10 Casting Decisions That Saved The Walking Dead (10 That Hurt It)

When AMC’s original series, The Walking Dead, which was based off the hit comic book of the same name, premiered back in 2010, the first episode was seen by 5.35 million viewers, which destroyed just about any AMC original program ratings record previously held by their two other hit shows, Breaking Bad and Mad Men. It was a sign of things to come for a show that has given us some of the most gruesome deaths in cable television history.

By the time the second season began, the fan base had grown to almost eight million viewers. Through season five, the show would continue to increase its’ fan base until it averaged over 14 million viewers per episode, shattering any and all the cable television records to become the most watched show in cable television history. Even if the show continues to decline, it remains in a very strong position compared to other cable television shows.

One of the strengths of The Walking Dead, and the main reason the show has seen such high ratings, is the actors portrayals of the comic book characters. Most successful shows have a couple of strong actors that are able to carry the show and pull out the best of everyone else around them.

However, just because they found success hiring the best of the best, they have also run into problems hiring the wrong people, and they have done this a lot over the eight seasons.

With the recent news that the show is going to lose it’s main character, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and one of its’ original stars, Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan), we wanted to take a look at the 10 best casting jobs and the 10 worst casting jobs that The Walking Dead casting department has made since the first episode.

20 Bad Casting: Seth Gilliam as Gabriel Stokes

When we first meet Father Gabriel in season five, we immediately begin to wonder if he is a man we can trust or if this is an honest priest just needing some help. It takes a while but we eventually find out that Father Gabriel is one of the show’s most annoying characters in eight seasons.

Fans of the show never trusted Father Gabriel and often grew tired of watching him always be the one responsible for pulling the carpet out from underneath the group every single time things start to settle down. It was never on purpose but his constant whimpering and fear of death caused him to make terrible choices.

Seth Gilliam is not the worst actor in the world but he has not provided us with enough emotion to believe in Father Gabriel, no matter how much he changes. He plays the role the same way for three years and has not given us a chance to actually trust in him yet.

This was always going to be a tough character to portray and sadly, Seth fails to bring it home.

19 Good Casting: Alicia Witt as Paula

There is so much more to Paula than viewers ever got to see because she was only on The Walking Dead for two episodes. The first episode she was in, “Not Tomorrow Yet,” featured her voice only. So her total screen time was around 45 minutes yet Alicia Witt gave Season six a much needed boost. That was the same episode where we got to watch Maggie Greene transform into a cold-blooded killer, much like Rick.

Alicia Witt raised the bar for guest appearances by taking every single minute of screen time and turning it into a lifetime of emotions. She was going up against series stars, Lauren Cohan and Carol McBride, and she made us all forget that she was only here for one week.

One of the toughest things to do in a television series is for a new character to join the crew and be just as believable as the others that have been around forever. But that was Alicia’s gift. She has this amazing ability to fit into almost any role and she did the same for The Walking Dead.

You are probably never going to come across another actor, that was only around for one episode, make a list like ours.

18 Bad Casting: Major Dodson as Sam Anderson

No offense to Major Dodson but child actors are usually the worst, especially when it comes to television shows that are designed for adults, and he just so happens to fall into that category here. He had several chances to turn his performance around but failed each time he got in front of the camera.

He played a kid who just had his entire life ripped away from him and replaced with dead zombies, or as Carol (Melissa McBride) called them, monsters, that had one goal and that was to rip the flesh from your skin. His family was quickly falling apart and his father was just put out by his mother’s new boyfriend. His “safe” town was just ambushed by a group of thugs called “Wolves” and that forced him to remain in his room, door locked, and far away from all the monsters and darkness.

So you would think Major Dodson would have enough material to work with and present enough emotion that we could feel bad for the kid. But we never did, not once. He played the same exact person from start until his untimely end.

Sure, his character was supposed to be annoying but he could have still found a way to make him feel real, and not just some little kid that did not know how to appear scared. He would just look shocked instead. The same face, every time.

17 Good Casting: Scott Wilson as Hershel Greene

When we first meet Hershel in season two, he is tasked with the job of saving the life of Rick’s son Carl after he was accidentally shot by Otis, who was hunting a deer and took a shot that when clean through the deer before hitting Carl.

Throughout the rest of the season, we are presented with a character that has not experienced the same dangers as the rest of the group. Hershel knows that there is an epidemic going on but his farm is so remote that he does not fully understand it. So he does what any man would do in that situation and that is to protect his family.

Scott Wilson does a tremendous job of showing how a man would react to this type of event and he forces the viewers to like him anyway. This is the same man who has been feeding walkers in his barn the entire season, and not telling anyone in the group. If it were anyone else, it would be tough to love him but Scott was able to make us all understand exactly why he did what he did.

He would later become a more fatherly figure in the group and the moral backbone too. But, unlike Dale, Hershel had created a trust with the viewers and we would follow his advice more than most others, if given the chance.

16 Bad Casting: Xander Berkeley as Gregory

Right off the bat, the viewers can see right thru Gregory’s tough act when he meets privately with Maggie to discuss the future of their group at the Hilltop. He knew that he had to present himself that way so that no one would doubt him or his false promises. But he was a coward and everyone knew it.

So let’s take a minute to talk about why we put Xander Berkeley on the bad casting side of our list. It is not because we think he is a terrible actor, we just think he is struggling to be the same Gregory we met in the beginning.

Over the last couple seasons, he went from a weasel that was deceitful and a liar. He was so scared of dying from the hand of Negan that he would sell out his own flesh and blood, but he was never so open about it.

For some reason, he continues to play a role on the show, even though his time has past awhile ago, and now he is just annoyingly predictable. There was a chance for his performance to get better but he failed to make us believe in him. Even when he tried to help the Hilltop, the audience did not seem to care.

15 Good Casting: Lennie James as Morgan

Besides Rick Grimes, the only other character in The Walking Dead that is still around from the pilot episode is Morgan. After not shooting his zombified wife, Morgan’s son would end up being bitten by her leaving him to be forced to take them both out. That moment turned Morgan into a broken shell of a man.

Lennie James was so perfect for this role that it is hard to imagine anyone else playing it. No, seriously, there is not a list of actors, even A-list stars, that would be a suitable replacement for the role of Morgan Jones on the show.

That is all on Lennie and his incredible portrayal of this man battling with mental illness following so many tragic events in his life. Morgan’s inner demons would later turn him into a cold blooded killer before meeting Eastman, and he was then taught how to survive in this brutal world.

Lennie raises the bar of great acting so high that he overshadows just about every single person that is not on his level. He exposes the weaker actors on the show and almost has to downplay his role just to protect their jobs. It sounds terrible but if you love the show, you would easily agree.

14 Bad Casting: Austin Amelio as Dwight

When Daryl comes across Dwight and his wife, and her sister, he begins to trust them fairly quickly. He falls into their trap and eventually has all of his stuff taken from him. He would later get it back, before having it happen once more. Later on, Daryl would end up being Dwight’s prisoner for a few episodes before Dwight’s wife sneaks him out.

Dwight is a big character in the comics and on the show. But the one thing he seems to struggle with are his emotions. It is not easy to give us much, however, when his face is half burnt off from a previous incident with Negan, we thought he would be able to give us a little something more.

Austin Amelio portrays Dwight like a man that has been pushed around his entire life, but not in a cowardly way. He just seems to find his way towards powerful people, like Negan, and join them to save himself, and his family.

Even during the scenes where Dwight is talking about how Negan stole his wife from him, or when she escaped and disappeared, his face gave us nothing.

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13 Good Casting: David Morrissey as The Governor

The Walking Dead is very predictable. At first, you get a group of people looking to understand what the heck is going on followed by finding a safe place to call home. Eventually, they will come across an evil villain who wants them to bow down and call him their leader, to which, the group declines and begins an epic battle. Each time the group defeats the bad guy, the next one turns out to be even darker, and more evil than ever imagined.

So far, the show has given us two major villains, three if you count the walkers, between The Governor and Negan. After the defeat of Woodbury, and the takedown of The Governor, we begin finding out about this new group called “The Saviors” and their leader Negan. When we first meet Negan, he is absolutely terrifying. But, over the next two seasons, he is more psychotic than evil. He even comes across as a man with a good heart.

Is Negan a worse villain than The Governor? The answer is no, not a chance. David Morrissey auditioned for the role and it only took one shot before he got the role. That turned out to be the best decision the casting department ever made.

12 Bad Casting: Tom Payne as Jesus

Not all of the bad casting decisions come from the acting. In the case of the character called Jesus, played by Tom Payne, the casting problems had little to do with his portrayal and everything to do with his body size.

In the comics, Jesus was immediately a fan favorite character because there was not much he was hiding behind the mask. He was exactly who he said he was and he was one of the most loyal friends to the group as anyone else on the show. He was stealthy, quiet, intelligent, and a master in martial arts. He was able to protect Rick, Maggie, or anyone else that required it. But the comic book version was bigger and stronger than the television one.

So it has always been tough to believe, regardless of how well trained he was in mixed martial arts, that someone the size of Tom Payne could be considered one of the toughest guys on the show. It is just tough to see him as this incredibly strong man that can disable anyone and take them down with ease.

That being said, Tom Payne has done a great job playing the role, he cannot help it if he is not the right size for it.

11 Good Casting: Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon

When Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) and Lauren Cohan (Maggie Rhee) leave the show, it only leaves Lennie James (Morgan), Melissa McBride (Carol Peletier), and Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon) as the remaining cast from the show’s first season. As one of the show’s longstanding stars, Norman Reedus could easily step into the lead role once they depart and has already been rumored to be their next featured character.

Along with the rumors that Daryl Dixon is set to take over the show once the two main characters leave in season nine, there is another one hitting the internet that is claiming that Norman Reedus is being signed for $20 million to take over as the lead of the show. If this were to be true, then we are about to enjoy a ton of grunting and motorcycle rides.

But until it happens, let’s talk about Norman Reedus and his character, Daryl Dixon, who was not even in the comics but has become one of the main characters of the show’s eight-year run. He has taken this laid back, mysterious, and quiet approach to Daryl that has turned him into a fan favorite. He is so popular that there is an ongoing joke online about how the fans will riot if Daryl is killed off the show.

10 Bad Casting: Christine Woods as Dawn Lerner

When a successful television show hits its peak, no one knows it at the time. They find out seasons later when things begin to fall apart and the shows biggest actors begin to leave. For The Walking Dead, their highest rated season was season five, when the group found themselves being held prisoners by a group of cannibals at Terminus.

But not all of the members of the group were in Terminus. Beth was actually being held captive inside Grady Memorial Hospital, in Atlanta. It was at the hospital where we would meet a new villain, Officer Dawn Lerner.

Officer Dawn Lerner used manipulation and violence to control those around her to fool the people inside the hospital to believe that they were free to leave on their own when they were actually prisoners. She sees herself as above the others, including her own people, which causes her to become equally hated by just about everyone in the hospital.

This was the perfect role for any actress looking to show off their range. Officer Dawn needs to be completely normal on the outside while uncontrollably vindictive and psychotic on the inside. Christine Woods, instead, simply gave us a wide-eyed, weak, former cop that was not sure what to do from scene to scene. It was such a mess that she has become a legend on the show for her terrible portrayal of Officer Dawn.

9 Good Casting: Josh McDermitt as Eugene Porter

One of the toughest roles to play is a person who speaks a different dialect than yourself and Eugene Porter is definitely one of those types. In real life, Josh McDermitt sounds nothing like Eugene but one can never tell the difference.

A key to doing a great job is when you become the character and that is who the audience sees on the screen. They do not see a person playing a character, they see the fictional character instead. It is like when you go to Disney World and take pictures with Mickey Mouse. You know that there is a person in costume but they make you forget about reality and you end up taking a picture with them anyways.

Josh McDermitt was able to fool us all into making us believe he truly was Eugene. He was smart, deceiving, and weak. He played fear like we have never seen on the show before, and it was so convincing that he has become one of the most likable characters on the show. He was able to convey how scared he was of the world around him so much that it angered viewers to watch him be such a weak link.

But we all believed him.

8 Bad Casting: Sarah Wayne Callies as Lori Grimes

Not all the decisions made by the casting director should be blamed on the actors. For the most part, when a good actor is given bad writing, it is difficult to understand how to play that character the way that fits the story. In other words, Sarah Wayne Callies is considered to have done a pretty bad job as Lori Grimes on The Walking Dead but we should not blame her completely.

Her portrayal of Lori was a tough one because it had so many layers. She is a mother, and wife, who is not only dealing with the zombie apocalypse, but she is handling having her husband go into a coma just days before the outbreak, and leaving him behind for dead. She then hooks up with her husband’s best friend, and partner, Shane, before finding out Rick is still alive. Then there is Carl getting shot and nearly dying, Shane going crazy, the pregnancy, Sophia, the hatred Rick has towards her, and the list goes on and on.

That role required a much better actress, with more experience, to be able to convey that wide range of emotions and the constant battling with life or death while trying to keep those closest to her alive. Sarah ended up doing what the rest of the bad actors on the show did and she remained right down the middle. Although, she was great at dying.

7 Good Casting: Danai Gurira as Michonne

Danai Gurira is no longer one of Hollywood’s fresh-faced zombie killers. She has become a full-blown superstar and is now a member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and The Black Panther franchise. It is all deserved because when we first met Michonne, very little was known about Danai, she was a mysterious figure that carried her weight, and a few others, since her arrival in season three.

One of those others is Andrea. When Michonne meets Andrea for the first time, the viewers instantly see the difference in good versus bad acting. Michonne was a survivor that learned how to defend herself using a sword but did not talk much about herself, or her past. In fact, as of season eight, we still do not know much about Michonne’s past life except for one scene that provided us with a flashback.

Michonne is gritty and independent, but she is also good. Deep down, she is very loyal and true to the group. She eventually becomes Rick’s most trusted friend, even more than Daryl, and the two instantly connect.

Everything Danai does as Michonne was so much more than the viewers ever expected. She played her way into a larger role in the series thanks to her ability to become the character, instead of just playing a role.

6 Bad Casting: Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes

Sorry Carl, but we cannot just ignore the many cringe-worthy moments you had throughout the show. The difference between good and bad casting is the totality of the performance. When Rick is in a scene, we get the best performance from Andrew Lincoln, and it never changes. He is always performing at his best.

The downfall of Chandler Riggs performance as Carl Grimes is that he could never find a balance in his performance. He was part of some of the show’s toughest moments, like when he had to put a bullet into his own mother’s head following the birth of his little sister and, just recently, when he passed away. His acting was some of the best we have ever seen during those moments.

But when he wasn’t involved in the most dramatic events of the show’s history, he found himself in these normal, everyday moments that Chandler just failed to deliver. He came across awkward and uncomfortable at being normal. That was mainly because he was on the show from the beginning and was only 11 years old.

5 Good Casting: Melissa McBride as Carol

Can you imagine how much different the entire series would be if Carol died in the prison instead of T-Dog?

Back in 2012, during season three’s fourth episode, “Killer Within”, Carol and T-Dog were fighting off a bunch of walkers inside the prison. T-Dog got bit while saving Carol’s life and the group would later find him gone. That scene was supposed to be Carol’s ending but she pleaded to the writers of the show to save her character and they obliged at the last minute, reversing the script and sending T-Dog off to the cemetery.

It turned into a great move because Melissa McBride did not waste her second chance to play Carol. From that moment on, fans were introduced to an entirely new Carol. She would become cold, unemotional, and unsympathetic to the darkness around her. She turned into the hardcore Carol that we all loved for a while.

Melissa’s performance deserves all the recognition it gets because she gave life to playing a role that forced her to be indifferent to the world around her. It is so much more difficult to play emotions that are calm and somewhere in the middle. She was not happy or sad, just stone-faced and closed off to the sadness in her past.

Her best performance, to date, has to be during her encounters with King Ezekiel.

4 Bad Casting: Emily Kinney as Beth Greene

If there was one character that the show’s creators eliminated a little early, it has to be Beth. Her death was so shocking that it caused fans to question their writing and storytelling abilities. Emily Kinney’s portrayal of Beth was never considered Oscar-worthy, and has been known to be one of the worst casting decisions the series has ever made, but she still was attached to a story.

Maybe the writers decided that the more airtime they gave Emily, the worse she would look and it would not take very long for the fans to revolt. Because up until season five, Beth was never a star character. She was always floating around in the background, looking for some way to be useful but almost always causing a cringe-worthy moment. Like when she sang to the group in season three or her awkward discussions about emotional detachment with Daryl.

Beth had multiple people, including a couple of boyfriends, die within a short period of time yet Emily Kinney seemed to be spending more time focusing on her accent than reacting normally to any of those situations. There is more to a character arc than just being cold after tragedy strikes.

3 Good Casting: Jon Bernthal as Shane Walsh

The Walking Dead storyline from seasons two and three remains one of the greatest in the series because it transformed the characters from normal people that are dealing with this horrific event into survivors that can handle anything, or anyone.

Shane Walsh was undoubtedly the second biggest star on the show, in his short time in the series, because of how his actions affected the rest of the group. The decisions he made caused him to go down a dark path, in search of himself. Jon Bernthal was incredible. He was able to convince so many people that he really is Shane that he received hate mail, death threats, and plenty of backlash for his role.

But that is how dedicated he was to his craft. He was able to show us how one bad decision could destroy a man, one day at a time. We all watched him go from the best friend to the enemy, and eventually, the villain. That character arc happened over the course of 19 episodes, much less time than anyone else had to produce that much depth to a role.

Jon did it and many fans go back to season two and wonder what might have been if he survived.

2 Bad Casting: Laurie Holden as Andrea

Although Laurie Holden is not a terrible actress, she failed to turn Andrea into someone worth watching. In the comics, Andrea is one of the star characters, alongside Rick, but the television show decided to take a different approach with Andrea by sticking her in Woodbury, with The Governor.

Although it has not been confirmed, any fan of the show can tell you that the writers more than likely wrote her down a new path because there was simply no way she could reach the same level as Andrew Lincoln for several seasons. She would look so much worse if she was put together with Rick. Too much exposure could have created a problem the show did not want to face a few years ago.

Laurie Holden’s portrayal of Andrea should have been harder. Andrea is not a person used to being on her own, she always had men or family around for her whole life. So her transformation into this independent survivor should have been much deeper than that shocked look she always gave us. It was static and uninteresting, or better yet, boring.

1 Good Casting: Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes

For eight seasons, fans of The Walking Dead would continue to watch the show, regardless of how bad the writing has become, because of one man, Rick Grimes.

Andrew Lincoln has done something that many other television characters will never get a chance to do. He has shown a character arc from day one that is going to be hard to replicate. He started his journey the same way any of us would have, to find his family. He was nervous, panicked, and scared of what was going on. But he began to understand how to survive so he could get back to his family.

We watched as he protected his morals for two seasons before being forced to murder his best friend. That changed him, as many other incidents would, and he started to become a leader within his group. As his character grows, so does his mistrust of everyone around him until he became a shell of himself. All that was left was a man that trusted no one, living or dead. He even began teaching his son that the choices are to fight or to die.

If there was a need for more proof, then wait until he leaves the show next season and people are going to see just how important he has been for the series.

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