"We'll get there. All of us," the late Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) assured Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) on his final episode of The Walking Dead. The scene — set against a heavenly vision of the Greene family farm, hallucinated by a gravely injured Rick in "What Comes After" — aired just weeks after Wilson died at age 76 due to complications from leukemia. Wilson had starred as the father of Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Beth (Emily Kinney) in more than 30 episodes between 2011 and 2014, returning to the zombie drama for the first time since Season 4.
For series veteran Greg Nicotero, who directed the episode dedicated to Wilson's memory, the goodbye between Rick and Hershel was a deserved tribute to the late actor in his final appearance on The Walking Dead.
"It wasn't scripted that he was supposed to be in Andy's last episode, but I wanted him to be there," Nicotero recalled on Talking Dead following Sunday's mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead's last-ever episodes. "The fact that we had Scott Wilson back, that makes me proud. There's a constant reminder of how he was so important."
Along with Shane (Jon Bernthal) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Wilson's Hershel appeared to Rick from beyond the grave, guiding him as he herded a walker horde away from his family and friends.
Reflecting on Wilson's first time on set of The Walking Dead Season 2 in 2011, an emotional Nicotero recalled an early meeting with the In Cold Blood and Ninth Configuration actor.
"The first day that he showed up on set, he came into the makeup effects trailer, and I was in zombie makeup [as an extra]," said Nicotero. When Wilson spent minutes observing the process, Nicotero recounted, "I said, 'Hey, I think you're in the wrong trailer?' He said, 'No, this is exactly where I want to be.'"
In 2018, Nicotero told ComicBook he pressed for the episode to include Wilson, who was able to watch Hershel's final scene before his death.
"I went to see him in the hospital in Los Angeles, and I took my iPhone with the scene, and I showed it to him. He was like, 'That brought tears to my eyes,'" Nicotero said. "He was so proud. And then I kept trying to leave, and he kept making me show it to him over and over again. So, he watched it like six times. He was so excited about it ... I don't even know how to express how grateful I was to be able to share that with him."
The late Wilson "so eloquently preserves and shows everything about what we love about The Walking Dead," Nicotero told ComicBook. "The day he came to set [on 'What Comes After'], and everybody clapped, I pulled Andy aside. And I'm like, 'This is what the show is.' Scott Wilson. And that feeling reminded all of us of the heart of the show."
New episodes of The Walking Dead's final season air Sundays on AMC and AMC+.