Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “The Walking Dead” season 7 premiere.
While fans finally found out who was killed at the end of “The Walking Dead” season six, the cast and crew have known for a long time. Despite many of them telling fans and interviewers previously that they didn’t know the big reveal for a while, actor Michael Cudlitz, who plays Abraham, told reporters Monday that wasn’t the case.
Cudlitz said he found out about his character’s fate a year and three months ago (very specific!). He then got very candid saying they filmed both his and Glenn’s deaths about a year ago and that they have all been lying to everyone since to help prevent spoilers from leaking online.
“We had finished that just before Thanksgiving. I had been sitting with it, Steven [Yeun] has been sitting with it, and the rest of the cast for a year now,” said Cudlitz. “One of the good things was that we were able to spread a rumour that not even the cast knew what was going to happen. They were going to find out when they got back. They said they filmed everybody’s death scene just in case and they said they were re-doing contract negotiations for some of the cast and we weren’t sure who it was going to be. All of that was a lie.”
The Hollywood Reporter first reported earlier this year the show filmed 11 death sequences to prevent the cliff-hanger finale from leaking. Cudlitz said all of that made it a little easier for them to try and hide who had died until the show returned in October.
Cudlitz also acknowledged that AMC has had some in-house leaks in the past. He mentioned that because the show airs worldwide, copies of the show get released to international partners for dubbing purposes and sometimes editing purposes ahead of airtime.
“The show is available out there,” he said. “Even though it’s in-house a lot of eyeballs are on the show.”
Even more surprising is that Cudlitz said there was some chatter about possibly revealing who was killed in the season six finale — something that the series showrunners and executive producers have never said in the past.
“They were talking about [doing it at] the end of season six, the beginning of season seven. They weren’t sure exactly how they were going to do it. [Showrunner] Scott [Gimple] wasn’t sure how he wanted to structure the storytelling for the greatest impact,” said Cudlitz.
Though Cudlitz said he theoretically wasn’t supposed to tell anyone he was being killed off, he did tell his immediate family.
“Obviously, I told my wife because it would be kind of strange sort of just sleeping in every day in Los Angeles when I’m supposed to be in Atlanta,” he said. “And I told my kids last spring for the same reason when they came home from school and sort were like, ‘Why is daddy home?'”
Other than that, Cudlitz said he didn’t tell anyone. When asked if it was difficult to keep the secret of his demise for so long, Cudlitz said it wasn’t hard at all other than having to be at home and having to keep his hair dyed.
The 51-year-old actor actually took the opportunity to travel overseas to try and throw spoiler-searching fans off his scent. When he would run into people he knew or fans he told them he was just about to head to set.
“I think the best thing to do is sort of pretend it’s just normal,” said Cudlitz. So if somebody bumped into him and asked if he was down in Atlanta the answer was pretty simple. “‘Yeah, we leave in two days!’ Everywhere I went I would tell somebody I’m leaving in two days or I had just gotten in town … I had people who were pretty close to me who really didn’t know what was going on.”
Not everyone was fooled though. Cudlitz said there were a few people who were keeping tabs on his whereabouts pretty well and eventually put the pieces together.
“They would write to me on Twitter and stuff and say, ‘Oh, we know you’re not there [or] whatever. You’re almost like, you want to tell them to shut up, but you can’t,” Cudlitz said so that the experience isn’t ruined for others.
When people at the gym became suspicious of him being there a lot of consecutive days, he ended up switching gyms for a few weeks to throw them off.
Cudlitz even came up with an elaborate story for his barber after he asked why he was getting his hair dyed there and not on set of the show.
“If I do it at home, I get to stay home an extra day because if I go out there then they have to bring me in a day or two early because they got to get it done before I shoot and sometimes it wraps around a weekend so that one day could mean three days,” he recalled. “Even he was on board and he sort of didn’t really figure it out because I would come in every three weeks or so.”
Cudlitz knew that they weren’t perfect in keeping the secret under wraps, but he did think the cast and crew did a pretty good job. He said the key is that you don’t need to lie to people. You just need to be good at keeping people confused.
“When you really get down to it, the people who were really trying to track us and really trying to sort of ruin the experience for other people, they were able to lock us down better because they were specifically looking to do that, but generally speaking, I think we did a good job at keeping people confused,” said Cudlitz. “You don’t have to lie to people, you just have to keep them confused. You don’t have to tell them the thing that they’re believing isn’t true.”
If you’re wondering, Cudlitz will be sporting the beard for a while longer.
“I typically do that until I know what my next gig is,” said Cudlitz. “Honestly, I have a really big fan event coming up soon and it’s kind of a way for the fans to say goodbye. It’s kind of a respectful thing [for fans] to not immediately take it off because for them it just happened.”
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