Sunday night’s “The Walking Dead” mid-season finale produced a number of shocks, including one involving Scott Wilson’s Hershel Greene.
(SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the episode yet, bookmark this story and come back after you watch.)
Plenty of fans were brought to tears watching The Governor (David Morrissey) making Hershel the first – and most brutal – casualty of his attempted prison takeover. Hershel’s death on the show (and with Michonne’s weapon!) broke hearts as fans watched him get cut down in front of his daughters.
Hershel had been the moral center of the show. Through his words of wisdom, delivered so eloquently, Scott’s character provided warmth and comfort in “The Walking Dead” world. He served as an unwavering reminder to Rick, Glenn, Maggie and the rest of the gang that the human spirit can always triumph, even in the darkest of times.
On Monday, Scott discussed his exit with AccessHollywood.com.
AccessHollywood.com: That ending really hurt! There were people in our office crying. What have you heard from the fans?
Scott Wilson: Some people have reported to me what they see on the social media, but I don’t really do any of that, so I’m not really exposed to it. I understand that it’s considerable. There’s a lot of strong reaction out there. Friends of mine [are] calling saying, ‘If you need a shoulder to cry on, or bleed on, give us a call’ (laughs).
Access: Sounds like they are the ones who need the shoulder to cry on.
Scott: (Laughs) Could be.
Access: Is it true that you tried to convince them to keep Hershel alive?
Scott: Actually, I did not do that. My first season [Season 2 & 3 showrunner] Glenn Mazzara called me and told me that he was going to take me out… and I said, ‘Well, you don’t live forever.’ He said, ‘No, you don’t understand. I don’t want to take you out. I like what you’re doing.’ I said, ‘Glenn, you’ll get over it. It’s OK.’ And ultimately, to make a long story short, he didn’t take me out that season. … Instead, he took my leg off [in] the first episode of the following season. But… when I read 403, where Hershel gives the speech about, ‘What are you risking your life for… You risk your life when you go outside and you risk your life when you take a drink.’ Well, that episode I said, ‘Uh-oh. This could be dangerous,’ because Hershel was being really proactive there and usually he had been more reactive to things that were happening and responding to things that were happening. … Both things are very valid and wonderful to play, but that episode he was being proactive and the same thing in 405… so I sensed that that was a danger and at the end of that episode [showrunner] Scott Gimple called me in and told me that they were taking me out and I said, ‘Well, I think you’re making a big mistake, but it’s yours to make and I’m not going to try to talk you out of it.’ And I have to say, I would not want to be in his shoes. It’s a tough position and he handled it very well. He explained to me where he wanted to take the show and what they were going to be doing with it and you know, I could’ve maybe tried to talk him out of it, but I didn’t and I understood where [he was] coming from. … He’s a wonderful writer and I will be a fan of the show. Now I can watch it. I don’t really watch it when I was in the episodes until after the season’s over. So now I can follow the characters on a weekly basis.
Access: I’ve seen plenty of people deliver (in churches) the kind of speeches Hershel had to, to varying degrees of success. How did you always deliver those speeches with such warmth and heart and genuineness?
Scott: I think Hershel was looking for the humanity in people and that he had a deep belief that there was humanity in people, even if they were temporarily not living up to their potential and I didn’t want him to be [preaching] some specific religion or some specific approach to that humanity. So I think that it was something that I did consider while we were shooting the show and how to infuse Hershel with some kind of deep seated humanity, and hoping that it would translate and the writers were very helpful in the way they wrote those scenes. So it was an interesting undertaking because Hershel helped open up kind of a morality that goes beyond an apocalypse.
Access: At the beginning of your ride, we were at Comic-Con ahead of Season 2. We talked to Andrew Lincoln and I went back and found what he told us about you at the time. He told us, ‘[Scott’s] the kind of actor I aspire to become. He’s had an incredible career and he’s just true. Everything he says, you just go, I believe you,’ which I thought was a really nice thing to say.
Scott: Well, it is, yes.
Access: Have you grown close to Andrew over the time? He started this journey out as a huge fan of yours.
Scott: I’m a huge fan of his. That’s tit for tat. That’s right back at you. He’s just wonderful and such [an] inspiration to everyone on the set… because he is so focused and so in tune with what he’s going for with each episode. I really believe it inspires the rest of the cast and I really believe it inspires the crew. And it’s a great crew. He’s a remarkable leader and he has become a personal friend, even though he beats me at golf.
Scott: (Laughs) He shows no mercy on the golf course, but it’s fun. He and a lot of the cast members, we play golf at times back there — David Morrissey and Steven Yeun, along with some of the crew people. We spend time together when we’re not working on the set. I think that’s a good indication that it’s a close knit group.
Access: On a fun note, I don’t know if you noticed, but there were a lot of people that took great joy in Hershel growing a ponytail. Were there any kind of weird things that fans latched on to that you heard about over your seasons on the show, that you thought, ‘Well that’s odd, but kind of fun.’
Scott: I’ve never had the recognition on the streets and airports and restaurants and grocery stores that I have had with this show and I’ve been in some wonderful films and worked with some wonderful actors, some great actors and directors. Of course I’ve got a lot of comments about the leg. ‘Ah! You have a leg.’ ‘Well, I’m part lizard or something.’ (Laughs) But, the ponytail, at the end of my first season — Season 2 — I said, ‘I’m not going to cut my hair until next season sets up.’ So I started letting my hair grow and at a certain point I said, ‘I’ll let the beard grow too,’ not knowing if there was going to be a time lapse where that would make it apply or not, but I was thinking I can always cut it off. I can always cut the hair and the beard if there is no time lapse… if not, then maybe it will show a passage of time that will work to the benefit of the show and of Hershel and I think maybe it did help. Everyone saw it and they said, ‘Keep it!’ They loved the idea and I think it sold how long they’ve been on the road. And along with Lori’s pregnancy, I think those two things, as much as anything, showed the passage of time… And, of course, Carl’s growing a little bit, or a lot. … He’s turned into quite the young man.
Access: Are you going to keep the beard and did you like having the ponytail? Do you still have it? I haven’t seen the back of your head, recently.
Scott: It’s not a pretty sight, really (laughs). I do still have the ponytail and the beard and there was something else that I did recently that I had to have the beard and ponytail, so they let me do it with this, so I will be keeping it, I guess, for a little while, until we see how this other thing shakes out.
“The Walking Dead” returns to AMC on February 9, 2014
-- Jolie Lash