Rick Grimes actor Andrew Lincoln once attempted to stave off a death sentence for prison inmate Axel (Lew Temple) during his time as leading man on The Walking Dead. Axel was among the new characters first encountered in the show's third season premiere, "Seed," where Rick and his band of zombie apocalypse survivors claimed a seemingly abandoned Georgia prison before discovering a group of prisoners still inside: Oscar (Vincent Ward), Tomas (Nick Gomez), Big Tiny (Theodus Crane), and Andrew (Markice Moore). Temple's character was the last-surviving member of that group until he was shot and killed by the Governor (David Morrissey) during a surprise assault on the prison in Season 3 episode 10, "Home."
"I thought Axel was gonna be an integral part of the survival group, and I was kind of being led to believe that he was as well," Temple told KyTalk Live. "By virtue of the graphic novels, I was well aware that he does die, but I was thinking that maybe it wasn't going to come as quickly as it did." Temple felt like his character was "really going to be a big part" of the show before he received a call from then-showrunner Glen Mazzara, who told him Axel was going to "take a bullet" while cozying up to Carol (Melissa McBride).
"He explained to me that things were moving fast and they had painted themselves in a corner," Temple said. "The Governor was gonna show up, he had to draw first blood. He can't hop off a bunch of shots and not have some damage, or he would be impotent, essentially."
The actor attempted to convince Mazzara to instead kill off Allen (Daniel Thomas May), a new arrival who showed up as part of the group led by Tyreese (Chad Coleman) before he assimilated into the Governor's army. Temple was told Axel's death would "hurt, and it'll be of value."
"I was notified three weeks in advance. I was asked at the time not to talk about it because it wasn't set in stone," he added. "As a matter of fact, Andrew Lincoln then went to the production, to the producers, and said, 'I think we're making a mistake here, let's not do this just yet.'"
At Lincoln's urging, the writers and producers "went back into discussion, and actually there were several series regulars that they started to consider other than Axel,'" Temple said. "Those were the people that were coming to me and saying, 'I'm sorry, I heard about [Axel's death].' 'Dude, you have no idea how close it was to being you.'"
Temple previously revealed Axel was supposed to be exposed as a serial killer who would have slaughtered Beth Greene (Emily Kinney), Maggie's (Lauren Cohan) half-sister and the youngest daughter of Hershel (Scott Wilson). Those plans were changed because of Axel's affability, according to Temple.
Before Lincoln exited the television show in its ninth season, the Rick Grimes actor "was our Tom Brady," Temple said. "He was our number one."
"[The show] was such a success, I think, because everybody was so invested in it being a success. We worked our tails off," Temple added. "'We really did something today, and we gotta do better tomorrow.' That's how we always approached it, and Andrew Lincoln was the leader of that. He was the head cheerleader."
Lincoln next reprises his role in what is being plotted as a trilogy of Walking Dead feature films. The untitled films are planned for theatrical release via Universal Pictures.
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