The Walking Dead Actor Questioned If "Gruesome" Cannibal Episodes Could Air

Andrew J. West, who portrayed cannibal Terminus leader Gareth in the fifth season of The Walking Dead, once questioned if "gruesome" episodes featuring bloody killings would air untouched on AMC. Gareth's gang, nicknamed "Termites," terrorized the group of survivors led by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) by luring their unwitting prey to Terminus, described as a "sanctuary" where "those who arrive survive." Separated following an attack on their prison base by the Governor (David Morrissey), Rick's people wound up imprisoned at Terminus, where Rick, Daryl (Norman Reedus), Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) were nearly butchered at a trough before being saved by Carol's (Melissa McBride) one-woman assault against the community.

After vowing to use his red-handled machete to kill Gareth in the Season 5 premiere, "No Sanctuary," Rick fulfilled his promise in Season 5 episode 3, "Four Walls and a Roof," where the hunters became the hunted when Rick and his people slaughtered the surviving Terminus group. Rick hacked Gareth to death while Michonne (Danai Gurira), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) viciously eliminated Termites Theresa (April Billingsley), Greg (Travis Young) and Martin (Chris Coy).

"It blurred all these lines, and suddenly you were like, 'What is okay in this world? What is not okay? How do you calibrate any sort of moral compass?'" West told Skybound's Talk Dead to Me podcast. "And it really sort of played with the idea of heroes and villains, and it complicated things, and that's what was so cool about that arc and the show in general."

"That was gruesome," West added. "That was a gruesome [episode]."

Gareth earlier supervised the murder of stray survivor Sam (Robin Lord Taylor), who was bludgeoned with a baseball bat before having his throat slit by a Terminus butcher in "No Sanctuary."

"I remember shooting that trough scene in the beginning of the premiere of Season 5, where my henchmen are going across and cutting the guys' throats. [Greg] Nicotero was directing that episode, and I remember going up to him and saying, 'Is this gonna air? How much of this are we gonna see?'" West said. "And he's like, 'I don't know, we're going to try and get as much as we can.' I remember thinking, 'There's no way. There's no way AMC is gonna show all of this.' And they did, they really did."

The episode's violence "didn't feel gratuitous," West added. "It felt like it was setting up what was to come in that storyline, and sort of the climax of that — my little arc there — was the church scene. Then it sort of spun off from there in terms of, what is morally acceptable now? How do you treat people? How do you behave depending on what other people have done to you, how other people are living, how they’re surviving — it was complicated, and I loved it."

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Gareth's death was "bloody as hell," West added. "I was digging fake blood out of my ear for weeks after that, too. It was everywhere."

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