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Michael Cudlitz joining 'The Walking Dead' in a VIP role from the comics

Fresh off a pretty decent fourth season premiere, The Walking Dead already has another surprise in store for later this season. That means quit reading right now if you don't want a minor plot point spoiled (we kept it out of the headline for you).

Southland's Michael Cudlitz is going to join the show later this year as Sgt. Abraham Ford, according to In the comic, the army veteran becaomes one of Rick Grimes' most trusted associates, pretty much taking on the role that Norman Reedus seems to now have in the TV incarnation.

TVLine says Cudlitz, whom you may also remember as Denver "Bull" Randleman from Band of Brothers, has been shooting in Georgia for weeks now, and has been in hiding to avoid spoiling the very spoiler we just spoiled. He's picked a good season for it, too, because Sunday's premiere pulled in 16.1 million viewers, AMC says, 10.4 million of which were the coveted 18-49 demo, topping Sunday Night Football.

"I was laying low because (Abraham has) a very iconic look," Cudlitz said. "It would be very easy for somebody to put the pieces together if they saw me strolling around. So I was staying very close to the hotel. And I didn't hang out with any of the other castmembers."

Since Southland was shut down, Cudlitz is hoping this ends up being a recurring role, but the timing and duration of Ford's appearance is still a secret. "Abraham is someone who comes with a lot of emotional baggage. And he's on a mission," Cudlitz said. "There's no guarantee of how long or how short it will be, which is one of the things I actually find pretty exciting about the job after being locked into Southland for so many years. But (Abraham) is very important in the comic, so I imagine even if it IS short, it'll be bright."

Deadline Hollywood adds that Retired at 35's Josh McDermitt will play Ford's pal Dr. Eugene Porter, who in the comics says he knows how the outbreak started. Seems like that would have been gone information to have four years ago.