Welcome to Dream Cast, a new series of articles where we examine questionable casting choices from Hollywood’s history of nerd-centric adaptations and try to re-imagine them in a perfect world where money is no object and egos don’t exist. Today’s subject: The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead: It’s everybody’s favorite brain munching TV horror phenomenon but there’s a deep dark secret held in the undead world of AMC’s eternally rotting cash cow, even more puzzling and mysterious than the origin of the Wolves, or who thought it would be a good idea to act like Glenn was dead last year and make the entire internet soil it’s panties, namely, that the first season (and change) was kind of awful.
True, the original pilot is still one of the best things ever aired, but in-between that and season two’s Sophia reveal there wasn’t much to get excited about. Casting wasn’t the series’ main problem but it was part of it, no wonder AMC ran then showrunner Frank Darabont out of town on a rail and almost immediately saw the show rise to the quality it was always capable of and has (mostly) maintained ever since.
So let’s take a look at those early days of The Real Zombie Fighters of Atlanta. Not trying to offend anyone here, Andrew Lincoln has grown into a fine lead and the always awesome Jon Bernthal did the absolute best he could with the material. No complaints about any of the heroes not mentioned either, especially Steven Yuen and Danai Gurira who have been perfect from the outset and continue to be. With that, let’s get started…
Matthew McConaughey as Rick
Two words: True Detective. If you don’t think McConaughey can pull off a genuinely good hearted but ultimately deeply disturbed southern cop trying to uphold some semblance of justice in a destroyed world then you’re not paying enough attention.
Tom Hardy as Shane
Again, Jon Bernthal deserves a lot of credit for what he brought to TV Shane but in the comics there was a desperation and intensity there that didn’t make the journey onscreen. Hardy could convey the heartbroken rage of a man willing to murder his best friend for a final chance at true companionship in the end of the world. Just look at Hardy’s character’s willingness to do whatever it takes to survive a harsh wasteland in The Revenant.
Rebecca Hall as Lori
Whether due to acting, scripting, direction or some unholy combination thereof, Sarah Wayne Callies’ Lori in AMC’s series was all kinds of annoying in ways that the comic character never came close to. Rebecca Hall showed the courage to remain strong and grounded at the center of a twisted love triangle in last year’s underappreciated The Gift, and excellent turns in Iron Man 3 and The Prestige prove she’s no stranger to genre fare.
Brian Cox as Dale
Just like Lori, Jeffrey DeMunn’s take on kindly old Winnebago driver Dale made me want to kick a hole through my plasma screen every Sunday night. While by no means anybody’s favorite character from the comic, at least there Dale had a grandfatherly warmth and gravitas, with nowhere near the amount of hand wringing and whining. Brian Cox could bring that spirit to the role, while also having the authority that comes with being X-2’s nefarious Stryker and the original Hannibal.
Julia Stiles as Andrea
And finally, AMC’s biggest botch when it came to adapting Kirkman’s hallowed tome(s). Not at first of course, but over the years Andrea has grown to be one of the very best characters in The Walking Dead comics, a warm, giving presence that can be a surrogate mother to Carl but also a flip a switch and become one of the most dangerous, capable women in all of pop culture, a bad ass, scar faced sniper. TV Andrea just, uh… well, wasn’t anything close to that. In my opinion she might be one of the worst television characters of all time. Julia Stiles definitely has the look, and has proven no stranger to bloody action on both Dexter and in the Bourne series of films.
That’s our take for sprucing up that questionable first season. What’s yours? Casting idea? Future article subjects? Let us know via social media or email. And look for a second part to this article soon where we cast more villainous, obscure and recent characters from the TWD comics.