×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Sacrifices That Walking Dead Actors Had To Make

In a lot of ways, "The Walking Dead" is a hard show to be on. AMC's zombie horror drama is one of the most popular shows of all time, but that doesn't make the job easy. In pursuit of success, sacrifices have to be made. Actors have had to deal with death threats, being away from their families for long periods of time, and overzealous fans chomping down on them. Not to mention the ever-present worry that their character will be killed off and they'll have to find a new job. There's never a lot of job security for an actor, and "The Walking Dead" is one of the least secure jobs on TV.

Needless to say, the show, which is currently in the midst of its eleventh and final season, has put its cast through the wringer. Here are some of the biggest sacrifices "The Walking Dead" actors have had to make for the good of the show.

Filming Glenn and Abraham's death was hard on everybody

The Season 7 premiere of "The Walking Dead" is arguably its most notorious episode. It's the one where Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the leader of the antagonistic group the Saviors, bashes Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham's (Michael Cudlitz) brains out with his barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat, Lucille. He commits this act of savagery in an effort to break the spirits of the victims' loved ones, who are forced to kneel and watch it all happen. It's an unrelentingly bleak hour that's an endurance test for even the show's biggest fans. But as hard as it is to watch, it was even harder to film.

The actors spent a total of six nights kneeling on the ground in the woods, two nights for the Season 6 finale, and four more for the Season 7 premiere. "Just on your knees, on the gravel, pretending and believing that you're about to die," Steven Yeun told GQ about the filming experience. "It was gnarly."

But even though it was Yeun's character who got his eyeball popped out of his skull, he said Andrew Lincoln made the biggest sacrifice, because we saw the events unfold through the eyes of Rick Grimes. And he had to go through it for even longer than the rest of the cast, because much of the episode is just him and Negan. "You're asking Andrew Lincoln to basically spend ten days in a hole of despair and s—," Yeun said. "And he did it."

It was physically and emotionally painful for the rest of the cast, too. Lauren Cohan, who plays Glenn's wife Maggie, recently told Fox TV U.K. that filming the scene was the hardest thing she's ever had to do as an actor.

Michael Cudlitz had to keep up appearances

The challenges didn't stop once the cameras were off, either. For months, the actors had to keep who died a secret from the aggressively inquiring public. And no one was put in a more difficult position than Michael Cudlitz.

Cudlitz's character Abraham got his head turned into mush, which meant Cudlitz was out of work. Then he had to go out and promote the show as if he was still on it. He had to give interviews where he evaded answering questions about Abraham's fate, which he did by basically pretending Abe was still alive. He had to lie on behalf of a show that had written him off.

He admitted to lying. The whole cast lied, he told The Hollywood Reporter, because they said that the death scenes they all filmed were because the person who died hadn't been decided at the end of Season 6 and they needed to have coverage in case people's contracts didn't get renewed, even though they were really done to prevent spoilers from getting out and were used in a dream sequence.

Cudlitz even stayed sporting Abraham's red hair and mustache for months in order to preserve the secret. That was a sacrifice borne mostly by Cudlitz's wife.

Human skin doesn't breathe very well

"The Walking Dead" is filmed outside in the summer in Georgia. It gets unbelievably hot and humid. In the height of summer, it's muggy 90% of the time in Senoia, the show's base of operations, according to Weatherspark. It's the kind of humidity that saps your energy even if you're wearing shorts and a t-shirt. And performers on "The Walking Dead" are wearing heavy cargo pants, flannels, leather, and prosthetic makeup. Steven Yeun "blacked out" during his first day on set because he had to do several takes of sprinting on an empty stomach (via Comicbook).

No actors had it worse than the people who played the skin suit-wearing Whisperers, because they had to wear what were basically rubber ski masks for long periods of time. Samantha Morton, who played Whisperer leader Alpha, said that the heat scrambled her brain and made her forget her lines. "I think it's because sometimes when you're in the mask, your head gets so hot and it's really hard for your concentration," she told Insider. "And anyone who's ever played a walker or anything like that will hopefully know what I'm talking about, but you kind of get a bit of brain fog because you get hot."

Ryan Hurst, who played Alpha's hulking second-in-command Beta, had a costume basically designed to make him pass out. He wore a Whisperer mask, his own big beard, a leather trench coat, and two layers under that in the Georgia summer. And he told TV Guide that he kept the mask on between takes to stay in character. Unsurprisingly, he had to be hospitalized for heat exhaustion at one point, according to Entertainment Weekly. He sacrificed his body to better inhabit the character.

It's torture playing Daryl

Like clockwork, every time there's a new enemy on "The Walking Dead," Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) gets captured by them. The worst time the cantankerous tracker ever got held captive, though, was the time Saviors tried to recruit him to their cause by holding him in a jail cell and torturing him.

This was the worst because Norman Reedus was naked while he filmed it. In the early scenes of the episode, Daryl is naked because the Saviors are trying to humiliate him. And Reedus chose to sacrifice his own dignity for the sake of authenticity. "I walked in, and wardrobe was like, 'do you want to wear a sock over your junk?' and I was like, 'nope,'" Reedus told TV Guide. "I just went in, naked. It's funny though, it's kind of like watching a tennis match. I sat down naked in front of the whole camera crew, and everyone's head just moved to the right. It was like they were watching Wimbledon."

Norman Reedus is constantly getting hurt

Reedus doesn't only sacrifice his dignity — he sacrifices his body, too. He's been hurt numerous times over the decade-plus the show has been filming. He once gave himself a black eye with his own crossbow.

In Season 5, he cut his arm open while filming a scene in a barn. "They said they actually saw my arm opening up and blood start coming out of my arm on camera," Reedus told The Wrap. Somehow, though, that shot didn't make the final cut.

During a Season 6 scene, he cut his finger on broken glass in a vending machine he was reaching into, which prompted him to wonder aloud to Entertainment Weekly, "Why am I always getting hurt? I get hurt all the time. I feel like I should have, like, football pads on at all times, even when I'm just walking around."

More recently, while filming Season 11 under COVID protocols, he got stiff-armed by a zombie performer who was trying to keep his surgical mask out of the shot, which hurt a lot, Reedus told Express.

And since Reedus is going to be continuing on as Daryl in a spin-off after "The Walking Dead" ends next year, he will have many more opportunities to be injured.