Recasting The Walking Dead – who we’d love to have seen in the key roles

By and ·January 13, 2017 11:19 am

It’s always exciting for fans when something beloved gets adapted to the big or small screen, be it a work of literature, a comic book or graphic novel, or a video game. However we each envision characters in our own way, often even having certain actors in mind to fit a specific role, and there are times when the casting doesn’t quite meet our expectations. For the sake of this article, our focus is on AMC’s The Walking Dead series, which was adapted from Robert Kirkman’s comic series of the same name.

The Walking Dead has been largely successful at casting for the most part, it’s talented roster of actors being one of it’s strengths while it often falls short in other areas. Nevertheless there are several key characters we feel didn’t quite fit our image of their comic counterparts. Below we explore those who stand out the most to us, and offer up our preferred choices. After much thought and deliberation, we’ve carefully selected actors and actresses we feel not only bear a strong resemblances to the characters, but whose acting abilities would be well suited for each.

This article is intended to be entertaining and thought provoking, and we mean absolutely no disrespect to the actors and actresses who were cast for the roles of the characters we mention.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Rick Grimes

Known for: Game of Thrones, Mama, Oblivion

Chosen by Jennifer Izykowski

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Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in a side-by-side comparison with Rick Grimes in the comic books.

Let me begin by saying that I have the utmost respect for Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. His level of acting and commitment to the character is one of the aspects of the series that has kept me tuning in all these years. That being said, his resemblance to his comic counterpart has never quite lined up with how I imagined.

The majority of you are familiar with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from HBO’S Game of Thrones, who in my opinion bears an uncanny resemblance to Rick Grimes from the comics. Furthermore his skill level as an actor would fit well in the world of The Walking Dead. He has ability to portray a strong man with a big heart as well as one who can often be self serving, which is well suited for the character.

Danny Trejo as The Governor

Known for: Machete Kills, From Dusk Till Dawn, Heat

Chosen by Jennifer Izykowski

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Danny Trejo in a side-by-side comparison with The Governor in the comic books.

For the television series actor David Morrissey was cast in the role of The Governor, who despite being talented was one hell of a head scratcher for me. For the most part the cast of The Walking Dead, even if they don’t quite fit the physical appearance, have still been written true to the comics.  The Governor was one of the rare exceptions, and while he was a compelling character in the series, he was nothing like the character in the comics. I will never understand why they chose to go the route they did with him, as he was far less effective as a villain than in the source material.

The Governor from the comic series was not charming or even remotely likeable. There were no gray areas in which you could find empathy for him. He was diabolical and someone to truly be feared. For this role I would have preferred to see Danny Trejo cast, as he not only bears a likeness to the comic version of the character, but additionally has the ability to play the seedy villain better than almost anyone. Maybe that’s typecasting, but so be it. It still would have worked better in my opinion. Not to mention, watching Danny Trejo fuck things up is just a whole lot of fun.

Dave Fennoy as Ezekiel

Known for: The Walking Dead – A Telltale Game Series, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy tv series

Chosen by Jennifer Izykowski

Dave Fennoy in a side-by-side comparison with King Ezekiel in the comic books.

For the role of Ezekiel actor Khary Payton was cast, and (aside from the unconvincing wig) he works pretty well so far. That being said, he’s appears to be far younger than the comic version of the character, who is in his late 50’s to early 60’s. So naturally I had envisioned someone quite a bit older.

Many of you may be familiar with Dave Fennoy from his voice acting work, specifically as Lee in Telltale’s The Walking Dead game series. He fits how I imaged Ezekiel to look so well (picture him with a beard) that I’ve often wondered if Robert Kirkman used him as inspiration when he wrote the character into the comics. Granted, Fennoy doesn’t do any on screen acting to the best of my knowledge, and it might have been unsettling for some to hear Lee’s voice spoken as Ezekiel, but I just can’t unsee it.

David Call as Dwight

Known for: The MagiciansQuantico

Chosen by Christopher Hart

David Call in a side-by-side comparison with Dwight in the comic books.

David Call in a side-by-side comparison with Dwight in the comic books.

The Magicians is a dark and fantastical show on SyFy, which holds quite a strong fan base. While David Call doesn’t hold one of the key roles in the show, he did play a supporting part for four episodes and proved his acting abilities for us therein.

Call holds the perfect facial structure for Dwight and even his eyes match that same glance that Dwight holds. I would also argue that Call’s face holds more sympathetic features than Austin Amelio’s (the actor who currently plays Dwight on the show), which is crucial for Dwight’s future arc, which concerns him flipping sides to join Rick’s group. Call has the build too and I would kill to see him placed in Dwight’s facial make-up, just once, so that I can prove just how perfect he’d be for the part.

Ryan Hurst as Abraham Ford

Known for: Sons of Anarchy, Bates Motel

Chosen by Christopher Hart

Ryan Hurst in a side-by-side comparison with Abraham in the comic books.

Ryan Hurst in a side-by-side comparison with Abraham in the comic books.

Michael Cudlitz was cast as Abraham in the show and although he might have had the gusto required for Ford, he didn’t look enough like him, for my taste. Abraham is supposed to be tall and mountainous, which is crucial to his look; he’s a giant with a kind heart (apart from the whole cheating fiasco).

I would love to have seen Ryan Hurst in the role. Ryan is adored the world over for his turn as Opie in Sons of Anarchy, in which he pulled off the gentle giant balance perfectly, which in turn made his demise excruciating to behold. If Ryan had taken on the role of Abraham, I would argue that Abraham’s death at the hands of Negan would have felt far more heartbreaking than it in fact did. Ryan also has a brilliant recurring role in Bates Motel as mountain-dweller Chick.

Connor Stanhope as Carl Grimes

Known for: Supernatural, Smallville

Chosen by Christopher Hart

Connor Stanhope in a side-by-side comparison with Carl in the comic books.

Connor Stanhope in a side-by-side comparison with Carl in the comic books.

While the show does get things right with Carl quite often (mostly when the show is faultlessly faithful to the comic book), I personally don’t feel that Chandler Riggs is right for the role. There’s a certain weakness and timidity that he projects, within the role, that Carl shouldn’t hold. In the comics, Carl is bold and daring; so much so that Negan takes a real shine to him. While the Carl in the show does act in bold ways, like sneaking into the Saviours’ compound, there’s a certain lack of bravado in the way that Riggs plays him. Even though Carl is a teenager, there’s a certain lack of manliness.

I would love to have seen Connor Stanhope in the role, who is the right age for Carl (at the point at which Carl is currently at in the show). Connor hasn’t been in a great deal, but he has appeared in the two titans that are Smallville and Supernatural. If you watch his ALS ice bucket challenge you’ll see that he holds a gruff manliness about him that would be very apt for Carl. Add to this his face shape and looks being perfectly in line with Carl’s and you’ll see why he’s my number one choice.

Patrick Warburton as Negan

Known for: The Tick, Seinfeld, Sequestered, Crowded, Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Chosen by Jennifer Izykowski and Christopher Hart

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Patrick Warburton in a side-by-side comparison with Negan in the comic books.

For a long time now Negan has been among my favorite comic characters. Villain though he may be, he’s hilariously entertaining. Having been anticipating his appearance on the series for some time now, I began picturing who could portray him ages ago. Jeffrey Dean Morgan never came to mind, though he does play a compelling version of the character (albeit not nearly as hilarious).

Despite his wickedness, I always envisioned a more jovial and bombastic actor being cast in the role, someone more known for doing comedy roles being tossed into the world of The Walking Dead, which is when Patrick Warburton came to mind. His work in The Tick has always been memorable and dear to me. He has the prominent jaw, the facial structure, and physical build of Negan. More importantly his voice lends itself well to my idea of the character. So much so that when I read Negan’s lines in the comics, I hear them in Warburton’s voice. Imagine Negan with The Tick’s voice, I promise it’s a lot of fun.

Zach McGowan as Jesus/Paul Rovia (Paul Monroe)

Known for: Black Sails, Shameless, The 100

Chosen by Jennifer Izykowski and Christopher Hart

Zach McGowan in a side-by-side comparison with Paul “Jesus” Monroe in the comic books.

The character of Jesus is another favorite of mine, and while actor Tom Payne is certainly skilled and plays the role with a lot of heart, he doesn’t fit the physical appearance of his comic counterpart. To me Jesus always came across as being very masculine with broad features, and an impressive height and build. When Jesus and Rick are portrayed together in the source material, it’s clear that Jesus is far more physically imposing, which is not at all the case in the series.

I would have liked to have seen actor Zach McGowan land the role, whose features resemble that of Jesus in addition his physical stature. Likewise, McGowan is an incredibly dynamic actor, but is mostly known for doing very physical roles, such as Captain Charles Vane in Black Sails. This is well suited to Jesus, who in the comics is incredibly skilled at hand to hand combat and is also a talented escape artist. It would also showcase the gentler side of the actors abilities, as Jesus may be tough as nails but is also a man with a heart of gold.

Claire Holt as Andrea

Known for: Aquarius, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, H20: Just Add Water

Chosen by Jennifer Izykowski and Christopher Hart

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Claire Holt in a side-by-side comparison with Andrea in the comic books.

The part of Andrea was granted to actress Laurie Holden, who although talented did not feel right for the role. In my opinion she portrayed Andrea more abrasive than the comic version, who never came across as such and was also quite a bit younger (however that last point did not have any bearing on my opinion of her portrayal).

Actress Claire Holt not only looks the part, but her roles in shows such as Aquarius and The Originals are a testament to her ability to take on characters who are fiery, passionate, strong and willful, while also being kind and generous, which I feel suits the comic version of Andrea incredibly well.

Comic book characters yet to appear in AMC’s TV show

For the fun of it, we’ve decided to add a few key characters from the comics that have yet to be included in the series, but are likely to be cast in the future. Again, we’ve chosen the actors and actresses we feel would not only look the part, but whose acting skills would be well suited to the characteristics of each role.

Roberta Coacci as Alpha

Known for: Knight of Cups

Chosen by Christopher Hart

Roberta Caocci in a side-by-side comparison with Alpha in the comic books.

Roberta Caocci in a side-by-side comparison with Alpha in the comic books.

Alpha is the head of a group called The Whisperers, who wear the skin of the dead to walk among and blend in with them, while armed with knives. Led by Alpha, their society is heavily tied with animalistic hierarchy; only the strong survive. If a girl (even Alpha’s own daughter, Lydia) is being raped my male members of their group, then the girl must be left to fight them off herself, otherwise she won’t prove herself to be strong. It’s a messed up ideology and Alpha holds a sad emotional instability under her tough exterior. She is also a leader who will devastate you tenfold if you cross her.

A true unknown, Roberta Caocci’s only familiar project was Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups (she’s also been in a handful of shorts and TV shows since 2007) and even in that she’s only credited on IMDB as ‘Woman (Uncredited)’, but I feel that her looks are so spot on for Alpha that she’d be by far the best choice. With the same long, wide face as Alpha and even the same nose and mouth, it’s only the eyes that differ, with Caocci holding much pretty eyes than Alpha is drawn as having in the comics. Caocci’s small but progressively flourishing career proves that she can act and I would love to see her shave her head and take on the complex role of Alpha.

Matreya Fedor as Lydia

Known for: SlitherEurekaMotive

Chosen by Christopher Hart

Matreya Fedor in a side-by-side comparison with Lydia in the comic books.

Matreya Fedor in a side-by-side comparison with Lydia in the comic books.

Lydia is the daughter of Alpha and has suffered rape, without intervention from her mother, all in the name of The Whisperers’ values around strength. Following capture, Lydia becomes a member of Rick’s group and her and Carl grow very close romantically. Lydia grows to reject the ways of her people and her mother, choosing to reject an attempt to save her by murdering some of The Whisperers who offer to bring her home.

Matreya Fedor has only graced a fell well known shows, such as Motive and one of my personal favourites: Eureka, but you’ll see from our comparison photos above that she holds the sweet rounded face and huge eyes that are appropriate for Lydia. In order to effectively portray Lydia, a certain amount of weirdness is needed (she feels like a weird child in the comics and even licks Carl’s eye socket at point point). I’ve watched interview with Matreya and she seems like more prom queen that wallflower, but she also seems to hold the acting clout to pull of the offbeat personality that is needed for Lydia. She’s also convincingly pretty enough to warrant Carl falling head over heels for her.

Tyler Mane as Beta

Known for: X-Men, Halloween, Troy

Chosen by Jennifer Izykowski

Tyler Mane in a side-by-side comparison with Beta in the comic books.

Beta is one of the newer additions to the comic universe, and very little is known about him at this point. However, he’s a stand out character and is highly likely to be cast in the series when it comes time to introduce his group, The Whisperers.

This character was more difficult to cast, as comic readers have never actually seen his face aside from what you’re able to make out beneath his mask. What’s more apparent is his physical stature, and to say it’s imposing is a massive understatement. Which is why I had to find an actor whose height and physique are incredibly impressive, and additionally someone with a truly fearsome bearing. Tyler Mane was among the first to come to mind, as his work in Rob Zombie’s Halloween felt well suited for what I had in mind. It was actually dumb luck that his facial structure matches very well to what we’ve seen of Beta so far.

Again I feel the need to mention that we mean no disrespect to those cast for the roles mentioned. This article is meant to be fun, and it’s worth noting that our vision may not be in line with other fans of both the comic and series. What do you think of our choices? Would you have chosen differently? Or maybe there’s a character we didn’t include. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Image credits: Image comics

Co-written by Christopher Hart

Lead Writer and Copywriter

Chris is a Copywriter with an MA in Publishing and a BA in Comparative Literature. He is also a self-published author (Altered Stone).

His areas of interest include LOST, The Leftovers, The Prisoner, Y: The Last Man, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, BioShock, Transistor, Robert Silverberg, Josh Malerman and David Cronenberg.

Co-written by Jennifer Izykowski

Lead Writer

Jennifer is currently a stay at home mother residing in the Adirondacks region of upstate New York with a background in business management. At present, she is training to be a care provider for the elderly and disabled.

Hobbies and interests include homesteading, self defense and tactical training, hiking, photography, writing, reading, drawing, painting, television, comics, and film.

Specialty subjects include television, film, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, and The Walking Dead comic and series.

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