll surely know of Marquand's character Aaron, the show's first gay male character who entered the series seemingly out of the blue. It was the tenth episode of Season 5 and Aaron's debut caused major buzz among fans. His origins, motivation, and alliances were instantly questioned and, as AMC's very own blog noted, Aaron's "arrival was a big deal among fans" and "the subject of intense discussion" — something Marquand himself could hardly believe.

"It's wonderful and it's strange, too, because I've been a fan of the show since the beginning," the actor told AMC, admitting, "To go from mainlining Season 4 two weeks before I got cast to actually being on the show is bewildering in the best way."

Bewildering, and stressful. "I was freaking out!" he said of snagging the role. "It's one of my favorite shows and I want to do it justice, but I also have a great deal of professional regard for the actors on the show. I wanted to make sure I was doing my part to help facilitate the story and that I'm adding to something big."

Medical studies were his cash cow for a while

Before striking it big playing Aaron and Red Skull, Marquand was just another struggling actor searching for his big break. And, like with most budding talent in Hollywood, he had to take on side gigs to make ends meet.

After graduating as a theater major from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2004, he packed up his bags and ventured out to Los Angeles where, as he told 5280 Magazine in 2016, his first few years "mostly consisted of doing survival jobs. Cater-waitering. Medical studies. You name a terrible job, I did it. I had to limit myself to $12 a week to live on, and that wears on your spirit after a while," he confessed.

Thinking back to the various medical studies he agreed to take part in, he recalled the strangest one: "The last one I ever did was for MRSA [infections], to test the efficacy of a drug. I got so sick. It started with 20 people. At the end there were just four of us left. We were a mess."

He almost gave up acting

If the opportunity to audition for The Walking Dead had come a few weeks later, Marquand may never have snagged the role of a lifetime. That's because he almost gave up on acting completely just weeks before getting the big call.

Speaking with 5280 Magazine in 2018, Marquand made the shocking admission that he "was a month away from taking an indefinite break from acting and moving to New York City to pursue art and photography, which are other big passions of mine." That's when he got the call to meet with the show's casting director.

Interestingly enough, when sharing the same story with Daily Beast in 2015, Marquand changed some of the details, admitting to nearly moving across the country, but not to quitting acting. "It's ironic, I had actually made the decision to move out to New York around September to pursue theater, then I got the call in mid-August that I was gonna go in for The Walking Dead again," he said then.

His voice has appeared in video games

Marquand's voice is just as versatile as his looks, and he's used that talent to take on different personas in video games. Speaking with Gaming Conviction in 2017, the actor gushed about some of his most memorable gigs, calling Battlefield Hardline his favorite "because I'm a big first-person shooter." He added, "I also feel like Grand Theft Auto is one of the best immersive game [sic] where you can pretty much do whatever you want."

"Of course there is always great voice work you can do in Fantasy," he continued. "Final Fantasy is one of my favorites that I've always loved. I think that they have always had a strong emphasis on the story. That would also be one that I would look forward to doing next."

But if you think it's an easy gig, think again. "People don't realize you're often in these booths for extended periods of time and there are just spitballing you with different ideas," he said. "For [Battlefield Hardline] in particular, I probably voiced around 25 different characters over the span of 18 months. ... All of these voices would come up on the spot." He concluded, "That was when you realize just how much work goes into these video games."

Playing a gay man was a big 'responsibility' and an 'honor'

As if joining his favorite show wasn't stressful enough, being cast as the Walking Dead's first gay character placed a great weight on Marquand's shoulders. Opening up about what the role means to him, he told Daily Beast in 2015, "It's been a great deal of responsibility to do it justice with respect not only to our gay fan base, but to the viewers in general."

Recalling his first on-screen kiss with Jordan Woods-Robinson (who plays Aaron's boyfriend, Eric), Marquand revealed, "It was one of the most beautiful scenes that I've had the pleasure of shooting because it dialed into what I think the theme of the show is. This is not a show about zombies; I think it's a show about relationships and the real human connection that we have to one another. ... I hope that that's the focus of our characters, that it's not hung up so much on our sexual orientation."

Fast forward to 2018 and the actor's feelings hadn't softened any. "I'm so honored to play [Aaron]," he told Westword. "I've been approached by several LGBTQ+ adolescents and adults alike who have remarked that seeing more representation of characters like Aaron and Tara have helped them come out to their families."

He's seriously amazing at keeping secrets

Snagging a major TV or film role, especially as a new actor, is the kind of news worth shouting from the rooftops, but sometimes, contracts demand you do the exact opposite. It may sound impossible, but for Marquand, it's become second nature.

In an interview with SiriusXM's EW Morning Live radio show, Marquand revealed that when he scored his major Red Skull gig, he "didn't tell anybody [because] these NDAs on these things are no joke! I literally did not tell anybody until it was out." He kept quiet for six months, not even telling his parents or Walking Dead costar Danai Gurira who also landed a role in the Marvel flick. All because "I'm scared to God! These NDAs put the fear of God in you."

That wasn't his first time keeping such a major casting secret from his closest circle. After landing the role of Aaron on The Walking Dead, Marquand kept it under wraps for about seven months, and, as he told AMC, it wasn't easy, "especially over Christmas when all of my family asked what I've been up to," He continued, "Having such huge news, but not being able to say it was a lesson in discipline and restraint. I'm happy to say that I passed with flying colors."

His celeb impressions are out of this world

Given that Marquand began his acting career by "focusing primarily on voiceover work," as he told Daily Beast back in 2015, it's no surprise that he has a serious knack for impressions. Initially making a living from voice-matching work, Marquand was also "a hired gun for different animated shows" before making it big on the small screen. In fact, he "had just come off Phineas and Ferb, the Star Wars special where [he] played Han Solo" before landing Walking Dead.

But his voice-acting talents aren't limited to the realm of animation, as Marquand has proven during some real-life performances that have all gone viral. For starters, there's this particularly memorable segment on Jimmy Kimmel Live (above), which showcased his dead-on impressions of Matthew McConaughey, Gary Busey, Matt Damon, and Justin Timberlake. Marquand once again channeled some of those celebs and more a few years later for Windy City LIVE, absolutely nailing bits like "Kevin Spacey trying to cancel his cable" and "Liam Neeson explaining that Chicagoans don't put ketchup on hot dogs." 

And it all started because of his siblings. Revealing what first inspired him to try impersonating others, Marquand told 5280 Magazine that it was "a defense against my brothers. They used to beat the crap out of me when I was a kid. If I could make them laugh, they'd ease up on me."

You may have glimpsed him on 'Mad Men'

It was by no means a big role, but fans of Mad Men will likely remember glimpsing Marquand on their favorite show back in 2013 in the fifth episode of the sixth season, which was titled "The Flood". The Colorado native enjoyed yet another career highlight when he got cast as iconic actor Paul Newman. In the episode, which takes place on the evening of April 4, 1968, the cast receives news that Martin Luther King Jr. has been shot and killed while they're attending the Fourth Annual Andy Awards in a glamorous grand ballroom, AdAge recaps.

Marquand's appearance may have been short, but it came in one of the season's biggest episodes. Newman is actually on stage, giving a speech about politics in which he endorses Gene McCarthy's run for president, when the shocking news is shared. Following several lines of dialogue from Newman, there's applause and then, a man stands up and shouts, 'Do you know, Mr. Newman, sir, that Martin Luther King is dead, sir? What have you to say?'" Chaos ensues and Marquand's role as Newman comes to an end in a flurry.

His 'Walking Dead' costar put him on stage

Marquand and Walking Dead costar Danai Gurira just can't stop working together! Not only have they also appeared in Avengers: Infinity War together, but as AMC learned in 2015, the pair got along so well on the small screen that they collaborated on the theater stage.

When Gurira penned a play called Familiar, she cast her TV friend to help bring it to life on stage at the Yale Repertory Theatre. "I just love Danai's brain," Marquand gushed when asked about tackling the play. "She writes the most beautiful, human plays and it's been a real thrill getting to work with her as a writer. It's so interesting to see how she formulates ideas and writes from an actor's perspective."

As for how the collaboration came to be, it all started with their shared love of theater. "We were talking one day about her play, so she was like, 'I'd love to get your notes on what I wrote and see what you think,'" he recalled while speaking with Daily Beast. "Afterwards, we were talking more about it and I was like, 'I really love this play, I really like this character Chris.' She said, 'Well, I was hoping you'd say that, I really want you to audition for it.' So it was fantastic and it all worked out great."