“The Walking Dead” wrapped up the first half of its Season 4 with several big punches this past Sunday night, but one of them hit the heart.
Saying goodbye to Hershel Greene, played for three seasons by actor Scott Wilson, didn’t just affect viewers, it was tough for those behind the scenes, like “TWD” Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd.
“We had a ‘Dead Dinner’ for Scott and it was probably one of the toughest… because there’s so much good will,” Gale told AccessHollywood.com on Monday afternoon, referring to the way the show says goodbye to their cast members. “He’s a character that everyone — both the cast and the characters that they played, as well as the fans, loved. I don’t think there’s anyone who would’ve said, ‘Oh, Hershel, so what?’”
In a new interview with AccessHollywood.com, Gale addressed Scott’s exit, saying goodbye to David Morrissey as The Governor and what fans can expect when the show returns to AMC for the second half of the season in February 2014.
AccessHollywood.com: Now that the mid-season finale has aired, what are people that you personally know, saying to you, Gale?
Gale Anne Hurd: A lot of them are incredibly sad to see Hershel go. All of us on the show are especially sad to see Hershel go and especially [the person] who brought him to life, Scott Wilson, whose just been a delight and has become a close friend. And, I think that people are saying that they were on the edge of their seat almost from the very beginning and that they cried, which I have to say, the first time that I watched Ernest, the director’s, cut of the episode, I cried. Even though I’d read the script, I knew exactly what was happening, I just got so caught up in it.
Access: Of the two big deaths, which one was the hardest? It’s got to be the Hershel one doesn’t it?
Access: I’ve talked to Scott and he said he didn’t want to go. He said he told [showrunner] Scott [Gimple] he didn’t think he should kill Hershel off.
Gale: That is what is so special about the show. I think you’ll find that there are other shows on the air where people beg to be killed. On this show, no one wants to leave and it’s such a tight knit group. It really is. We have #TWDFamily [on Twitter] — it really is. It’s a family and the good news is that once you’re part of the family, even if we kill you off on the show, you’re still very much a part of the family and we always have reunions.
Access: Scott’s delivery of all the speeches Hershel gave… I was wondering what you thought it was about Scott that [allowed him to deliver those] so beautifully?
Gale: Well, first of all, Scott’s an incredibly fine actor. I mean, going back to ‘In Cold Blood,’ which if you haven’t re-watched it, you should. It’s a fantastic film and he is fantastic in it. And he really is channeling a part of the actor Scott Wilson who is like that in real life. You know that he’s not being preachy. He really does have your best interests at heart. He’s selfless. He puts other people first and he’s never going to talk the talk without having walked the walk.
Access: Was there any discussion about how they could potentially keep Hershel? Did his leg — or lack of leg — seal his fate?
Gale: When you realize that everyone was going to be on the road, he would have not have lasted very long.
Access: So you wanted to give him a noble end?
Gale: Yes. And also, truthfully, The Governor — he could have killed Michonne, but he also knew that the greatest pain he could inflict was by killing Hershel.
Access: Why do you think Michonne didn’t kill The Governor straight out? She stabbed him and let him rot. Was that her way of inflicting a punishment?
Gale: Yeah, and at the same time, I think there’s an element of becoming a walker [that] is a fate worse than death.
Access: Why do you think Lilly shot The Governor?
Gale: Because she had trusted him and she trusted her daughter to him and she believed him when he said the prison was full of murders and terrible people and that he was doing it for them to keep them safe. And that may have been how he justified it, but it was a battle… Once he began to reassume — after killing Martinez — that mantle of The Governor, those demons were awakened in him and there was no way that he was going to be willing to share the power.
Access: Do you see any of those demons when you talk to David Morrissey about football (English soccer… Gale is a devoted Arsenal FC supporter). He told me your team beat his when I spoke to him a few weeks ago. But he said the war is not over, which is very Governor like.
Gale: Exactly. No, it’s quite funny on set, honestly, because Andy [Lincoln] is Man United and Andy didn’t tell me [he was a big soccer fan] for the first season. But, David was straight up Liverpool, right out there on the table, not holding anything back and then when Lennie James was back, that was even worse, because he’s Spurs, Arsenal’s arch rivals. But it’s been so much fun actually because I follow [David] on Twitter and he’s always Tweeting about Liverpool, and of course, I’m @GunnerGale which is a nod to Arsenal.
Access: Was it hard to tell David he was going to be killed off on the show? He knew it had to be coming at some point.
Gale: Yes, well Scott [Gimple] had the call with him and it’s one of those calls that you dread. I’m glad I don’t have to do it anymore because people are so happy to talk to me, but every time Scott calls, you wonder when you pick up the phone, is this gonna be ‘the’ call.
Access: Who have you had to deliver the news to?
Gale: Oh, it was awful, I had to call little Sophia — Madison Lintz’s mother.
Access: Is there anything you can do to make it easier on yourself?
Gale: No. There’s no way.
Access: Do you have a favorite part from Sunday night’s episode? When Hershel’s eyes lit up when Rick said, ‘You can come back,’ that was pretty wonderful.
Gale: His redeeming moment prior to his death was he’d gotten through to Rick and the other thing is, honestly, there is always hope. There is always hope. Rick came back from crazy town. Carl came back from a very dangerous road that he’d been on and yet at the same time, there is… in some of the things where you kind of had to look away, like when Carol was training the kids on knives… if Lizzie hadn’t shot [Tara’s girlfriend], Tyreese would have been killed.
Access: What was the biggest question people had about the episode?
Gale: I think the big thing was, ‘Was Judith killed?’
Access: Are there other questions people should be thinking about at this point before the show returns on February 9?
Gale: I think the other thing is, we’re very excited because our characters are now on the road and on the run and they’re going to encounter some new people on the road, including comic book favorites, Abraham, Eugene and Rosita.
Access: What kind of things do you think we’ll see when the season picks up? Is the pace going to increase because they are on the road and there’s the ever present danger of no walls around them to protect them?
Gale: This isn’t a show where it’s always pedal to the metal, except episodes like this, where it makes sense. I think if the show simply became run and gun — there are a lot of network shows that do that.
Access: How will you spend your holidays now that you get to take a break from this?
Gale: We’re still post production. We’ll be in post-production until February. And then the writer’s room starts up again in February, so it’s pretty much 12 months a year. But I am going skiing, so I’m looking forward to a snowy, wintry Christmas.
“The Walking Dead” returns February 9, 2014 on AMC.
-- Jolie Lash