For most actors, having the award-winning TV series The Wire on your CV is a good thing. But for Lawrence Gilliard Jr, who played D’Angelo Barksdale, a high-ranking lieutenant of his Uncle’s criminal organisation, it almost cost him the part of Bob Stookey on The Walking Dead.
His co-star Chad L Coleman had already got his foot in the door as Tyreese in Season 3, so showrunner Scott Gimple decided enough was enough.
“He’s like, ‘You know, we’ve got Chad on the show, so I said, ‘No more Wire people… You see too many Wire people on the show and you start thinking of The Wire,’” Gilliard told Entertainment Weekly.
“[Casting directors] Sharon Bialy and Sherry Thomas, I have to thank them because he says, ‘No Wire people,’ and they brought me in. I remember the audition. I showed up, and apparently I was the first one to read, and it was three pages of a character they made up because they didn’t want anyone to know it was going to be Bob Stookey. Very hush-hush.
“It was like three pages of just this guy talking. And I went in and I did it, and they were kind of just quiet when I was done. They were like, ‘You know, that was really good.’ I walked out, and I saw another guy sitting there, a white guy, older guy.”
The ‘other’ guy waiting to be auditioned actually fit the physical description of Bob Stookey in the comic-books, but after Scott Gimple saw the tape and watched Gilliard audition at the call-backs, he was convinced it was worth signing another Wire actor.
“It was a great audition experience and it was a character that when I first read it — when it was even made up — I connected with him,” he added. “I feel fortunate, and blessed, and happy that I got the part.”
The character is an army medic, like in the graphic novels by Robert Kirkman, but instead of hailing from Woodbury, Bob is found by Daryl Dixon a week before the events of the new season.
The Walking Dead Season 4 returns to FOX on 13 October 2013. You can buy The Walking Dead Seasons 1-2 on Blu-ray for £30.71 at Amazon.co.uk.