Warning: There are spoilers about “The Walking Dead’s” Season 4 midseason finale in this article.
Viewers are still recovering from the heartbreaking events of “The Walking Dead’s” Season 4 midseason finale “Too Far Gone,” and so is actor Scott Wilson. His character Hershel was killed by the Governor after a fantastic two-and-a-half season arc, and it’s been a death that has been hard for viewers to come to terms with.
The morning after the midseason finale aired, Zap2it had a lengthy phone conversation with Wilson about Hershel’s death, the legacy the character left behind and what could have been if Hershel had returned to his farm once more. To fans, he says, “I can only thank them for responding to Hershel and to the show, and for them kind of adopting Hershel.”
Zap2it: I know your mom and your sister both watch the show, but I was just curious what the responses you’ve gotten from people so far have been?
Scott Wilson: I don’t really social media, so I don’t have a huge grasp of it, but people that I know that do that say that there’s a huge reaction to it. They’re all mourning Hershel, I guess. Some of my friends have called and commiserated with me. One of my friends said, “Well, you got a new leg. Is it too far to ask can you get a new head?” [laughs]
Hershel has been a character that the producers and writers have considered killing off since Season 2. How was it presented to you that this was the time that he was going to actually die?
I mean, I think there’s a little pre-story for that. I know when I read [episode] 4.03 and he had that great speech about it’s what you risk [your life] for, that to me was kind of an omen. It did not bode well to make Hershel proactive. And then when I read 4.05 and he had so much to do I was like this is definitely not a good sign. [laughs] Even though it’s a great episode.
Since they did feel the need to eliminate me, I’m happy that they gave me some proactive in 4.05 and 4.03. It was really after [“Internment”] that [showrunner] Scott [Gimple] called me and explained to me that he was taking me off. I said, “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.” It’s certainly not a comfortable position for him to be in because, I guess, the nature of the show is you know that someone’s going to go, and to decide who it’s going to be is not a fun thing, I would imagine, for him to go through.
He handled it as gracefully as anyone could, and I’m trying to respond in kind and handle it as gracefully as I can, because I’ve had a lot of fun on the show for two and a half seasons, and it’s been a lot of fun.
And you finally got a prosthetic leg as well!
Yeah, that’s true. It was quite a journey for old Hershel.
Did you have a death dinner with the cast after Hershel was killed off?
Yeah, well, we had that for Hershel and David [Morrissey]. We had a joint death dinner. It was neat, having an appreciation from the rest of the cast. You bond over a period of time, and it’s an acknowledgement of their appreciation of working with you. It was touching. It’s very nice. I know I’ve been to other dinners where I wasn’t the one that they were having it for, and it’s a good thing. It was a good evening.
What legacy do you think Hershel has left on “The Walking Dead”?
I think Hershel from the beginning, right from the first episode when he was talking to Rick out on his front porch, there was a bond that was created with the two of them where they were talking about the place of people in this new world, this apocalyptic world, and that’s kind of the thread that ran throughout the two-and-a-half seasons, particularly with Hershel and Rick where they did talk about humanity and what is acceptable behavior and what is necessary to survive.
How do you bring those things together? How do you reconcile the humanity to the necessity of living? So it’s interesting. He sits there [in “Too Far Gone”] and he has a smile on his face and he’s hearing Rick talk about some of the issues that he’s been talking to him about before and he sees that Rick has adopted that train of thought, that there is a way to survive with people.
Do you think that Rick has changed the way that he and Hershel want him to, away from his darker self?
Gosh, I think from episode to episode people are presented with new challenges, and adapting to and reacting to the issues they’re confronted with. It’s an ongoing survival process of accepting what you’re doing and trying to evaluate what you’re doing. Hershel seemed to be the one that was more able to put a balance on it, to try to keep some kind of humanity in the group dynamic. But certainly now all of the characters on the show are undergoing huge changes from the beginning. All have suffered huge losses.
It’s just a very fun show to work on because of the quality of the people and the caliber of the people you’re working with, and the writers keep coming up with great stuff and the directors are great, the crew is fantastic. It’s just a very fun experience for me.
At about this point in the comics, the group ends up going back to Hershel’s farm. I don’t know if they’re going to do that on the show or not, but would that be a setting that you’d like to see the show return to in the future?
I don’t know. I know that I had quite often thought — and I don’t remember if I talked about it to anyone or not — but it was a thought that I always had that Hershel would go back to his farm at some point in time. Of course, that’s out of the question now [laughs] but I often thought that he would want to go back and see what was taking place there.
If that scene had happened, how do you think it would have played out?
Who knows. I mean, I would assume that maybe the walkers had moved on. Maybe it would have been overgrown, but maybe it would have been a viable place to be for a while until the next crisis came along.
From where the show is right now, do you think that there is hope for the characters in the story there?
I think the victories are measured victories. Love does bloom on the show, with Maggie and Glenn, and Daryl and Carol, the relationship with them. There are moments that certainly make life worth living, otherwise why would they continue to strive and struggle the way they do? There’s a baby, Judith. Life does go on under extreme circumstances, so it’s how do you deal with the quality of life that you have. To me, that was the overriding questions for the whole show, and particularly for Hershel’s involvement with it.
His first season, where he had walkers in the barn, those were his wife, his friends, his neighbors, and he was unrealistically hoping that there would be a cure at some point in time; that he could bring them back. It was brought home to him when Shane started blasting away the walker of someone that he knew and saw that it didn’t put him down; he knew he had been wrong.
Everyone in that episode had a huge loss when Sophia came out of the barn, but everyone that came out of the barn was someone close to Hershel. Everyone had their own personal emotions to deal with, and I think that’s kind of a tribute to Hershel. He fell off, he goes into the town and gets drunk, but he comes back. He was a pretty tough character.
This show keeps coming up with great episodes. I hope that they hold on to the remaining cast for a while because they’re doing great work, and the casting directors keep bringing in these wonderful actors who keep a reality to what’s going on.
Do you have a message that you would like to give to fans?
I can only thank them for responding to Hershel and to the show, and for them kind of adopting Hershel. It’s nice. Everywhere I go now, people recognize me and Hershel is who they’re recognizing. They’re expressing appreciation for what Hershel represents to them. That’s neat. That’s fun. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve been involved with some very good films, and it’s kind of nice. I just hope it isn’t the last chapter.
Would you want to do TV again after this?
Well, it depends on what it is, yeah. I think there’s some great work being done on television now. There are some great shows and wonderful writing and acting and directing. I think it’s the golden age of television right now.
“The Walking Dead” returns with the second half of Season 4 in February 2014.