Not long ago, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when The Walking Dead executive producer and special effects maestro Greg Nicotero shared that T-Dog’s death in Season 3 was supposed to be a fate handed to Melissa McBride’s Carol. While he didn’t specifically say why the writers chose to save Carol for the long haul, it’s now come out that Carol’s on-set guardian angel was actress Sarah Wayne Callies, who played Lori Grimes.
Andrew Lincoln, whose fictional marriage to Callies was a complicated one to say the least, let that fact fly, saying:
It was the episode when Lori and T-Dog die. But for a few weeks it was going to be Carol and Lori. And Sarah, in her good grace and class, stepped in and said, ‘That’s a terrible mistake.’ And so she knew that she was going, but she fought for you [McBride] to stay.
That’s a pretty strong sign of solidarity, and one that didn’t really work out too well for T-Dog portrayer IronE Singleton. It worked out for viewers, though, as audiences have grown to love and respect Carol more and more as each season goes by. She totally left behind her former life as an abused wife and, though part of her still mourns her late daughter, Carol has become as much of a pragmatic survivalist as anyone else on the show. And it’s all (or at least partly) thanks to some convincing encouragement from Callies.
Maybe the creative team felt like they owed Callies one for putting her character through such a tumultuous ordeal for her final episode. She went into labor while on the run inside a prison, had to go through as unprofessional a C-section as one can get, and then died during delivery, only to later be shot by her son to stop her from reanimating as a walker. That’s some drama – almost enough drama to make actress Lauren Cohan exit stage left – and allowing her to change the fate of one survivor would be a good parting gift.
It turns out Melissa McBride wasn’t even aware of Sarah Wayne Callies stepping up to bat for her like that, according to EW. Probably a little late for a Thank You card, and McBride probably isn’t the best person to send anyone flowers, considering that time when she killed Lizzie. Maybe a singing telegram?
Carol has since been given God status by Robert Kirkman, so we likely won’t ever have to worry about it being necessary for one of her co-stars to plead for McBride to stay on the show. At least, that’s what Kirkman says, and he’s been known to pass around little white lies.
The Walking Dead will return for the remainder of Season 6, in which many bodies will fall, on Sunday, February 14, on AMC. To see when everything else is returning in the coming months, check out our midseason TV schedule.