Last week, in anticipation of The Walking Dead‘s fourth season premiere, Rolling Stone published exclusive interviews with six cast and crew members, including Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus and David Morrissey. But we were just getting started. Read our cover story on the show and check back for more conversations with your favorite characters, including Carl, Michonne, and today, Hershel.
When did you start acting?
I hitchhiked to California when I was 19. I went because I had met a couple of people who were going to California. This one guy I met was going to Los Angeles to be a songwriter. He met someone in the service who was in the music industry. So I was thinking I’d be a songwriter or something, but that wasn’t really a realistic thing. I wrote some poetry and not good songs when I was younger. After I got my first job, I got two roommates and one of the guys said, you’re in Hollywood, you should be a movie star. I was so drunk one weekend that he physically carried me into this acting class. He tosses me on a couch, walked over and said, “Who’s in charge? You have a movie star to work with.” Anyway, at the end of class, the teacher said, “I don’t know what your problem is, don’t come back to my class drunk.” Went back the next week to apologize to him and he gave me a monologue to do from the Eugene O’Neill play called The Long Voyage Home. I did that and loved it. So I am still pursuing it.
Do you think the nature of The Walking Dead, having cast members killed off frequently, has served to make the cast tighter-knit?
It obviously is something you’re aware of it when you come in. I was told at one point in the first season I was here they were going to kill me off. They gave me my notice, my death certificate. I said “It’s been fun.” Glen Mazzara said, “No, you don’t understand. I don’t want to do it.” I said, “You’ll get over it. I didn’t expect to live forever. I will remain a fan of the show after I’m no longer on it.” And he said, “Well I’m not sure which episode it’ll be, it’ll either be 11 or 12.” Eleven comes, I’m alive. Twelve comes, I’m alive. Thirteen comes, I’m alive. So, he says, “Look at you, you’re still alive.” I said, “Yeah. I’m talking to my savior.”
The job seems physically demanding – a lot of physical action for an acting job. Has it taken a toll on you?
You certainly need a rehab period after the season. It’s like shooting a Western. Westerns are very tough because there are a lot of exterior shots, you’re in the sun, it’s a very physical thing. The first episode last season, I get my leg chopped off, so I’m using crutches the rest of the show. It was very physical to do that. It’s a tough show to shoot.