Former Walking Dead star Steven Yeun was one of “several” actors considered for a cameo appearance in Andrew Lincoln’s final episode but was unable to appear due to scheduling conflicts, showrunner Angela Kang told THR.
“Steven was somebody we considered, but there were scheduling difficulties with him. Hershel had a particular relationship with Rick,” Kang said of a trio of hallucinations that temporarily revived Scott Wilson’s Hershel, Sonequa Martin-Green’s Sasha and Jon Bernthal’s Shane.
“There were other people whose names we talked about and then we came to these three and it felt like a good mix of people who represented the different aspects that Rick really needed to have the courage to push forward.”
While suffering from blood loss after his impalement on a piece of protruding rebar, Rick also heard the voices of Morgan (Lennie James), former wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), Hershel’s daughter Beth Greene (Emily Kinney), and Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), who made voice cameos asking Rick, “What’s your wound?”
Kang previously revealed the series intentionally steered away from including appearances by Lori and late son Carl (Chandler Riggs) because the woozy Rick, searching for his family, would have accepted his fate and died had he “reunited” with his wife and son before reaching his new family — lover Michonne (Danai Gurira), brother Daryl (Norman Reedus), and close allies Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Carol (Melissa McBride) among others — at the bridge where Rick ultimately appeared to die in an explosion.
“We dove into this idea of the ‘third man phenomenon.’ “When people are close to death, sometimes they imagine seeing somebody that they knew or that they don’t know that helped drive them to survive and keep them going,” Kang the Huffington Post.
"We had these three particular characters who are sort of filling an emotional need for him in the moment, but Rick’s entire journey is looking for his family, and I felt, creatively felt, that if he sees Lori or Carl he would feel like, ‘OK, I fulfilled my mission. I found them. I’m home. I can lay down and die now.’”
Rick was pulled out of his hallucinations and propelled by the search for his family, ending with Rick saying, “I found them,” before firing at overturned dynamite to explode a bridge packed with an overwhelming walker horde.
“He needed to keep going for the family that is still there, and so to have that kind of restlessness of like, ‘I still haven’t found them. Where are they? Where are they?’ bringing him back to realizing his family has always been there all along ― that the people he’s fighting for now are still his family ― that’s what keeps him going,” Kang said.
“So he can’t find them, otherwise it’d be too easy for him to give up.”
Yeun, who is unlikely to ever reprise the role in flashbacks or a potential Glenn-centric offshoot, previously paid tribute to both Lincoln and the late Wilson ahead of Rick’s final episode on November 4 with an Instagram post labeling his former co-stars as “goats,” or the “greatest of all time.”
Lincoln will next headline his own trilogy of television movies while The Walking Dead Season Nine continues to move on without Rick Grimes, returning with new episodes Sunday, February 10 on AMC.