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AMC's The Walking Dead has been one of the most talked-about shows on television from almost the very beginning, and the buzz has only gotten louder in Season 7 with the dawn of the era of Negan and his trusty baseball bat Lucille. According to one Walking Dead star, however, it's not the baseball bat-wielding psychopath or the zombies that really sets the show apart. Fresh off the Eugene-centric episode "Hostiles and Calamities," actor Josh McDermitt said this about how The Walking Dead is different from a lot of other series:
Sometimes, you watch a show and you can smell the ego on some people. I don't think you get that with this show. From the very beginning, way back in season one, they all got together and were like, 'Are we going to put story first, or ourselves first?' and they made a conscious effort to make sure they were putting the story first and doing things that served it and not the individuals. That goes all the way back to Sarah Wayne Callies and Norman Reedus. Jon Bernthal isn't on the show anymore, but they laid that groundwork, that foundation, and we're still able to build upon that today, which is awesome.
The Walking Dead follows the exploits of a pretty sizable ensemble, and it really might not work as well as it does if any of the actors hogged the spotlight. All the characters have their very high and very low moments, and those moments have almost always worked in service of the story. If Sarah Wayne Callies had tried to insist on sticking around after the birth of Judith in Season 3, we never would have gotten Lori's heartbreaking death in the prison. If Jon Bernthal hadn't been willing to go where the story took him, we might never have seen Shane's downward spiral. Josh McDermitt's reveal to Vulture that The Walking Dead benefits from a lack of ego among the cast explains how the show has been able to sustain such a sizable ensemble over the years.
Of course, actors like Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus do get a lot of attention. That said, it's not like they have easy shooting schedules and always get to play the hero. Any actor concerned with his own image might have put up a fight when he got the script that demanded he strip naked and eat dog food, but Norman Reedus was on board. And who can forget that Andrew Lincoln willingly chomped on a mouthful of blood and raw chicken for the sake of a scene? I know I'd probably let myself get killed off of a TV show if it got me out of a mouthful of raw poultry.
We'll have to wait and see if the story on The Walking Dead begins to demand the lives of some of the bigger surviving characters. Although show got away with mostly killing side characters and newbies for a few years, Season 7 opened by killing off Glenn and Abraham. The question now is if those will be the only major characters to bite the dust for the foreseeable future or if they were just the beginning. I'm feeling pretty confident that all the Grimes survivors will make it to Season 8, but I'm more than a little nervous for Sasha at this point.
Tune in to AMC on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET to see what's next on The Walking Dead, and don't forget to take a peek at our midseason TV premiere schedule.