Sounds as if AMC’s “The Walking Dead” cast is feeling certain parallels to the plucky band of surviving humans they portray in their critically-admired, massive hit show — that’s been plagued with problems during production of its second season.
“It’s been hard. It’s been a tough season,” admits Jon Bernthal, who plays Shane Walsh in the series adaptation of the popular comic book series. Part-way into shooting of this new season, creator and driving force Frank Darabont parted company with the series in a not-happy way, with conflicting reports as to whether he quit or was fired. “Losing Frank was a huge blow to all of us. The cast — we love Frank, one of the finest writer-filmmakers of today. It was a huge blow, creatively and personally,” Bernthal says. “I’m unbelievably saddened by that.”
But there’s more. “We’ve had a bunch of serious injuries on the set. There’ve been accidents,” he reports. He also notes, “People have lost family members this year. There’s been so much people have had to deal with.
“But between ‘Action’ and ‘Cut,’ everything has been great. We haven’t stopped believing in each other, haven’t stopped believing in what we’re doing. Nothing is going to stop us. Nothing is going to let us down. We love the show and love each other,” he goes on. “We agreed we’re all going to make it the best it can possibly be.”
Bernthal stresses that Darabont mapped out the Season 2 stories and “he hired everyone in that writers room. He believed in them. The tone may change a little bit, but the fans will not be disappointed this year.” He adds, “I think the real danger is when people get caught up in the crap in the trade papers and start to whine and give excuses. We didn’t do that. We don’t read the trade papers. I don’t think we even processed it. We didn’t slow down, not for one second.”
But Bernthal (a classically-trained actor whose eclectic background includes playing pro basketball in Europe and studying at The School of Moscow Art Theatre) did get away from Georgia location for a different reason. “When my son was about to be born, I was able to get on a plane and shoot right back there from the set. Andy Lincoln took on the responsibilities of the day — and did five scenes he didn’t know beforehand that he was going to have to do. And Sarah Wayne Callies — she took care of my dogs for six days while I was gone. Nobody even had to ask. No matter what pops, we’re there for each other. You hear actors say these things about the people on their sets being a family. This one really is.”
With former No. 2 man Glen Mazzara now serving as show runner, the team has only three more episodes to shoot. “We’ll wrap up just before Thanksgiving,” Bernthal says.