The Walking Dead is a show that’s never been shy about offing its characters. From the very beginning, it was clear that anyone could bite it at any time. That turned out to be one of the biggest selling points for the program and actually helped audiences invest in it.
One of the most shocking deaths happened during the second season. Jon Bernthal’s Shane was killed in a duel of sorts with his former friend turned rival, Rick Grimes. This was so unexpected because the character of Shane was developed in such a different fashion than he was in the comics in which he originated, where he died almost immediately.
In the series, however, Shane was stretched over two seasons and morphed into an antagonist that would not only challenge Rick for control of the group of survivors, but also wanted to usurp his family (whom he did save after the initial outbreak while Rick was stuck in the hospital). Fans were invested in the character and didn’t want to see him go and as such, it was a very emotional storyline that would really set the tone for what The Walking Dead was going to be about moving forward.
Now, during a recent interview, Bernthal reflected on what it was like to have to be the first major exit from the franchise. Specifically, the famed actor stated:
I walked in to set, it was like a two-mile hike — me and Sarah Wayne Callies would always hike in, we’d always go early and walk together — and we walked in, and she said, ‘Come onto set, everybody’s waiting for you to see you. And I saw the whole set. Everybody was up at Hershel’s farm, and they were gonna burn it down, and all this crazy stuff was going on.
And I remember I couldn’t walk up there, because it was their thing now. I just sat on this rock and watched everybody, just the whole thing working. I might have shed a couple tears, because I was gonna miss them. But I just appreciated — I saw these dudes who are playing zombies, going 100 miles an hour, all this sh-t on their face, getting shot, all this hell’s breaking loose. Scott Wilson, rest in peace, just acting his ass off. I was just like, ‘Man, how cool is this?’
The Walking Dead made its name being a brutal show that doesn’t pull any punches. While there’ve been a lot of deaths throughout the franchise’s run, it’s important to remember that Bernthal was the first big victim of that mentality, and possibly the most important.