When Lawrence Gilliard Jr.’s Bob Stookey made his debut on “The Walking Dead,” he was looked at through the suspicious glares of many fans.
Reaching for – and putting back – a bottle of wine in the Big Spot in the Season 4 premiere, Bob (accidentally) helped launch a chain of events that resulted in a walker rainstorm on our heroes, and the death of Beth Greene’s boyfriend. And then, there were things going on at the prison — rats being left at the gates to attract walkers, and the (at first, unsolved) deaths of Karen and David – that had many viewers eyeing Bob up. And he didn’t instill much confidence in folks either when he was so focused on bringing a bottle of spirits back to the prison during the veterinary school run that Daryl Dixon had to threaten Mr. Stookey with physical harm.
But, Bob’s experiences with a grieving Tyreese, flu patients and Sasha, and, surviving the attack on the prison changed things for the former loner, and Lawrence’s character became both hopeful and inspiring. Like Beth did for Daryl, Bob helped Sasha believe in hope again, and that they might find their friends at Terminus, where the tracks meet up.
In a new interview with AccessHollywood.com, Lawrence broke down Bob’s “TWD” turning points, revealed what he was really drinking from the green bottle, and scared us a little with his hints at the final episodes on the way in Season 4.
AccessHollywood.com: We got a little backstory on Bob in ‘Alone.’ How excited were you that that finally happened on the show?
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: It was great. When I read it, I was really excited and happy about it. I kind of knew it was coming because when I first got that, had my first meeting with [Showrunner] Scott Gimple and [Executive Producer] Greg Nicotero, they told me there [were] some things planned for Bob, so I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know when.
Access: Do you think there’s more to tell of his backstory, perhaps his life before the apocalypse or in one of his previous groups?
Lawrence: I hope so. I don’t know how they’d tie it in and I don’t know what’s to come, but it would be interesting to find out… personally, because, as an actor, we create all the backstory and I haven’t read the graphic novel yet. I was promised a copy of the novel from Scott Gimple and [Robert] Kirkman. They haven’t provided them yet, so I’m still holding out (laughs). I haven’t read them yet, so I’m still waiting to see what’s going to happen.
Access: What was in the green bottle that you were drinking in [Episode 413, ‘Alone’]?
Lawrence: (Laughs) The NyQuil bottle? It was water with food coloring, that’s what it really was. But it looked good. I had to drink three bottles of it, so it wasn’t pleasant.
Access: So you ended up staining your tongue green?
Lawrence: I totally did. Luckily, that was the last shot we did that day… so then, I just spent the next half-hour in the bathroom. But it was good.
Access: What do you think changed Bob into the sunny optimist of the episode?
Lawrence: I think the biggest part of it was he came out of Episode 8 and he was not the last one standing. I think Bob’s story is a metaphysical story. It’s about, you know, you manifest what you believe. He believed that things would go wrong when he was with his other two groups, that things would be bad, that things would be negative. And they were. And with this group, I think he saw something in this group, that even though he thought that it was gonna turn out the same, I think Bob ultimately has a good heart and he didn’t want that to happen. And it didn’t. He ended up – especially with Sasha… he started to build a connection with Sasha, so he didn’t want to be the last one standing and he wasn’t.
Access: So Sasha… clearly there is a connection between the two of them. Would you like to see it get more romantic, so it’s not just Maggie and Glenn getting all the love on the show?
Lawrence: (Laughs) Well, you know, I don’t know. People are telling me once two people hook up, then that’s certain disaster — outside of Maggie and Glenn, when people hook up, then something’s gonna happen. So… I don’t know. I think it’s very clever of Scott Gimple to write this character who has suffered. He’s suffered, but he’s… learning how to get beyond it and then he’s finding love on the other end of it. I think that speaks to a lot of people and I think that’s important and I applaud [Scott] for taking a chance on that storyline — that there is hope, that you can overcome things that hold you back, get you down, your addictions. You can overcome your addictions and find love on the other end. And a lot of it has to do with not only finding someone else to love, but loving yourself. That’s the big part of overcoming addiction is learning to love yourself.
Access: How influential do you think Daryl’s threat to Bob (during the med run at the veterinary hospital) was — about not drinking before they got people the medicine? Was it a wakeup call for him?
Lawrence: Absolutely. Whenever someone calls you on your addiction or on something you’re about to do because of your addiction — and especially when you’re trying to help people and help others and you’re under the influence of any kind of addiction — it makes you think. And like I said, I like to think that Bob ultimately has a good heart. It’s crazy because you hear people — people still don’t believe in Bob. They believe that something’s up with him (laughs).
Access: That he was the one killing the rats.
Lawrence: Killing the rats, and in the beginning they thought he was the one who may have killed Karen and the other cat. I think Bob, in the beginning, was the clever device, very cleverly used by Scott Gimple and the writers to create another threat for our team in the beginning of the season. But it looks like it’s turning out that Bob is the guy who, like [them] is trying to survive, searching for family, looking for some stability, some kind of — just looking for a family, looking for some kind of protection in this apocalypse.
Access: We’ve only got a few more episodes left this season. How intense is it going to get?
Lawrence: All I’m gonna say is there’s some stuff that’s gonna happen that is just soooo out! You can’t even imagine until you see it (laughs). It’s really exciting. I’m excited to hear what the comments are gonna be after these moments play out and I’m excited for all ‘The Walking Dead’ fans who are gonna get to experience it and enjoy these next couple episodes.
Access: When you say it’s ‘out,’ do you mean it’s gets crazier?
Lawrence: Yes, I mean crazier. I mean, crazy, yeah.
Access: So we should hold on and…
Lawrence: It’s kind of like, do you remember the mid-season [finale] where Hershel gets his head chopped off by The Governor? … I knew it was happening and I was still sitting in front of my television with my mouth open. ‘What!’ (laughs) So, that same — that’s what you’re gonna experience at certain points in these next episodes.
“The Walking Dead” airs Sunday at 9 PM ET/PT on AMC.
-- Jolie Lash