Former Walking Dead star Michael Traynor was told fans "f—ing hate" him and suffered other forms of backlash when his character, cowardly Alexandria survivor Nicholas, emerged as an antagonist for fan-favorite Glenn (Steven Yeun) in Seasons 5 and 6. Traynor previously told ComicBook.com half the fanbase "had pitchforks and torches coming to kill [him]" after Nicholas caused Glenn's apparent death in an infamous incident revolving around a dumpster in Season 6 episode "Thank You," and more than four years after that episode's airing, Traynor reflects on the reactions he faced from fans who spent weeks worrying about Glenn's fate:
"That hiatus, in-between the end of [Season] 5 and to the beginning of [Season] 6, was a lot of fun," Traynor said on Skybound's Talk Dead to Me podcast of the Season 5 finale, "Conquer," where Nicholas viciously attacked Glenn and left him to die. "I knew the job of Nicholas wasn’t to be this cuddly, affable, super-charming individual, which is kind of how I lead my own life, thanks a lot. So when people would come up and say, 'Hey man, I f—ing hate you,' I would hear, 'Great job, you hit the target.'"
Reactions worsened after 603, "Thank You," where Glenn and Nicholas — forgiven for past transgressions — found themselves cornered by a pack of walkers when out in the wild. Nicholas shot himself in the head to avoid being eaten alive, and his corpse sent Glenn toppling into the hungry horde below.
"It was a lot of fun in that people were so involved in the show, that it was great to be a part of some cultural phenomenon like that," Traynor said. "And then the real humdinger of a fan reaction time period was after the dumpster episode, and for those three or so weeks until people realized that Glenn was alive."
Glenn appeared to be torn apart by walkers, but his death was never confirmed by then-showrunner Scott Gimple or aftershow Talking Dead. His fate was left unknown until weeks later in episode 607, "Heads Up," where it was revealed Glenn survived by using Nicholas' body as a cover before scurrying to safety beneath a dumpster.
"That was funny because people came up to me just screaming like, 'Where’s Glenn? What happened? What’s happening to you?'" Traynor said. "I’d be at the checkout stand at a grocery store, and they’d be like, 'Paper or plastic and what happened to Glenn?' [I'd say], 'I brought my own bag, no spoilers.' So that was really fun. And there were people that were… the thing is, folks were so involved in the show and rightly so — the storylines were so compelling — those three weeks in-between, people were just so fanatically wanting the answer, and I thought that was an amazing testament to [the show’s popularity]."
He continued, "When you do live theater as an actor, you get to — after the show by the stage door — you get to experience the reaction. If the play was good, if the play was bad, how compelling it was. You have a sense of the immediate impact on the audience, and it was so fantastic — regardless of people throwing stuff at me from their truck as they were driving by, or not, only happened once — is that there was that sort of visceral reaction in the audience."
To experience that, Traynor added, "It made you feel fantastic that you were a part of a story that was having that kind of an effect on people."0comments
Asked if he minded the vitriol he faced at the time, Traynor answered, "No, no. Not at all. That was the job I was hired to do, and I worked really hard to do a good job. And so I felt that it was a confirmation that what I gave to the editors and the directors was up to snuff."