Tonight's episode of The Walking Dead featured quite a few interesting character moments, including a number of scenes featuring Axel and Carol. For today's special feature, we have an exclusive interview with Lew Temple, who plays Axel on the show. We also have some exclusive behind-the-scenes photos he shared with us. **Spoiler Warning: Do not read this interview if you have not watched episode 310**
Before joining the cast, were you familiar with The Walking Dead comic book series and your character?
Lew Temple: I was familiar with the fact that there was a comic book series. Based on my presence in the genre, it was brought to my attention by fans. It wasn't something that was in my stack of reading each week, but when the TV series came to life, I thought it was great. The graphic novels were done so well, that I felt it made for real ambitious television. I always thought it would have been hard to pull off the grittiness on TV, but obviously they do it and it's fantastic. I give a lot of credit to people that can take a graphic novel and bring it to the screen.
Whether viewers have read the graphic novel or not, I feel that everyone was still trying to figure out what Axel was all about on the TV series.
Lew Temple: These are things that are part of the success of the show. These are discoveries that have been happening a little bit each episode. I don't think there's a specific blueprint for Axel that says how he reacts. There's so much organic opportunity in the process of building the show. The producers, directors, writers, and cast have such an availability and try new things. It's been a delight trying to understand Axel.
For most viewers, your death will probably come as a shock. It seems like we were just starting to learn more about your character and now Axel is gone.
Lew Temple: That's what I wanted to pull off. It's a gut punch to the audience, especially the people that started to invest their emotions in Axel. It's apparent that he's opening up a bit more, has a fondness in the group, and then this happens. The Governor needed retribution, and it was going to be Axel, Beth, Hershel, or one of the others outside of the prison.
Glen Mazzara and his staff recognized that this war is coming to a head and it needed to have casualties. The Governor certainly suffered his casualties and he had to exact some sort of revenge. We know from the graphic novel that Axel goes down in the prison war, but it happened much sooner than I would have thought. I felt like we were just starting to peel the layers of Axel and there was a lot more to learn, including questioning whether his genuineness was true. I was building him so there could be room to have some ugly teeth to show. We don't really know what was underneath.
I told you before that my wife had you pegged as a serial killer in disguise.
Lew Temple: I always maintained that as a possibility, hence the buttoning up of the prison garbs and the fact that only one tattoo shows. My intent was that we could see a lot of tattoos and something we didn't expect. Or not...
He mentioned himself that he was a pharmaceutical user, but at the end of the day, we find out the truth is that he's there for armed robbery. Is he a pathological liar? That's another layer we could have added. Why isn't he being straight forward? I felt there were a lot of things we had the opportunity to explore with Axel, but I'm proud with how he did show up, and I sincerely feel that he'll be missed. It is a shock and that's absolutely the intent of the show.
I feel that the audience reaction to Axel's death will be more "hate to see him go" than "I wanted him out."
How far ahead did you know about Axel's demise?
Lew Temple: Glen Mazzara called me up about two weeks in advance and he actually told me before the rest of the cast. I was told Axel was going to take a bullet to the head, because The Governor needed to exact retribution and the audience needs something taken away from them.
I tried to think quickly for an appeal: "Wait... We could do this: This Allen guy just showed up. Let's get rid of him" [Laughs] I loved being a part of The Walking Dead, because it's a great group of people and I adore working with them. But mostly my appeal was for Axel, because he had more to bring.
I wanted the last episode for Axel to be absolutely honorable. Having seen this episode, I'm very comfortable with his death. I don't feel cheated or disrespected in how he went out at all. It's shocking...
Can you tell me about filming your final scenes?
Lew Temple: I felt good about our approach and on the day we did the work, I was prepared and in good spirits. I didn't want to show up being depressive, because clearly that would be playing my emotions into Axel. You've seen a lot of us with our headsets and we usually have a specific soundtrack for our work.
Andrew is very specific with that, Norman is, and I think Lauren is as well. I do that often too and there was a song from Citizen Cope called Bullet in the Target. It's really upbeat with some heavy lyrics, and I just imagined myself between a bullet and a target.
Would I want to come back as a zombie in that setting? The answer is no. I'm very pleased with how I went out. I think death scenes are some of the hardest to pull off, and Glen, the director, and writer gave me some choices. I felt like this was the right choice for what its intentions were.
Now that all is said and done, I would have liked to have been more serviceable in the fight, but I was as a human shield at some point, right? So maybe I did help out.
This is the second time this season that someone's death has saved Carol.
Lew Temple: Maybe someone will say that Axel was there to save Carol's life or was the casualty someone didn't have to be. If nothing else, he saved her life, and if that's what Axel is known for, then God bless him. Carol will forever be grateful.
With that being said, someone who I won't name mentioned to me that men who have put themselves close to Carol have not fared that well....
Is there a certain little black widow tied to her essence? I have to wonder and would like to have cautioned Daryl upon his return. [laughs] If I could leave him anything, I'd give him a set of head gaskets for the motorcycle, and tell him not to get too close to the woman with short hair because it will cost him. It's very interesting and there has to be a reason that we're compelled to save her. In my case, clearly I had no idea, but what about T-Dog?
Did you film any of the scenes where Axel was a human shield for Carol?
Lew Temple: I feel that they were very kind to me with the production of this episode. They have a lifecast of me that doesn't breathe or blink, and it looks a lot like me. They are so lifelike that my wife could not tell the pictures weren't me.
The better story to this is that it's not a lifecast of me. There was a point where this decision was in question and was being reconsidered. There was some thought this wasn't going to happen, so the lifecast of me actually ended up being the lifecast of Greg Nicotero, and it's uncanny how much we look alike. He was a zombie in a few episodes, so his mold was used for my human shield body cast. I was such a fan of Greg Nicotero before the show, because we worked together on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That I could be represented by his physicality is quite an honor.
The prison massacre took about two days of filming, but it was without me. The rest of the team had to fight through the summer heat and bugs of Georgia. I just had my proxy lay there and he did better than I would have. He looked better, he has a fuller head of hair, and he doesn't breath, so God bless him. He was the perfect choice! [laughs]
I want to give a big thanks to Lew Temple for taking the time to talk to me about his time on The Walking Dead and his final episode on the show. He provided us with a number of behind-the-scenes photos and I've included them below.
If you'd like to meet Lew Temple in person, there are a number of opportunities coming up. To view our list of upcoming appearances from The Walking Dead cast, visit: