Austin Amelio joined The Walking Dead in season 6 as Dwight, the complex Savior with the burned visage who went from bad guy and Daryl Dixon wannabe to double agent: come season 8, Dwight's thrown in with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and friends as an inside man helping to sabotage and bring an end to Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) reign of terror.
But in season 6, Dwight was an easily-hated villain, having shot fan-favorite Daryl (Norman Reedus) after killing Alexandria doctor Denise (Merritt Weaver) with Daryl's stolen crossbow. Dwight's bad behavior followed Amelio off screen, the actor telling TV Guide about the fan backlash over his rivalry with Daryl:
"When I shot Daryl, people were like 'I'm gonna burn your house down,'" Amelio said. "So I've had that sort of stuff."
“And I think people — it’s hard for them to distinguish that," he said of his onscreen character versus his real, not-a-murderer self. "'Are you Dwight?' I’m like, no, I’m Austin, I’m nice; Dwight’s a d—k.”
Despite the harsher fan reactions, Amelio has nothing but praise for The Walking Dead's involved fan base.
“I came into this whole show and just popped out behind trees for the first couple episodes, just shooting people and being an a—hole," Amelio said. "I knew it wasn’t gonna turn out good. [Laughs] But I love it, there’s nothing like it. The fans with this show are unbelievable, man. They’re so cool and nice and if I do see people on the street, it's always just like, 'Hey, love your work,' and I like that they’re passionate about it. It makes the show what it is."
Some fans previously drove Josh McDermitt to quit social media following his character's turn to the dark side, and online bullying and hate directed towards Tara actress Alanna Masterson resulted in the new mother shutting down her own social media accounts.
McDermitt poked fun at the people taking things too seriously during last Sunday's two-hour Talking Dead special following the episode 100 premiere, when host Chris Hardwick asked the actor if people were still mad over Eugene having switched sides: "Yeah, they think this is a documentary," McDermitt joked.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.