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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from “Too Far Gone,” The Walking Dead‘s season-four midseason finale.]
AMC’s The Walking Dead said an emotional farewell to the show’s moral compass during Sunday’s shocking season-four midseason finale.
During “Too Far Gone,” Scott Wilson‘s Hershel Greene became The Governor’s final victim after he was taken hostage in the villain’s failed attempt to take over the prison.
After multiple attempts to convince The Governor (David Morrissey) that both his camp and Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) group could coexist at the prison, the eye-patched baddie proceeded to slash Hershel’s neck with Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) katana as his daughters Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Beth (Emily Kinney) looked on in horror.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Wilson to discuss Hershel’s brutal slaying and having to share a death dinner with the actor who killed his character. Read our postmortem interview with Morrissey here, and our chat with showrunner Scott M. Gimple here.
What were the conversations like when you learned that Hershel was being killed off?
It was something that I sensed before the conversations took place — like in episode 403, with the speech he has about the risk of being alive in that postapocalyptic world. In episode 405, when he had so much to do, I knew it wasn’t a good sign for him. After that episode, [showrunner] Scott Gimple called me in and told me that I’d be written out. It’s a tough position for him to be in because he has a genuine concern for all the actors. It was my turn. And you know that going in, that at some point you’d have that day.
I didn’t try to anticipate what would happen. Ernest Dickerson, who shot the first episode I was in, also took my leg off and ultimately got my head. (Laughs.) He’s a great director and a lot of fun to work with. I survived my first season after [then-showrunner] Glen Mazzara told me I’d be taken out and then Scott [Gimple] told me he’d be taking me out. I told Scott, “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.” I also empathize with the position he was in when he told me where he visualized the show going. I didn’t have that much to say. It was a two-and-a-half-season run that was very fun and I’m not really used to working on a character for that time frame. You start reading lines and thinking it may pay off down the road, and quite often it did.
Why do you think The Governor opted to kill Hershel instead of Michonne, with whom he has a brutal history?
Maybe he was planning to take both of them out. But once he took that action, it set off something that he lost control of pretty quick. I love the scene with the tank at the bottom of the hill, the cars and troops with artillery and Rick walking down the hill with the pistol on his hip to face all these war weapons. It was like an old Western, like High Noon, with a shootout on Main Street. David did a wonderful job; the more villainous he is, the stronger it made Hershel’s death. It’s wonderful to watch an actor do something that the audience will not respond well to, and David did a wonderful job. I’ll miss working with the actors, writers and crew who all put so much into the show.
What was your reaction when you heard how The Governor savagely decapitates Hershel?
[Exec producer and VFX guru] Greg Nicotero made a duplicate head for me, so I have my head in a closet in a trash bag. (Laughs.) If you’re going to go, you might as well go with something traumatic like that. It was fun and I have nothing to regret. I love the fact that they gave me episodes 403 and 405 with Hershel being proactive and acting on what he’d been talking to Rick about from season two: finding the place of humanity in this apocalyptic world. Ultimately, those speeches paid off. When he was looking at Rick [just before his death] and had a smile on his face, he realized that there was a chance for people because Rick was now naturally saying what they had been talking about and embracing what they talked about.
Considering his attempts to start over this season and live a peaceful life, do you think The Governor got what he deserved after killing Hershel?
Certainly it was warranted; he was a pretty vicious psychopath. He did horrendous things and didn’t blink when he was doing them. I would say that his demise is as warranted as any demise on the show from the beginning.
How do you think Hershel’s death will impact Maggie and Beth?
It will be interesting to see. I’m a fan of the show and will have to watch to see. It’s been fun for me to watch the actors growing and becoming more the characters that they’re playing. It will be fun to see how Hershel’s two daughters develop and how Glenn [Steve Yeun], his son-in-law, evolves.
What was your death dinner like with David Morrissey this time sitting at the head of the table?
It’s otherworldly in a way. It’s a death dinner but you still feel so alive. It’s a great expression by the cast for everyone. Those who are still alive have gratitude to those who came before them, and we have these [dinners] to honor them.
Will you continue to watch The Walking Dead?
Oh yeah! I’ve been a fan of the show the entire time. I didn’t watch the episodes until after the season ended but now I can watch on a weekly basis.
How did your 99-year-old mother, who is a fan of the show, like the episode?
She saw it and some of her friends were asking how it felt to see her son lose his head. She said, “That’s not my son, that’s Hershel!” Over the course of my career, she saw me hanged in In Cold Blood. Her response was the same then: “That’s not my son, it’s Richard Hickock!”
What do you have coming up next?
Right now I’m stepping back and seeing what’s out there. I did work on something a couple weeks ago that they haven’t announced yet.
What did you think of Hershel’s death? How do you think his loss will impact Rick and company? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. The Walking Dead returns Feb. 9 on AMC.
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