The Walking Dead Actor Says Dying Before the Whisperer War Was a “Gut Punch”

The Walking Dead actor Matt Mangum admits he expected more longevity from reformed Savior D.J., saying it was a "gut punch" when his character died before the Whisperer War unfurling in the show's tenth season. D.J. first appears in eighth season episode "How It's Gotta Be," taking part in Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) explosive assault against Alexandria, but joins the community led by Michonne (Danai Gurira) sometime during a six-year time jump. In "The Calm Before," the penultimate episode of the ninth season, D.J. is killed by Alpha (Samantha Morton) during an attempt to free survivors captured by the Whisperers.

"It's a gut punch. I was trying to think of a nicer way to put it," Mangum said on the Talk Dead to Me podcast about D.J.'s death. "You kind of expect it's gonna happen eventually, based on the show and what it is, that you're just not going to last forever. I started to feel like D.J. had built some longevity, and that maybe he would be there [longer]."

It's Siddiq (Avi Nash) who reveals D.J. died alongside Highwaymen Ozzy (Angus Sampson) and Alek (Jason Kirkpatrick) trying to save nearly a dozen heroes abducted by the Whisperers, including Enid (Katelyn Nacon) and Tara (Alanna Masterson), who were ultimately decapitated.

The Walking Dead DJ Matt Mangum
(Left to right: Mangum, Kirkpatrick, and Sampson. Photo: AMC)

"I really wanted to be there for the Whisperer War after reading it in the comics," Mangum said. "There's a specific scene in the comics where I think it's Dwight who is carrying [baseball bat Lucille], and they're in the middle of the Whisperer War, and he tosses [Lucille] to Negan and he just starts going to town."

Mangum is referencing a scene from The Walking Dead #159, where Negan uses his trademark weapon to battle Whisperer Beta. Material from issues #158-#160 inspires the coming tenth season finale, including the tactic used by Daryl (Norman Reedus) and other heroes to infiltrate the walker horde unleashed by Beta (Ryan Hurst).

"I was like, 'I want that. I want D.J. to be the one to toss Lucille back to him,'" Mangum said. "So I started to feel like D.J. was gonna be around for a little bit. It sucks, but it's part of the show, and it's part of show business."

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Mangum briefly reprised his role in Season 10 episode 13, "What We Become," where a drugged Michonne hallucinated what might have happened if she joined the Saviors.

The Walking Dead Season 10 finale, “A Certain Doom,” premieres Sunday, October 4 on AMC. For all things TWD, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.