Why The Walking Dead's Jon Bernthal Wanted To Play Shane, Even Knowing His Fate

Shane holding a shotgun in The Walking Dead

With all of the chaos, violence, and all out war in The Walking Dead, it's sometimes easy to forget its humble beginnings. AMC's massively popular apocalyptic drama was originally a slow burn, with the original group in Atlanta attempting to navigate the new world. At this point, one of the biggest characters was Jon Bernthal's Shane, who served as a foil to his good buddy Rick. But his days were always numbered, as Shane is killed fairly early into Robert Kirkman's graphic novels. But it turns out that didn't bother Bernthal.

Jon Bernthal recently spoke to IGN about his role as hotheaded Shane in The Walking Dead. During this conversation, he revealed that most actors auditioned for both Shane and Rick, but Bernthal felt strongly about playing Rick's former best friend. He said,

I knew going in. During the audition process, all the men they were looking at had to audition for both Rick and Shane, and I was very clear with [then showrunner] Frank [Darabont] that I wanted to audition for Shane. That's what I wanted, and he said, 'You know he's not going to last...' and I said, 'That's the character. The guy had a built-in beginning, middle and end,' and often times you don't get that as a character. I sort of prefer that. I loved knowing that he was going to die. I loved knowing that he was going to lose his mind. I loved being able to star in it, from the absolute opposite end of the spectrum -- being the best friend possible and loving this man so much and knowing that I have to go to the place where he was going to go. I thought it was such a great opportunity and I'm super grateful to Frank Darabont for giving it to me.

Way to drop the mic, Bernthal. He makes some pretty great points here, so let's discuss.

It looks like Jon Bernthal really loved the idea of playing Shane, partly because his ultimate fate and arc were so clearly set in stone. Bernthal had the privilege to know Shane's fate from the Walking Dead comics, and used this knowledge to inform his process as an actor. All of Shane's choices lead up to his final confrontation with Rick at the end of Season 2, and knowing this is probably what helped make Bernthal's performance so captivating during his short tenure on the series.

And Shane's darkness manifested pretty quickly once Rick "came back to life". He became insanely jealous after losing Lori and Carl (plus Judith, his biological child), and became gradually more unhinged.

It's this layered and complicated portrayal of darkness that made Jon Bernthal's performance as Frank Castle/ The Punisher on Daredevil Season 2 so amazing. In fact, he was met with so much acclaim that he was gifted his own spinoff by Netflix. So while he wasn't able to battle foes like The Governor and Negan by surviving, we'll be able to see him kick ass and take names for the foreseeable future over at Netflix.

The next adventure into the MCU's Netflix adventures will be The Defenders, which Jon Bernthal will not be apart of. Be sure to check out our full summer premiere list to plan your next binge watch.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.