In the original Walking Dead comic book, the character Shane is basically a device designed to provoke and develop the other characters – he’s bumped off after a mere six issues. In the TV series, he’s an intgeral part of the survivors’ dynamic. Actor Jon Bernthal discusses whether his portrayal of the character helped keep him alive. “When I first read the comic, I read the pilot script of this, it blew me away, I thought it was the best pilot I’ve ever read,” he says. “When I got this job and then I met Frank Darabont, who’s one of the most talented filmmakers our country has, to open the source material and realise that you die in the very first chapter is quite a daunting thing. But it’s weird, it didn’t concern me much – I trusted in the story and I trusted in Frank, so much. I went in with the attitude of what happens, happens. It’s rare to get on a show with a cast this wonderful, a story this great that you believe in and onto a network that is turning out the best stuff on TV…it was very hard for me.”
Darabont kept Shane alive because he saw a potential dynamic between Shane and Rick. “He’s obviously been alive way longer than in the comic,” Bernthal explains. “Frank looked at the source material and said, ‘there’s something there. This story about two friends, it’s a huge part of what this thing is. It’s two friends, and how does friendship endure?’ Not just how does humanity endure or love endure, but how does friendship endure? And how does friendship endure when you test it on every single level? At what point does jealousy and betrayal and anger seep into this relationship that never would have under other circumstances and can friendship prevail? I think that’s what’s so cool about our show’s take on the comic. It just holds a microscope up to every little bit. Here’s a little wound that has been opened up by the comic – let’s dig it out. I think Frank always wanted to make Shane explore it a little more and we’ll see. I’m happy he made that choice because I love my job, you know.”
Season 2 of The Walking Dead starts on Friday 21 October on FX UK. Issue 60 of SciFiNow, with our huge feature on the show, is available on 26 October.