Fight the dead. Fear the living.
That's long been a motto of The Walking Dead, the hit AMC zombie series that has proved a phenomenon since its 2010 debut.
Once the biggest hazard in a world gone by, the shambling and flesh-hungry corpses of The Walking Dead were quickly surpassed by the real threat of a world dragged into ruin by way of zombie apocalypse — namely the still-living survivors who menace Team Family.
For Walking Dead actors who have played characters less-embraced by the wider fan base, their perils have extended beyond walkers, cannibals or Saviors: their troubles followed them off screen, with their onscreen portrayals of sometimes unlikable characters causing them real life grief.
The amount of fans spewing hatred towards The Walking Dead's cast members have proved to be a minority, but their actions have nonetheless had tangible effects and real life consequences:
Josh McDermitt, who plays mullet-sporting mush-mouthed genius Eugene, quickly found himself targeted by online trolls after his character pledged his loyalty to Louisville Slugger-swinging villain Negan.
Last May, the actor took to Facebook Live to inform his hundreds of thousands of followers he would be shutting down his Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts — the result of cyber bullying aimed his way following Eugene's infidelity.
"Don’t send me death threats, because I’m gonna report all that sh—t to the cops," McDermitt said in the video. "I’m just sick of it. You can hate Eugene, I don’t care. I’ll argue that you’re wrong, but you can think whatever you want. But when you start saying you hope I die, I don’t know if you’re talking about Josh or Eugene. I gotta report that sh—t."
"So just don’t be an a—hole. And then ... stop complaining," he continued. "Let’s just stop complaining about everything on the internet. OK. Seriously. Go spend time with your family or friends or loved ones. Just get off the internet. Is there anything else? Other than I love you? I do. I love you guys."prevnext
Seth Gilliam, the actor behind Father Gabriel, opened up to Entertainment Weekly about his own experience with death threats, which came about as result of Gabriel's early uneasy integration into the group.
The once-cowardly preacher turned trusted Alexandrian has been embraced by fans in recent seasons, but the character once went behind Rick's back — drawing fans' ire.
"It was kind of different for me because it’s unlike any other role that I’ve played," Gilliam said. "It’s had such an impact on the audience. It took a little getting used to, the death threats, and realizing they were coming from 13-year-old boys in the basement of their Wisconsin home, as opposed to people who were really meaning me harm. That had a profound impact on me, on just how seriously people are involved with the characters in the show."
"At first it was a little uncomfortable because every actor wants to be appreciated for what they’re doing — even guys who play bad guys," he continued. "Yeah, you want to dislike the bad guys, but you want to like the actor because he’s making you dislike the bad guy. And for a while, I felt the lines were kind of blurred because it’s so personal. It was like, 'Well, wait I didn’t write these lines. This isn’t me improvising on set. This is the way the plot is going.' So, it took a little getting used to, and I had to take a little distance."prevnext
Austin Amelio, who plays since-reformed Savior mole Dwight, started on The Walking Dead as an easy-to-hate back-stabber who found himself despised by fans when he betrayed fan-favorite Daryl, robbed him, and later used the archer's beloved crossbow to strike and kill Alexandria doctor Denise.
Though Dwight has since found himself fully aligned with the good guys in season 8, Amelio told TV Guide Dwight's actions had him on the receiving end of threats to burn down his house.
"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 differentiating Dwight the Savior from Austin the actor. "'Are you Dwight?' I’m like, 'no, I’m Austin, I’m nice; Dwight’s a d—k.'”
Amelio empathized with hating Dwight, saying the vocal minority of haters are outweighed by The Walking Dead's cooler fans:
"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. I knew it wasn’t gonna turn out good," Amelio said with a laugh.
"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."prevnext
Alanna Masterson, who plays Twizzler-chomping and fist-bumping Alexandrian Tara, once cited internet harassment as the reason for her leaving social media.
The then-new mother had found herself targeted for her appearance, taking to Instagram to defend herself from body shamers:
"Dear Instagram trolls, body shamers, and the men and woman who think it's ok to comment on my weight: I hope that you don't have children," Masterson wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post.
"And if you do, I hope you teach them about kindness and acceptance. I hope they learn that it isn't ok to make fun of people or call people names. I hope one day YOU learn what it takes to be a parent. A kind, selfless parent. A working parent. A parent that puts themselves in someone else's shoes. Maybe you can't get it through your thick f—king skull, but nursing a baby for a year (and pumping in a van between takes, in the dead of summer in Georgia) is a lot of work, determination, and scheduling. So before you decide to make a comment about my chest being 'too large' or how 'fat' I've become, just know that this little girl got the best start to life. I wouldn't have changed it for a second. I would've gladly continued to eat enough calories to produce milk for her little bones to grow. Also, grow the f—k up. Your mother should be ashamed for raising such a judgmental bully. I'm sure she knows how 'courageous' you must be for trolling and hiding behind your Iphone and computers. P.s. I would LOVE to see any man or woman give birth to a baby, nurse the baby, and then work 17 hour days and NAIL their own stunts."
"P.s.s. Be kind to each other," Masterson wrote, signing off. "We need it now more than ever."prevnext
Laurie Holden played Andrea across The Walking Dead's first three seasons, a character who was killed off early on in the show's lifespan despite being a long enduring character in Robert Kirkman's comic books.
Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl, once told EW how Holden had told him she had received death threats from fans — threats made because of Andrea's actions in a season 2 episode that saw the trigger-happy Andrea shoot and nearly kill Daryl, who she had mistaken for a walker.
“She came to the set and was freaking out: ‘People want to kill me!’" Reedus recalled. "I was like, ‘Come on.’ And the next day: ‘Norman, I’m terrified. People are threatening my life!’”
Reedus posed with Holden in a picture posted to the internet as a way of fanning the fires, showing fans there was no bad blood between the two, but Holden still found herself hated by fans for Andrea's actions.
"I did not expect or anticipate such incredible backlash. That’s been upsetting at times," the actress told The Walking Dead 'Cast of Andrea's journey in Season Three, which saw the survivor shack up with the villainous Woodbury leader called the Governor.
"I’m not Andrea and that’s the thing and it’s been hard," Holden explained.2comments
"It’s a compliment in a way because obviously it’s resonating because they see no difference between me and the character but at the same token," Holden added, "I get things on my Twitter feed that are attacks on me personally because of the things they’ve done to Andrea, that’s when it gets uncomfortable. This is storytelling, I’m trying to bring to life this character, love her or hate her, everyone is entitled to an opinion and I don’t judge it, but I’m just the actress who is doing the best job they can.”
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.prev