7:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Walking Dead's' Andrew J. West Wanted Gareth to "Ride Off Into the Sunset"
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 503, "Four Walls and a Roof," of AMC's The Walking Dead and the comics series it is based on.]
Rick Grimes made good on a major promise during Sunday's The Walking Dead.
During the third episode of season five, the zombie drama based on Robert Kirkman's comic series, made quick work of one of the show's most disturbing new threats.
After kidnapping Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), cutting off his leg and eating it, the story of the so-called Hunters — and Bob — came to a shocking end. Bob revealed to Gareth (Andrew J. West) and his goons that he's "tainted meat" and had been bitten when he was pulled underwater by a zombie at the food bank, mirroring a major arc from the comic series. Gareth winds up returning Bob to the church group, where he's forced to say a proper farewell to girlfriend Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), who with Rick vows to exact revenge on the cannibals. It all leads to a brutal confrontation inside Father Gabriel's (Seth Gilliam) church that concludes with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) killing Gareth with a machete — a vow he made when he was inches from death at Terminus.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with West to discuss Gareth's early exit, filming the death scene and whether this is the last viewers will see of the good guy turned cannibal.
That was fast! Were you surprised how quickly Gareth was killed off?
It's pretty shocking! There were a bunch of surprises. It was a one-episode deal with their option to bring me back for season five. I got a call from showrunner Scott M. Gimple, saying, "We'd love to have you back, but just so you know, Gareth will be killed in episode three." As disappointing as it is for actors to find out their characters will be killed, I simultaneously found out I was coming back to the show at all. It offset any disappointment. I love the way it all went down.
Is this the last we'll see of Gareth, or might he appear in flashbacks?
That's the interesting thing about the show. We've seen familiar faces that have perished pop up down the line. We saw Hershel (Scott Wilson) in flashbacks; Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) makes appearances in hallucinations — so you never know. Rick does a pretty good job with Gareth in this episode. I don't see anybody getting up from something like that, but you never know when a character might pop up down the line.
Is this the end of the Hunters story, or could there be more still left at Terminus?
I don't know. I wouldn't put anything past the writers. They know how to construct a world in an interesting way and show all facets of that world gradually through various processes and revelations. I think anything's a possibility.
The story of how Terminus was overtaken still hasn't been told. Will there be more of that? Are you disappointed the audience didn't get to see Gareth's backstory?
I am personally, but I'm biased. I am extremely attached to this character. I would have loved to have seen episodes upon episodes upon seasons of seasons of backstory on this character. I've grown to love this character, as crazy as that sounds. I hope that for as horrendous and vile as Gareth can be in certain moments that there is a little bit of confusion on the part of the viewers in terms of how to feel about him. I hope there are some conflicting feelings about how much they despise or dislike this character. I would have loved to have seen more of Gareth's backstory and to see him ride off into the sunset.
Rick made good on fulfilling his promise to kill Gareth. What was filming that scene like?
It was an intense, brutal scene because it's the climax of these first few episodes. It's a brutal scene. To be knelt before Andy Lincoln like he was before me in the premiere was an interesting reversal of roles, and it's scary to be in that position. And I'm not talking about Gareth. I'm talking about me to play that scene because he's in it, I'm in it, everyone is very much involved in what's going on. It was brutal and bloody. That part of it was fun; there's special effects guys just spraying blood all over the place. They had to get shots of Andy actually hitting me with the machete because they didn't know exactly how they'd cut it together. So they wrapped me up with padding around my torso, and they gave Andy a rubber machete and just had him beat me with that thing. It doesn't hurt at all because I got the padding and it's rubber, but you feel that pressure, and you feel how intensely he's swinging. It creates a pretty remarkable atmosphere. It's scary.
Did you have one of The Walking Dead's now infamous "Death Dinners" with Lawrence?
We did a cast dinner, and Scott certainly had some nice words to say. I had a nice send-off. Everybody was there, and since it was an episode where both of us go out, we were both there. But Lawrence is obviously the much more well-established character on the show, and that's a much bigger moment in the show, at least from my perspective. He's been around for a long time. He's one of the good guys, so that was the focus for me.
Do you think Gareth got what he deserved?
I think Gareth needed to go. As much as I would have liked to see this guy last forever, in this world, he's got to go. Does he deserve to go out like that? I don't know. That is something that will be explored down the line. It's going to be interesting to see what kind of effect Gareth and the Terminus people have on the psyche of our heroes moving forward. With Gareth, it's implied that he was probably a decent and normal guy that horrific things happened to, and he changed into something terrifying.
What's interesting going forward is to see how Rick and the rest of his people maintain their humanity after seeing horror upon horror. Gareth and the Termites are the latest expression of that horror; this is a new thing for them. They've lost many members of the group, but they never had a member of the group kidnapped, had his leg chopped off and eaten in front of him. That has to take a toll. It has to change the way you think about what people are capable of. It's a mirror image. We see what happens to Gareth. What will happen to Rick and the rest of his people after they experience something like this? What Gareth does to Bob is depravity on a different level. It's reasoned depravity to some regard, but it's not for the sake of chaos necessarily. It'll be interesting to see what effect that has.
What's next for you?
We filmed this movie called Walter in 2013. I play this unassuming and awkward guy named Walter, who works in movie theater and believes he's the son of God, and it's up to him to decide the eternal fate of everyone who comes in contact with him. It's a great cast with William H. Macy, Justin Kirk and Jim Gaffigan. It comes out in the spring. Walter could not be farther away from Gareth; they're polar opposites. We shot Walter before The Walking Dead, so it's nice to have that juxtaposition of characters so close to each other.
Do you think Gareth got what he deserved? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. See what exec producer Greg Nicotero had to say about the episode in our interview here, and check out our Q&A with Martin-Green (Sasha) here.