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Who knew that a long-running show following a group of people trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world littered with hordes of the decomposing zombies would have so much drama. Well, the hit AMC series The Walking Dead has drama and then some, especially when you consider the lengths the show's producers went through to get the series off the ground and all of the other fascinating behind the scenes facts from the show that just wrapped up an abbreviated 10th season.
The Walking Dead has given audiences enough thrills and chills to fill up an abandoned prison with all of the castmembers — and producers — that have been killed off since the show premiered on AMC on Halloween night in 2010. And while some of this stuff might be known by the die hard deadheads (I don't know if that's official or not), there may be some of you out there who will be reading about a lot of this for the first time. So, without wasting any more time, let's get this ball rolling.
Frank Darabont Pitched The Idea To NBC, But The Network Wanted It To Be A Zombie Crime Procedural
This is probably hard to believe, but when former showrunner Frank Darabont first sought out to make a TV adaptation of Robert Kirkman's comic series The Walking Dead, he didn't get a whole lot of biters, at least not with the idea of a group of survivors in the middle of a zombie outbreak. One network in particular had some pretty offbeat ideas for the show, with one of them being something that actually sounds fun in a sad way.
Sitting down with Variety ahead of the Season 7 premiere in 2016, producer Gale Anne Hurd revealed that when Darabont presented the first script to the Peacock network, NBC executive's first response was:
Do there have to be zombies [in it]?
Gale Anne Hurd went on to add that NBC then asked the former showrunner if there was a way to turn the show into a procedural that followed two protagonists solving "a zombie crime of the week."
When Pitching The Series To HBO, Frank Darabont Wanted Thomas Jane To Play Rick Grimes
Before The Walking Dead, Andrew Lincoln was mostly known for his dramatic sweater zip-up in the 2003 romantic comedy Love Actually, and that may very well still be the case if Frank Darabont had gotten his way when he first pitched the show to HBO. According to Uproxx, the early version of the show that Frank Darabont presented to HBO had Thomas Jane as the series lead Rick Grimes. Remember, this was around the time Darabont and Jane worked together on the 2007 Stephen King adaptation The Mist.
The network eventually passed on the idea which opened the door the AMC to take the show, but by the time things got rolling again, the star of The Punisher had already committed an HBO series of his own, Hung.
Norman Reedus Initially Had A Chip On His Shoulder But Used It To Fuel His Character
Unlike most of the characters in the original cast of The Walking Dead, Norman Reedus' character of Daryl Dixon never appeared in Robert Kirkman's comic series. On top of that, Reedus didn't appear on the AMC series until later than the rest of the central cast, which made things a little awkward for the future star of the show.
Sitting down with Sam Jones on The Off Camera Show, Norman Reedus explained that he took his fear and nervousness of joining the cast that had been working together in pre-production for nearly a year before he came on, stating:
I assumed I would be there a few episodes, maybe an episode or two. I came in and I say these lines, and I was feeling a little nervous about it and I turn around and the whole cast — there's 15 people looking at me like 'what are you gonna to do' and judging me and I immediately got a little chip on my shoulder and felt like 'oh god, they hate me,' and I started talking out of the side of my eyes. I was talking and I didn't really connect like 'you hate me, I hate you too,' and that's how I found that character.
Frank Darabont Was Canned Just Days After Promoting The Series At Comic-Con In 2011
It seems like it was just yesterday that Frank Darabont was fired as showrunner of The Walking Dead, but it has been nine years since AMC decided to cut ties with the person responsible for getting the show off the ground in the first place. And with multiple court cases (more on those later) regarding the firing still ongoing nearly a decade after the fact, the issue has remained just as messy as it was back in the summer of 2011.
Around the time of Frank Darabon'ts departure from the series, The Hollywood Reporter published a story detailing the series of events that ultimately led to AMC taking a different direction with show partway through production of its second season. To make matters worse, the publication also reported that Darabont and several members of the cast and crew were at the annual San Diego Comic-Com promoting The Walking Dead just three days before he was let go.
The Former Showrunner Has Filed Not One, But Two Lawsuits Against AMC
The bad blood between Frank Darabont and AMC didn't miraculously stop after the former showrunner was removed from The Walking Dead. In fact, it's only gotten worse over the course of the past nine years, thanks in part to disagreements over money Darabont claims he is owed, which ultimately resulted in a pair of lawsuits.
The first of these lawsuits, which amounts to $280 million, came about from money Frank Darabont and other members of the crew were supposed to receive as part of AMC's profit participation program that would have netted the acclaimed filmmaker 12.5 percent of the profits with his agency CAA receiving 7.5 percent. When Darabont filed the suit back in 2013, the former showrunner had yet to receive a dime from the program, even though The Walking Dead was one of the hottest shows on television at the time.
The second lawsuit, filed in 2018, was the direct result of the initial lawsuit after an audit into AMC's finances led Frank Darabont and his legal team to believe the network was hiding even more money. The cases were supposed to go to trial in May 2020, but with the Coronavirus pandemic forcing courthouses around the country to shut down, the matter has been pushed back to November 2020, according to Deadline.
Jeffrey DeMunn Asked For His Character To Be Killed Off
It isn't every day that an actor on one of the most popular shows asked to have his character killed off prematurely, but that's exactly what Jeffrey DeMunn, who played Dale on the first two seasons of The Walking Dead, did in light of Frank Darabont's dismissal in 2011. Sitting down with Cleveland.com in 2018, the veteran actor and longtime Darabont collaborator (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist) had this to say about his character's early departure:
Dale's death was my decision. I was furious about how Frank (Darabont) was pushed out of the show. I spent a week not being able to take a full breath. And then I realized, 'Oh, I can quit.' So I called them and said, 'It's a zombie show. Kill me. I don't want to do this anymore.' It was an immense relief to me.
The decision to have Dale killed in such a violent way and so early in the story shocked fans of the series and the comic on which it was based due to the fact that the character hadn't yet died at that point in the source material.
Chandler Riggs' Father Was Not Please About His Son's Early Departure From The Show
Carl Grimes is and was a major part of The Walking Dead comic and television adaptation, so fans were surprised when the character was killed off in Season 8. None were more surprised than Chandler Riggs' dad, William Riggs, who took to Facebook in February 2019 to call out former showrunner Scott Gimple for reportedly misleading his son into thinking that he would be fine with the young actor attending UGA for college and that he would be on the show for at least another three seasons before the following happened:
It was the middle of June, his 18th birthday was coming up in a couple of weeks, 5 episodes were filmed, and they asked for my wife and I to both be at a meeting with Chandler- which was a little odd. It made me nervous but he and his manager assured me it was to plan for filming schedule, etc. Scott Gimple was the only one there and he told us that Carl would be gone in a few episodes. Chandler was absolutely devastated. I was disappointed Scott had been dishonest with a 17 year old making life decisions and waited to tell us.
The Show's Producers Took Extraordinary Steps To Prevent Leaks Revealing Negan's Victims
One of the most intense scenes in all of The Walking Dead was the Season 6 finale cliffhanger that ended with 11 cast members lined up waiting for Negan to pick his latest victim. Though fans saw the charismatic villain take a swing, no one really knew whose head would make contact with Lucille, Negan's barbed-wired baseball bat. And neither did anyone else.
Leading up to the Season 7 premiere in 2016 (the one where Glenn Rhee met his fate), The Hollywood Reporter ran an article revealing that all 11 members of the cast featured in the Season 6 finale filmed a death scene with the actual victim not being revealed until the season premiere. This was done so that the production could avoid spoilers from leaking ahead of the big reveal. And considering how gruesome and disturbing that scene ended up being, letting the anticipation build up made it much more nerve-racking.
Following The Season 7 Premiere, A Fan Of The Series Took Out An Obituary For Glenn Rhee In An Alabama Newspaper
To say that audiences were shocked and unnerved by the death of fan-favorite Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) would be an understatement of epic proportions. Even people who had never watched the show before were talking about the Season 7 premiere, and for good reason. One fan, however, took things to another level when they put an obituary in a Batesville, Alabama, newspaper shortly after the episode aired.
Don't believe me? Here's the obit in all its glory:
Production On Season 8 Was Temporarily Halted Following The Death Of A Stuntman
For a show with a scale as large as The Walking Dead, there are times when you need highly trained stunt performers to stand in and carry out aspects of the roles that might be too much for the actors. And while these type of stunts don't commonly end in injury or tragedy, there are exceptions like the case of John Bernecker, a stuntman who died after taking a fall during the shooting of Season 8.
According to a 2017 report from Deadline, AMC temporarily halted production of The Waking Dead after John Bernecker fell from a 25-foot balcony. Bernecker had appeared in 90 movie and television productions throughout his career, including Black Panther, The Fate Of The Furious, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2.
John Bernecker's family later filed a wrongful death suit against AMC for allegedly maintaining an unsafe set, but a jury later found the network "not to be negligent," though his estate was awarded $8.6 million in civil damages.
Those are just some of the interesting and dramatic facts from the hit AMC zombie series The Walking Dead. If you're like the hordes of rotting ghouls and want to sink your teeth into more knowledge about the drama series, check out this article on what many of the former castmembers are up to now here on CinemaBlend.