'The Walking Dead' Flashback: 26 Stars Share Crazy Audition Tales and Early Fears

Andrew Lincoln (Rick)
Courtesy of AMC

I remember pacing around my hotel since I was flying in from England and had terrible jetlag before going to have a screen test with Frank Darabont. I felt like a lab rat, I was completely over obsessing about it. We were throwing ourselves off a cliff with this thing, holding hands and hoping the parachute would open. Jon Bernthal (Shane) had already been cast. I remember doing the big car scene with him and thinking, "That was a really great take and one of them, we really clicked." I kept hearing this noise and I thought it was the car engine. We looked around and realized that one of Jon's dogs had fallen asleep and was snoring in the middle of my take. I thought, "I'm never going to get this job." … AMC offered the part to me soon after I touched down back in England. I remember meeting Sarah Wayne Callies the day before we started filming and she looked at me and said, "Don't f— this one up!" She was cast after me. Lennie James (Morgan) was cast before anybody else. It was a very shrewd move. They'd been trying to find Rick for a long time and I was just about to film a movie in England but had to pull out because my son was born a bit early and when my daughter was born, I made a vow not to do that ever again. Then I had to fly out to L.A. for a screen test for The Walking Dead. I got a friend to replace me in this movie and the next day, this script came through from AMC. I must have been on their radar with Frank and he wanted me to test. It was incredible.

AMC on Sunday will hope to catch lighting in a bottle a second time as it launches Fear the Walking Dead, a companion series to ratings juggernaut The Walking Dead.

With the launch of the new series — set at the dawn of the zombie outbreak — The Hollywood Reporter caught up with the cast of the flagship series — past and present — to look back on their early days auditioning for the show that at the time, many didn't think would ever work.

Who was the first person cast? (It wasn't leading man Andrew Lincoln!) Laurie Holden — who went on to play Andrea — auditioned to play … Lori Grimes?! Fan favorite Norman Reedus read to play the other Dixon brother, Merle, even though Michael Rooker had already been cast. Which cast member submitted an audition tape with her kid sister reading the part of her love interest? had laundry in the background of her audition tape? Which star nearly missed out on a role because network executives thought he was too recognizable? Who landed their role because of Robert Kirkman's love for The Wire? Who nearly blew their audition? Which actress thought without a doubt that she'd be the first cast member killed off? Which cast members did former showrunner Frank Darabont — who developed Kirkman's comics for TV — recruit sight unseen? Which cast member auditioned for the role of bad-ass Michonne but wound up with a brand new role instead?

Now, as Fear the Walking Dead stars Kim Dickens (Sons of Anarchy), Cliff Curtis (Gang Related), Frank Dillane (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) and Alycia Debnam-Carey (The 100) start their journey, THR caught up with 26 of The Walking Dead cast members (past and present including Lincoln, Melissa McBride, Norman Reedus, Jeff DeMunn and Laurie Holden) to take a look back at their early days on the zombie drama that nobody thought would work.

[Editor's note: Michael Rooker, Seth Gilliam and Chandler Riggs declined to participate or did not respond to multiple requests to be included. We will include them should that change. Updated now to include Jon Bernthal.]

Click here to read the cast's audition tales.

Fear the Walking Dead premieres Sunday at 9 p.m.; The Walking Dead returns with its sixth season Oct. 11 at 9 p.m., both on AMC.