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'The Walking Dead' Showrunner Addresses the Race Issue

By Cindy Davis | The Walking Dead | September 23, 2015 |

By Cindy Davis | The Walking Dead | September 23, 2015 |

We’re only a few weeks off from The Walking Dead’s sixth season premiere, and watching (companion series) Fear has only made me realize how much I’ve missed the original. Regardless of frustrations and criticisms we’ve had over the years, the series has nearly perfected the art of suspense, we’ve developed relationships with the core characters — the actors are phenomenal — and TWD has mastered keeping us in a constant state of uncertainty. We travel along, heart and soul on this journey to somewhere (nowhere), and when people die, we’re devastated. Speaking of death, one of the series’ biggest criticisms — which Fear is already facing, as well — is its tendency to kill off black characters. Perhaps because that showrunner, Dave Erickson, was recently asked about killing off three black characters in the first two hours, TWD’s Scott Gimple is addressing the Season 5 deaths of three black characters. His answer is not dissimilar from Erickson’s.

“You know, I was aware of who was going to die last year. Even before last year for some of those characters. And at the beginning of the year, some of those characters weren’t cast. It was always about casting the best person. It’s very difficult.

Bob wasn’t a black character in the comics, but I wouldn’t wanna miss out on Lawrence Gillard. And Noah, when we were casting him, Tyler was the best actor. I loved what he did and what he brought to the show. All sorts of people came in, from all sorts of different backgrounds and ethnicities. It’s tough because I also want to be sensitive to how people feel. Two of those characters were destined to die, and they could’ve been cast in any direction, and I just cast the best people — or at least the people I just felt were best and I loved what they did with the role. It’s weird to imagine not using them. But I did know those characters were dying, and I did cast those people.”

It might seem a little too easy to wipe away concerns with a blanket, “We cast the best people…” statement, but I can appreciate what Gimple is saying about Gillard. His Bob was nuanced, heartbreaking perfection, and whether or not we always knew the character would die, I would have wanted Gillard to play him. What’s important about Gimple’s statement is that (unlike some other showrunners *coughBenioffWeisscough*) he’s not shying away from addressing important criticism, and Gimple acknowledges there’s a real issue at play; he’s sensitive to it. I don’t think we can expect, or would want a series to fear diverse casting because at some point a character will or could be killed off — that’s only going to exacerbate the imbalance. The fact of the matter is that over the course of five seasons, TWD has become more diverse, and we want that progress to keep moving forward. (Season 6 introduces Corey Hawkins as comic character, Heath, as well as Merritt Weaver, Xander Berkley and Ethan Embry.)

In advance of its premiere, AMC asked some of TWD cast what advice they’d give their first season characters:

I’ve gotta agree with Andrew Lincoln’s sage advice, which for Rick, still applies: “Get it together, Grimes.”

Most adorable? Norman Reedus to Daryl, “It’s okay to be you.”

Here’s the full Season 6 trailer; see you October 11th.

Cindy Davis, (Twitter)

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