The Walking Dead originally planned on having Axel (Lew Temple), one of five inmates discovered still inside the Georgia prison taken over by the group of zombie apocalypse survivors led by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), be revealed as a serial killer who would "slaughter" a major character. Jailed for robbing a store with a water pistol, the affable Axel outlived the prison crew — Big Tiny (Theodus Crane), Tomas (Nick Gomez), Andrew (Markice Moore), and Oscar (Vincent Ward) — and took a liking to abuse survivor Carol (Melissa McBride) before he was shot and killed by the Governor (David Morrissey) during a surprise attack on the prison in Season 3 episode "Home."
"I showed up with the idea that I was going to be serial killer and foreboding, and then the day of, got a note to switch that," Temple told Skybound's Talk Dead to Me podcast. "'No no, we've gotta lighten things up a bit, we've been pretty dark.'"
Asked to play Axel with some levity and a "colloquial charm," Temple recalls requests from the writers to leave enough wiggle room for the creative team to reveal the mustached man as a murderer.
"Each episode, the writers would come up to me and say, 'Look, we've got this other thing going down the road. This other thing is going to happen, where you're not who you've been revealing,'" Temple said. 'And I'm like, okay. 'But don’t give too much of that away, at all.' [I said], 'Actually, I'm not going to give any of that away, because you've told me a lot of things, and so far what I'm doing is the only thing that's true.'"
If audiences still have any lingering reservations about Axel, Temple said, it's because abandoned scripts had him abduct and then butcher Beth Greene (Emily Kinney).
"There were some episodes that were written where I do take Beth out into the woods and slaughter her. And so we didn't get to any of those," Temple said. "That was why I kept buttoned up, he was gonna come undone and be totally Henry Rollins tattooed. The whole thing about being a drug addict was all a facade, the thing about the squirt gun and pistol is all bullsh-t."
Temple also revealed pages that had Axel brutally beat Carol, who was moving away from her traumatic past as a battered housewife following the death of abusive husband Ed (Adam Minarovich) in the show's first season.
"I mean, just these really dark things that the writers were talking about," Temple said. "And then all of a sudden, it's like, 'Oh, we painted ourselves in the corner, the Governor is showing up and he's gotta draw blood or he'll be impotent. He's gotta draw first blood. And it's looking like you're gonna get the short straw.'"0comments
In creator Robert Kirkman's comic book, where Axel was a trusted member of Rick's group, the survivors encountered a short-lived serial killer as early as issue #13. There it was quiet convict Thomas Richards who was revealed as a psychopathic killer when he attacked and decapitated Susie and Rachel Greene, Maggie's younger twin sisters, who did not appear in the television series.
The Walking Dead will air its Season 10 finale as a special episode on AMC later this year. For all things TWD, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.