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?