There was panic on The Walking Dead set when its stars, including Cooper Andrews and newcomer Nadia Hilker, didn't know which characters might be killed off by Whisperer leader Alpha (Samantha Morton) in the penultimate episode of Season 9. Andrews, who has played adviser to King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) since Season 7, and Hilker, who joined as a member of Yumiko's (Eleanor Matsuura) group after a six-year time jump in Season 9, report their Walking Dead cast mates were "running around like crazy people" before learning which zombie apocalypse survivors would be abducted and murdered by the skin-wearing Whisperers in Season 9 episode "The Calm Before."
"That show just really allows you to enjoy every day on set like it could be your last. And really no one on this show [knows who's going to die]," Hilker said at GalaxyCon Richmond. "I came on and everyone was scared. Like you start talking to the cast and they're like, 'Oh my God, I think I'm gonna get killed next.' And I'm like, 'What? You've been on the show for like five [years].' 'Yeah, it means nothing.' It means nothing."
The Walking Dead stars are typically informed of their character's impending doom by way of a pre-season phone call from showrunner Angela Kang, but as Andrews and Hilker explained, no one feels safe until after filming has completed.
"With the heads on the spikes, we were all just running around like crazy people, 'It's gonna be me,' 'No, no, you're safe, it's gonna be me,' 'No, you're safe, it's gonna be me,'" Hilker said. "We didn't know until we all got the [script]. Which happened a couple days before we started filming the episode."
Added Andrews with a laugh, "There was a lot of, 'I hope it's not you. But I hope it's not me, either.'"
"Angela calls you every season before we start filming, and she gives you kind of a rough idea, but that changes while filming," Hilker said. "So never get too comfortable on The Walking Dead."
Alpha's many victims included Henry (Matt Lintz) of the Kingdom and Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) of the Hilltop.
"Story-wise in this case, Alpha's goal was to terrorize the communities and force them to comply with her rules," Kang previously told Deadline when explaining how the Walking Dead writers decided which characters would be killed. "So there's a mix of strategic murders, with Tara, random with Enid, and vengeance-driven with Henry."