It’s fitting that, on the night before the 9th season of “The Walking Dead” premiered, one of it’s former stars would pass away.
Scott Wilson, who for three seasons played the beloved Hershel Greene on the AMC program, died Saturday after a long battle with cancer. He was 76.
Atlanta-born Wilson had planned to attend college on a basketball scholarship yet on a whim decided to head to Los Angeles. A random chance to go with a friend to audition for a part hooked the young man, who began pursuing acting with a vengeance.
His big break came in 1967, when he was cast as a character suspected of murder in the Academy Award winning “In the Heat of the Night.” That same year he appeared opposite Robert Blake as two real-life murderers in “In Cold Blood.”
He followed those two career-making roles with parts in films like “The Gypsy Moths,” The New Centurions” and “The Great Gatsby..” He portrayed test pilot Scott Crossfield in “The Right Stuff” and appeared in films as different as “Young Guns II” and “The Exorcist III.”
But it was Hershel Greene that Mr. Wilson achieved his biggest success. A favorite of cast, crew and fans of “The Walking Dead,” Mr. Wilson would often spend his weekends off traveling the country and meeting his fans. I got the amazing opportunity to meet him when he came to Kansas City as a guest of Planet Comicon. His representative was a friend of mine and I offered to take them to dinner one night after the show ended. Piling into my car, I asked him question after question about his career, all of which he answered gracefully. I told him that I was a huge “In Cold Blood” fan (both the book and the film) and, since moving to Kansas had visited the killers graves and other landmarks in the area. He seemed pretty impressed and we talked through dinner. When the check came, he would not let me pay, instead insisting on buying dinner for our group. The next day, with a starting time of 11:00 a.m., I went to his area of the convention to say hello. With 15 minutes to go until opening, there were no less than 125 people already lined up to meet him. Hershel was indeed a popular character and Mr. Wilson was indeed a popular man.
It was revealed earlier this summer that several former characters, including Hershel, would return in the upcoming “The Walking Dead” series. According to AMC, Mr. Wilson’s scenes had already been completed before his passing..