The Walking Dead Panel at the New Jersey Comic Expo
Major Dodson (Sam Anderson), Steve Coulter (Reg Monroe), and Lew Temple (Axel) talk about their time on The Walking Dead
On November 20th, the New Jersey Comic Expo hosted a panel on The Walking Dead featuring actors Major Dodson, Steve Coulter, and Lew Temple. ECHOBASE was there for the panel and got to hear their stories on the set and what it was like to be part of this epic project of the undead.
Each of their parts within the show was particularly memorable and like everyone who leaves the show, their deaths were either shocking or spectacular.
Major Dodson who played Sam Anderson in Season Five was part of the Alexandria chapter of The Walking Dead. He made his mark when he accidentally saw Carol stealing guns from the weapons room in Alexandria and had to make a choice between cookies or Carol kidnapping him in the middle of the night and tying him to a tree as zombie bait. Sam eventually was killed during the Walker invasion of Alexandria and was devoured by zombies.
Steve Coulter played Reg Monroe, also within the Alexandria chapter of The Walking Dead. As the husband to Deanna and the architect who made the wall to protect Alexandria, he was the calm intellectual presence within the community. Unfortunately, Reg met his end when Sam’s father “Pete” stole Michonne’s katana and accidentally sliced Reg’s throat while he was trying to disarm him.
Lastly Lew Temple played Axel, one of the remaining inmates in the abandoned prison during Season Three. Axel was in jail for armed robbery but remained one of the calmer criminals who was eventually accepted into Rick’s group. He made a close tie with Carol. While telling her an amusing tale, he was suddenly shot through the head by the Governor.
MODERATOR: Your scene of basically you walking through all the walkers – How was that for you? Was that – I don’t even know how to describe it – I would be terrified, obviously.
Major Dodson: So was Sam. He was obviously thrown into this situation. As a kid who was never really exposed to walkers in this kind of world. He would be terrified. Honestly, I would be terrified, too. It was interesting to do the scene.
MODERATOR: How long did it take for you to shoot that scene?
Major Dodson: I think it was like maybe an hour – for the scene where I’m walking. But for when I died, it was like four hours. It was a long time. That was horrifying. It was kinda weird. The blood was being pumped through a fire extinguisher. It was dribbling into my eyes in one scene. It was messy. I had to shower. It was hot out, too. I mean, I was wearing a meat pancho. It was not the most pleasant scene to do. It turned out nicely. When I started to scream, the director took off his headphones and said, “I did not need to hear that.” So, it was running through a field of daisies, that scene.
MODERATOR: I wanted to ask as well because you had mentioned the heat. How bad is the heat when you were filming, especially when you’re wearing the meat pancho and overall – how was the heat and how did you have to deal with it?
Major Dodson: There was sweat. There was blood, sweat, and tears.
Steve Coulter: Georgia is very hot in the summer. It gets close to a hundred and the humidity is really awful.
Lew Temple: And there’s very little or no shade. I mean they try to keep you shaded but, you know, you’re just – the scenes are big and expansive, so they can’t really protect you that much. You’ve got to be out in it. The type of work that it is – it is not for everybody – I will say that. There are actors and I think The Walking Dead does an incredible job of casting or inviting people in. And there are people who would not survive and just wouldn’t be… and it’s just too much. It’s very physical. That being said, the work becomes very real. And because of that, they put you in situations that are very authentic and your reactions are quite natural. It is a little survival. There’s not always a fresh bottle of water. It might be a mile down the road. It’s there. It’s work. But, here’s the thing – when you realize what you’ve just done, and you realize what you’re part of. There is so much work and everybody’s on the same team. It is that community of survival and we’re trying to survive the ratings. We might get canceled next week. That’s sort of the movement. Because we’re doing great, right? We’re the best. But that’s never the gear. So at the end of the day we go, “Wow, we did that!”
Steve Coulter: I didn’t experience anybody complaining. Because actors are big whiners. But no one complained. It was interesting. And it’s kind of inspiring. Everyone is pitching in and trying to make it the best thing it can be and in any job, that’s a nice feeling. Before I made an actor twenty-five years ago, I was a carpenter on a set and you work on a crew. If everyone isn’t working together, it just makes that job harder. I’ve done roofing. If you’re up there and someone is being slow – it makes it so much harder. That kind of energy really boosts stuff. And they pay you money to do what you love.
MODERATOR: Was this one of your favorite roles – like in The Walking Dead? Was it “Wow! I’m actually working on The Walking Dead!”?
Steve Coulter: I’ve never worked on a hit show before. Like you’re coming in and you’re not like “I hope this works.” That feels fun. It’s like being on a ship that’s already sailed that’s going great. And there’s a certain energy and everyone takes pride in it. We get caught up in that, too.
Lew Temple: It’s like playing for the Yankees. You’re number one. You know that and you appreciate that.
Steve Coulter: Without George Steinbrenner.
Lew Temple: On Season Three, we were landing for shore. But there was a real uncertainty because they had been so insular in Season Two at Hershel’s Farm. They were like “Can we run? Can we move? Can we venture up the road to that prison?” Let alone Alexandria. The legs were starting to move. And it wasn’t that the show wasn’t popular, it was that “Can we remove ourselves from the campfire and get mobile?” And still make it work.
Steve Coulter: That was a huge shift in the story.
Lew Temple: Yeah. That in the graphic novels and comics as well. I feel like when I was there I feel the idea it was just the work. We didn’t have time to say “Oh my God! I’m on The Walking Dead!” It really wasn’t that. It really wasn’t until after Season Three that I was on that show. I knew I was on that show. I knew I was working on that show. I knew I had a lot of work to do. You know there’s a thing we have as a team that we connect you to that. We don’t refer to you as “fans”. You’re the audience. As we are now, as well. And so we have a responsibility to you and you have a responsibility to us – that’s every Sunday night – which you do, in huge numbers. So we have that same responsibility. It’s that symbiotic relationship. And you inform us as we inform you. Because the show informs you about what’s going on. You inform us on what needs to go on. That’s that family and I think it’s a community. And that’s what the show is about – that community coming together and the community being pulled apart. And we’re witnessing this at its height right now. “How do I land this and not get in Rick’s way and be part of this and… I’m gonna get killed? What? No, I signed on for another three years. What? Nononono. You’ve got the wrong number.” So you’re just in the moment and that’s how it should be.
MODERATOR: Obviously some of you are in Alexandria and some of you were working in the prison. I don’t know how it is working on those sets. The prison seemed like it was kind of dire.
Major Dodson: It was a prison.
Lew Temple: It was the cleanest dirt I’ve ever been exposed to. It was entirely a set that was built on a soundstage in the studio. It looked unbelievable. It looked like a real prison that had been ravaged. But it was incredible art direction. Incredible carpentry. All the dirt was new, everyday. It was all clean and it was all processed. It was dirty. It was mucky. You were breathing Fuller’s Earth. There were places that prison we hadn’t been yet. They had exposed to us and we never did. We did a walkthrough and took a tour and this “Oh, this is cell block C and three episodes from now, we’ll be doing this with Beth.” You never really knew that, so every time you turned a corner, you didn’t actually know. It was really creepy and disarming. I would have loved to be in Alexandria. Just to have a toilet – just to have some actual hygiene.
Steve Coulter: Yeah, we had during breaks – because that’s an actual neighborhood. It already existed. They did build that steel wall. That’s entire community has an entire steel wall. I didn’t actually build it. People who actually live there when you’d be shooting, when we would take breaks it would be on the steps on an actual brownstone. There’s no dirt. But what was fun was that you’d have to stop when a FedEx Truck would be coming in. It’s really odd, because you’re just sitting there having a big meeting with what to do about Rick and “you gotta stop, FedEx is doing a delivery.” But, we were very comfortable.
MODERATOR: Any questions?
ECHOBASE: This goes out to Lew. Your death on the show was particularly shocking. How did you prepare for that?
Lew Temple: Yeah, by trying not to. I know that sounds funny but they had indicated to me that this was going to happen. There was a lot of uncertainty about it. I was told three weeks in advance. For a solid week, it was like “it looks like we were gonna go with someone else – no, it’s going back to you” – the whole point was the Governor was showing up and he had to draw blood or he’d be impotent, he had to be scary. So it did get down to me and a couple of others. And then when it was me, you do what’s known as the “denial dance”. You try to come up with a better plan like “what about that Alan guy, you know he’s a jerk”(laughs) And they’re like, “no, no, he’s got his thing coming”. They had asked me, and Steve’s a writer, so he understands. And their writers are exceptional on this show. They called me into the Writer’s Room so we could talk about how this could go. I told them I wanted it to come out of nowhere. And the thing I had remembered having seen the Zapruder tapes of the Kennedy Assassination. So that was so severe and so shocking to me. They also asked me if I wanted to reanimate to be a walker. And I was like, “Well, no.” To go through that make up and that process and have Carl come out and put me down and so he could steal my mustache so he could impress Beth – no, none of that. So, the head shot was good. So the thing about preparation was that I wanted that day to be everything but what it was going to be. And it was great working with Melissa McBride who they both know very well (Dodson and Coulter). She’s so easy and so available, we were just trying to have fun. We smile so seldom on The Walking Dead. We have such little joy. I just wanted to have a couple of moments about that I could let her know and to let The Walking Dead audience know that life could still be okay – and even if it’s in a prison, it’s pretty good. And did I tell you the one about my brother? You know who, um, he had a lot of money, but he had a money problem because he didn’t lend me any – and then BANG! – out of nowhere. That was perfect. And it all started with a simple tap on Carol’s shoulder. Coming up from behind her and doing that “Ah ha! Fooled you didn’t I?” That was the happy day, kinda sad. And that was my approach to it. Because otherwise, I would have been indicating, I would have been working too hard against “hey, the sky is blue” and here comes the bullet. That would have been telegraphing what was about to happen. So I was working hard to not do that. I got a lot of help with that, entirely from the crew, the cast mates, and the director, and I’m really proud of that and how it went down.
MODERATOR: Can we expand that to the rest of you? How did you prepare for them?
Major Dodson: When I figured out I was going to die, of course, it was sad. I learned in the comics, I was just replacing Ron – which was the original name. I heard I was going to die and yeah, I was sad but I knew I was going to prepare for it. I wasn’t going to sugarcoat it, it was just sad. I’d been on the show for like a year and a half. On the good side, at least I went spectacularly.
Steve Coulter: Because mine was an accident, I needed to go with “I just want to stop, Pete.” We had a lot of technical stuff and all that. And part of that since Reg was such a gentle cerebral guy. Unfortunately, I had seen a person die in Brooklyn from being stabbed. What struck me was the look in his eyes was not like a human being, it was like he went back to his animal state of just surprise. That’s what I was trying to hook into. You don’t know what’s happening. And have that happen. It’s like a car accident. Something has gone terribly wrong right away. When you’re a kid, you play war. And here you have fake blood shooting right out of you and it’s kinda fun.