In the original comic book, Shane doesn’t last past the first book. But, says Bernthal, series creator Frank Darabont had a plan for Shane — one that kept him in the mix longer and allowed him to become more integral to the storyline, but would still eventually end up with him dying.
And, says Bernthal, when Darabont abruptly left the show in July 2011 — he was replaced by lead writer Glen Mazzara — there was a definite shift in the decision-making process.
“I think it’s an unbelievably collaborative process and I think [“The Walking Dead”] more than most is very collaborative,” Bernthal tells Zap2it. “Once Frank left I think we were welcomed even more to be a part of that because Frank was really the heart and soul of the show and when he left that [void] needed to be filled.”
But the collaboration turned tense, says Bernthal, when it came to planning and executing Shane’s on-screen death.
“I think that in that final episode — I think we all had very strong ideas on how that episode should come out,” he says. “We all felt really strongly about what it meant … there were a lot of really tense hard feelings in those last weeks.”
“The cast and crew wanted it to be one way, the writers wanted it to be another,” he continues. “I think everybody kind of had their idea of what that scene should be. Everybody feels ownership. I feel like it’s my part, Andy (Andrew Lincoln) and me feel like we know these characters better than anyone and the writers feel know these characters better than anyone and there was a real difference of opinion on how that should go down.”
But, says Bernthal, that conflict was ultimately healthy for what ended up on screen in Season 2’s second to last episode.
“I think what ended up happening was kind of a perfect storm of all of our ideas coming together. Which is really the best thing you can hope for,” he says.
And, yes, Bernthal was disappointed that news of his character’s death was leaked early. But, he says, how they got to that death was more important than the fact that it would happen at all.
“I think it’s not always about whether or not a character dies, but how they die. And besides, I always thought this was Rick Grimes’ story. Shane dying needs to resonate with Rick and the rest of the Grimes family. That’s the point.”
Point taken. And with Emmy buzz building behind his Season 2 performance, Bernthal and the creative team at “The Walking Dead” can probably agree that Bernthal’s performance resonated plenty.
On Friday (March 23) we’ll have more from our interview with Bernthal, including how he’s preparing for his new role in Darabont’s TNT pilot “L.A. Noir.”