Veteran actor C. Thomas Howell is saddling up to "stomp out a few zombies" on The Walking Dead. The Hitcher and Outsiders star made a single cameo appearance as an unnamed Hilltop guard in Season 9 episode "Stradivarius," the first episode of The Walking Dead directed by Howell's friend and former Southland co-star Michael Cudlitz. In the Season 9 episode set six years after the disappearance of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Howell's character approaches Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Siddiq (Avi Nash) to report the whereabouts of an injured Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos).
After sharing a video hinting at a trip to the Georgia set of The Walking Dead, Howell confirmed his return with a selfie snapped inside the Alexandria Safe-Zone. In the background of Howell's picture is the community's semi-destroyed windmill, which appears in a set photo captured during the first day of filming on the final season of The Walking Dead.
Howell's surprise cameo in a Season 9 episode of The Walking Dead came about because the role required "someone who could ride a horse and act," Cudlitz said in a 2018 interview. "We had to get him cleared by stunts, we had to get him cleared by the insurance to make sure somebody could ride, so it tends to fall in the purvey of the stunt world. It's not a common thing to have somebody be able to do those things, as far as gallop and speak."
A real-life rodeo champion, Howell's horseback experience and his friendship with Cudlitz won him the role of "Hilltop Resident" in his Southland co-star's directorial debut.
C. Thomas Howell posted a photo of himself on the Alexandria set under the burnt out windmill hinting at him potentially reprising his role as a Hilltop soldier that appeared in Episode 907!#TheWalkingDead pic.twitter.com/cNgIvErVVI— The Walking Dead World (@TWalkingDWorld) February 9, 2021
"I knew my buddy was in town and half-jokingly, I said, 'Hey, I got somebody who could do it.' Our producer Tom Luse said, 'Who?' He said he'll check with [showrunner] Angela [Kang], and that if it all works out, bring him in," Cudlitz said at the time. "I said, 'I'm doing my directorial debut, and I'd love for you to be part of it.' He goes, 'Mikey, I got one question for ya. Do I die?' I said, 'No.' He said 'So I could potentially come back someday, right?' I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'I'm in.'"
The Walking Dead returns on February 28 with six Season 10 bonus episodes, where guest stars Robert Patrick, Hilarie Burton Morgan, Okea Eme-Akwari, James Devoti, Miles Mussenden, and Rodney Rowland will make their Walking Dead debuts. The zombie drama's 24-episode final season premieres later this year on AMC.
AMC+ subscribers can stream the Season 10C premiere, "Home Sweet Home," one week before its television premiere starting on Sunday, February 21. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD.