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Jon Bernthal Sort Of Auditioned For Rick Grimes On The Walking Dead

Most actors love talking about the movies or TV shows they consider their first big break in Hollywood, and it's safe to say that for quite a few big names on the current scene, that gig came on AMC's zombie apocalypse drama "The Walking Dead." After all, when the series hit the airwaves in 2010, it fronted an ensemble cast with virtually no A-list talent. By the end of Season 1, however, "The Walking Dead" had gone from a cult hit to a legit cultural phenomenon, with many cast members becoming household names almost overnight.

That includes Jon Bernthal, who'd been chipping away at stardom on the fringes of Hollywood for nearly a decade before being cast as the series' hot-headed Sheriff's deputy Shane Walsh. Shane was, of course, a central figure in "The Walking Dead" narrative over the series' first two seasons, with Bernthal earning raves for his work in the tricky role of an anti-hero turned anti-villain. The role wasn't just a profile-raiser for Bernthal, but a legit career changer, as he was soon working with the likes of Martin Scorsese ("The Wolf of Wall Street") and fronting his own Marvel series (Netflix's "The Punisher").

Bernthal recently talked to Howard Stern about landing his role on "The Walking Dead," and admitted he passed on a sure-fire network hit to play Shane Walsh. The actor claimed he also auditioned for the series' lead Rick Grimes before being cast as Shane.

Bernthal was one of many actors who auditioned for both roles

The network drama Bernthal passed on was reportedly "NCIS: Los Angeles." As Bernthal told it on The Howard Stern Show, he passed on the gig because he felt so strongly about the script for "The Walking Dead," stating, "In my heart, I knew it was something special, and I really wanted to do it. I wanted to be Shane." Turns out the role of Shane Walsh was not the only one Bernthal read for when series creator Frank Darabont was casting "The Walking Dead." Yes, at one point he even read for Rick Grimes.

As Bernthal detailed during his "Stern Show" appearance, auditioning for Rick was mostly a formality as he was part of a crew of guys Darabont brought in to read for both the roles of Shane Walsh and Rick Grimes. "Everybody had to audition for Rick first," Bernthal notes, later adding, "The way Darabont did it, he brought in 10 guys, and everybody had to read for both roles." That no doubt included Andrew Lincoln, who was eventually cast as Rick opposite Bernthal's Shane.

If you've ever seen those two at work on "The Walking Dead," you know the roles really could not have been better cast. For his part, Bernthal remains sincerely appreciative of the life-changing gig, too, telling Stern, "It opened up so many doors. I was so grateful." More than a decade after leaving "The Walking Dead" behind, Bernthal has ensured those doors remain open by becoming one of the best-loved, if low-key, movie stars in Hollywood.