The Walking Dead's The Wire Obsession Is Weirdly Common in Superhero Shows

Much has been made of the fact that in the upcoming, fifth season of AMC's The Walking Dead, which starts tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC, Seth Gilliam will join the cast as Father Gabriel Stokes, a popular character from the comics.

Specifically, a lot has been made of Gilliam's addition to the cast because he's the third member of the cast of HBO's The Wire to join the cast of The Walking Dead after Chad Coleman (Tyreese) and Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (Bob Stookey).

Business Insider caught up with series creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman about the phenomenon, and he gave a simple answer: 

“I love ‘The Wire,’” Kirkman said. “I think that every actor that’s been on ‘The Wire’ is absolutely fantastic.’”

He went on to say that both Coleman and Gilliam were cast at a point when nobody on staff could think of another actor in the role; Coleman, they sought out because Kirkman was writing the role with him in mind -- and by the time they got to Gilliam, even the producers on The Walking Dead were making fun of it.

“It was funny, when Seth [Gilliam] came up in the casting of Gabriel [showrunner] Scott Gimple and I were like ‘Do we really want to make this a thing? It’s kind of becoming a bit of a joke. Do we really want to do this?’” Kirkman admitted. 

“Seth was the absolute best guy for the role and so we weren’t going to hold back just because we didn’t want to get a label as hiring people from ‘The Wire’ so I think we’re going to lean in to that and hire even more people from ‘The Wire.’ But as long as they’re the best actors for the job that’s really all we’re looking for."

He added that they'll "definitely make that happen" when asked about recruiting The Wire standouts Michael B. Jordan, currently playing Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four, and Idris Elba of Pacific Rim fame to the cause.

While Kirkman and company have been having a bit of fun with the press they've got out of rooting around in The Wire's closet, it's hardly a unique phenomenon. Even ignoring things like showrunners who hire recurring cast members from their previous show (a common occurence), it's not unheard-of for producers to seemingly develop a little "crush" on another show.

On The CW, The Flash -- with only one episode on the air already and currently filming just its ninth -- has already recruited two members of the Prison Break cast (and a fair number of Broadway stars, too): Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller. The pair played brothers on Prison Break and will play members of the Flash's Rogues Gallery on the CW comic book adaptation.

Even more exaggerated -- and also done under the watchful eye of The Flash's Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg -- is Arrow's love of Starz's Spartacus. The series recently cast Nick Tarabay as villain Digger Harkness, better known as Captain Boomerang.

He'll appear on the series, which has also played host to his former Spartacus co-stars Katrina Law, Manu Bennett and Cynthia Addai-Robinson (at least two of whom will return in Season Three).

"We’re always budget-strapped on this show, and I always joke that we could save money by firing our casting director and just casting out of Spartacus, but I’m not going to do that," Arrow Executive Producer Marc Guggenheim joked in a recent interview. "It’s really a coincidence. They just had great actors on the show, and they work really well in our world. Nick Tarabay was someone who came in for a couple of different roles this season. He made a really, really strong impression on me. I’m just glad we finally found the right role for him on the show. He’s really terrific, as I knew he would be. He’d come in on other things and I’d seen so much of his acting that we just offered him this role, sight unseen. He didn’t have to audition for it. We knew he’d be perfect, and he’s great."


That Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. casts Joss Whedon alumni by the bushelful is more or less par for the course on his projects, so we won't pretend that's unique to the series...but viewed in the context of three other major comic book shows that are seemingly casting this way, it's worth a wink and a nod, at least.

The Walking Dead returns tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.