Jon Bernthal no longer watches The Walking Dead, but the former series star says the cast and crew of the zombie drama's first two seasons are "all family to me." Bernthal played Shane Walsh, the increasingly unhinged police partner and best friend to Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), until the character was killed off in the penultimate episode of Season 2. Bernthal would return to the series twice more in a cameo capacity, appearing both times as hallucinations experienced by Rick: first in Season 3 Episode 8, "Made to Suffer," and for a final time in Season 9 Episode 5, "What Comes After," Lincoln's exit episode.
"I got really, really busy after The Walking Dead. I have three kids and I was kind of working like crazy," Bernthal told Jake's Takes when asked why he no longer keeps up with Walking Dead, now heading into its eleventh and final season on AMC.
After his 2012 exit from The Walking Dead, Bernthal appeared opposite Dwayne Johnson in the feature crime thriller Snitch and opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the Martin Scorsese-directed Wolf of Wall Street. More film roles would follow, including the Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone-starring comedy Grudge Match, and action dramas like David Ayer's Fury and Denis Villeneuve's Sicario. In 2013, Bernthal led the short-lived gangster drama Mob City for TNT, a six-episode series reuniting him with former Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont.
"I'll tell you, that show is and will always be sort of the center of my heart. I love that character, but more importantly, I love the people that made that show," Bernthal said about The Walking Dead. "I love that crew down in Georgia, they're all family to me. Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Sarah Wayne Callies, Andy Lincoln, Jeff DeMunn, Melissa McBride, it just goes on and on and on. These people, it was really a beautiful group of people who were really all after something and did it with the spirit of collaboration and community, and it's really the best of what I think this whole filmmaking thing can be."
"So I'm enormously grateful for that show," Bernthal added, "and I'm enormously grateful for the people I got to make it with."
Bernthal now stars opposite Angelina Jolie in Those Who Wish Me Dead, the latest drama-thriller from Wind River director and Sicario writer Taylor Sheridan, in theaters and streaming on HBO Max on May 14.
Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD. The Final Season of The Walking Dead premieres Sunday, August 22, on AMC.