Let’s Cast The Walking Dead!

So I started writing this post back in August of 2009 when it was announced that AMC was going to be the home of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead,  but there’s been a lot going on (despite the lack of gainful employment) and it took me a while to circle back and get to this. I was reminded that this post was sitting here waiting to be finished by the announcement last week that Frank Darabont’s pilot script had been greenlit by AMC …so here we are.

Plenty of other people, websites, and blogs have already taken a swing at casting The Walking Dead, but I’ve tried to avoid those posts so that I don’t corrupt my own instincts (and cheat off of those people).  So take a look at what I’ve come up with – and get your own recommendations on the board in the comments section.

A couple of guidelines I used:

1.  I tried to keep the casting fairly realistic, picking actors that I thought would be willing to be a part of an ensemble cast of the next (hopefully) highly acclaimed AMC television drama (i.e. you won’t see Angelina Jolie or Will Smith in here anywhere).

2.  I tried to pick actors and actresses that fit the roles visually AND that had acting skills I admired.  If I had to pick between skills and visuals, I usually went with skills.


This one is honestly the easiest pick of the bunch, because I think Nathan Fillion is a just an obvious and yet inspired choice to play our hero Rick.  Fillion has a great fan following already (and one that overlaps nicely with comics thanks to his Firefly/Serenity, and Buffy roles) and he’s a proven actor that can hold his own on the film screen, but isn’t opposed to doing television.  Also, though his show Castle is very much “his” show, I feel like Fillion would recognize the great opportunity in The Walking Dead, like the opportunity of Mad Men, despite it being an ensemble cast.  The fact that Castle is still on is a bit of a problem, but I see the ratings aren’t great…I don’t want it to fail, as I like Fillion and wish him the best…but man I’d like to see him playing Rick.

As an interesting side note, my mother used to watch One Life To Live (and General Hospital) when I was younger, and I got addicted to both shows, and never more so with One Life To Live than when Nathan Fillion was playing a GORGEOUS version of the character Joey Buchanan.  I was so sad when he left the show (and I left watching it not long after) but MAN did the boy do well for himself.  It’s one of the only things that makes me proud about having watched soaps at one point in my life.  I’m all “I saw him and loved him first!”…and I’m almost never that far ahead of the crowd.


Rebecca Hall would be a goldmine of a cast for Lori.  Since Hall does film only (to my knowledge) it’s unlikely she’d be gettable, but it’s definitely worth a try.  Hall first got my attention in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona where her acting chops wiped the floor with every other single person on screen (including Penelope Cruz, and Javier Bardem).  She’s also in Nicole Holofcenter’s upcoming Please Give currently at Sundance.  Like I said, she’s probably ungettable, but worth a try.  She would rock the Lori role.

Alternatively, since Hall is likely so unattainable…maybe Anna Friel?  She has a good look for Lori and she’s a fantastic actress.  I’ve never seen her do dark like The Walking Dead, but I’m sure she could handle the challenge.


Eh.  Shane.  Who cares.  I probably should, since I suspect he will be a large part of the first season at a minimum, but it was so long ago in the history of TWD that it’s hard to care.  I think Henry Cavill has the look down though.  He’s aged a little since the picture I’ve put up – which is good I think – but the strong jawline that so defined Shane in the book is definitely present in Cavill.  Also, he plays a pretty macho intense dude on The Tudors, so I think he might be a decent fit for Shane.


Casting Michonne was hard for me if only because, it’s such a great role and I wanted to get it right.  But I think I’ve come really close with Tracie Thoms however, who has the right look and the rough edged feel of Michonne.  I honestly didn’t super love her performance in Death Proof but I think that was more a style of acting (and over acting) that was deliberate in the piece, and less specific to Thoms personally.  She’s pretty good on Cold Case, even though I pretty much hate that show.  Regardless I think she’s got the look nailed already and it would be great to see her get a chance at such a choice role.

Alternatively, I think Gina Torres could also be great.  She’d have to change her already fabulous hair, and maybe casting her next to Fillion could be a mistake, since it would be a little too Firefly-esque, but I’m always impressed by Torres and I bet she could really nail the Michonne role given the opportunity.


Lost shmost.  I want Ken Leung because I LOVE him in The Squid and The Whale (and loving him in The Squid and The Whale helps me forget about a little nightmare of a movie he was involved in called X-Men 3).  But the Lost credits don’t hurt I suppose (and I do LOVE Miles).  Leung is probably a little too old really to be a perfect cast for Glenn, who I always read as a bit younger, but I think it’s a good fit, and with Leung’s skills I think it could be a home run.


I struggled with who was worthy to play Tyrese.  There are a lot of strong black actors out there that could really nail this role, but both for his intensity, and for his look (which especially above just screams Tyrese to me), I decided on Idris Elba.  My favorite of Elba’s recent stuff was his stint on The Office playing the only guy on earth other than Dwight that doesn’t love Jim (not love Jim? Impossible!) but he was fantastic.

Good alternatives?  Matthew St. Patrick tops my list. The look isn’t as close, but he’s a hell of an actor that I’d love to see back on television in a great drama.


Janel Maloney as Carol is nearly perfect to me (she’s even got kinda crazy Carol-esque eyes in this photo).  Maloney held her own on The West Wing for years alongside some of the finest actors ever to grace television, so I have no doubt she would be a fantastic edition to this cast.  Maloney has all but disappeared from film and television (I think she’s doing plays these days?) so it would be nice to see her back in the “spotlight”.  I’d also like to see her redeemed from that Scott Peterson television adaptation from a few years ago – I hope she fired her representation for getting her involved in that mess.


I tried not to go with Terry O’Quinn, really I did.  It just seemed so obvious, but I couldn’t think of anyone that could do it better.  That said, I think Dale (though I love him) is a bit of a step down from Locke (or will feel like that to Lost/Locke fans that come on over).  I think O’Quinn is an interesting enough actor though that he might find something really redeeming in the role and the concept of The Walking Dead as a drama in general.  Also of note is that he’s one of the few more mature actors that seemed to fit the Dale role that didn’t feel too creepy when I thought of him in a May-December romance.


I’d love to see Lauren Ambrose in this role, both because I think Andrea is an incredible character deserving of an actress with serious chops, and also because I’d like to see Ambrose take on such a dark and serious role.  Andrea is a character full of interesting contradictions and one that has lost a lot (and found a lot) throughout The Walking Dead and I think Ambrose could bring some real depth to her on the screen.

Alternatively, I suppose Kara Mara, who was good in Brokeback Mountain (as Ennis’ eldest daughter) but who I haven’t been impressed with in much else, might be an interesting fit.  I’d prefer though, Ambrose in the role of Andrea and Mara for Andrea’s sister, which might work nicely.

What do you guys think?  Am I way off?  Who would be your perfect cast?


  1. brian’s avatar

    I think you may be casting a little too much based on appearance. I love Nathan Fillion and think he is great for the funny and a kind of winking deepness on occasion, but Rick from WD is supposed to be defeated, outnumbered, unhinged and downright scary at many times in the series despite being its “hero”. Nathan might be able to do any of those things for short stints but I don’t think he can play someone that is this tragic all the time. His is too plucky, and Rick is anything but Plucky

  2. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    Brian: You make a good point about Nathan, and certainly it may be true that he prefers those kind of plucky funny characters and wouldn’t be interested in this, but I like to think as an actor that he might be interested in going deeper and to a different place than he has been for the last 5 – 10 years (i.e. Firefly, Buffy, Slither, Castle, etc.). While I have enjoyed him in all those roles (though I don’t really watch Castle) I feel like he’s got more in him, and though those roles are complicated in their own ways, I feel like he’s been resting on his laurels a bit with ‘what he knows works’ and what writers/directors/executives etc. have decided he “can do”. I think he can do more and I’d like to see him give it a try. I think he’d be an awesome Rick, given the opportunity.

    All that said, do you have a good pick? I’m certainly open to hearing better choices. I thought Thomas Jane might have been a good pick, but with Hung running strong it seems unlikely. What about the others…agree or disagree there?

  3. Claire’s avatar


    Nice work with these!

    Love the choice of Janel Moloney – you’re right that it would be great to see more of her on our screens… Though I think she’s going to be a bit busy over the next few months… FYI, her most recent film is “Armless” – not sure when it’ll be coming out though.

  4. Fan’s avatar

    Check out this fan trailer!!!

  5. brian’s avatar

    I have to admit, I would also like to see Nathan try his hand at this kind of depth, but I don’t know that he can pull it off. Based on your asking, I tried to come up with someone who could play Rick and I’m having a really hard time but I think I know why. Rick starts out as an exceedingly likable average guy in an extraordinarily horrific situation, he does what he has to do to survive and protect his family but he also still jokes and smiles with the other survivors when appropriate. The problem is that “average guy” Rick Grimes doesn’t last, as more and more horrible things happen to him he becomes controlling, stubborn and highly unlikable as he’s forced to deal with greater threats. Sure, he keeps his group alive, but most people are scared of him, no one wants to or gets the chance to have any long conversations with him, and no one likes him really as a person anymore . He’s lost much of his humanity, or traded it away, in order to take up the mantle as protector of his family and the rest of these people.

    While it might be a bit optimistic to hope that the series goes far enough that we get to see the later Rick Grimes described above, I don’t think it’s out of the question and I would be very worried from the start if I don’t see whoever they cast as Rick being able to pull off that much solitude and anguish when the time eventually comes. What it comes down to is that Rick has to be played by someone who you can like, identify with and trust to do “the right thing” in the beginning and a person you can believably fear, worry about and for, but still trust with your life later on. I find that every actor I think of is good for one of these roles but not the other:

    – Nathan Fillion: great in the beginning but I don’t know that he could pull off the later Rick.
    – Jeremy Renner: I can see him being the tough crazy Rick but not the cool family man Rick. This is a maybe.
    – Dean Winters: Might be able to pull off both but I don’t know that the audience would give him the benefit of the doubt to do the right thing right off the bat.
    – Peter Krause: He plays a good average guy but he also played a good detective pushed to the edge in the Lost Room miniseries. Also, his shows always get canceled.

    This is a very tough roll to cast, it’s like the opposite of Michael Chiklis as The Thing in F4 (Wizard Magazine cast him for that roll in a throwaway article like 12 years before that movie got made, which is hilarious if you ask me). All in all, I can’t offer anyone better than the list above, and honestly, I’m not even that happy with those options.

  6. Little Edie’s avatar

    Wow, this list is dead on, especially Michonne. For some reason, though, I always saw Lori as Native – what’s Q’orianka Kilcher doing these days?

    And I won’t lie. Until it airs, a tiny part of me is waiting for the producers to call me up to play Andrea. Tough as nails.

    I’d also like to see Tom Savini as The Mayor, but that’s just me.

  7. BAT’s avatar

    Those are some amazing choices! You should be casting this show for real!

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