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The Walking Dead’s Scott Wilson on Hershel’s Survival and What His 99-Year-Old Mom Thinks of the Show

Photo: Gene Page/AMC

It’s no secret that Hershel is The Walking Dead’s most surviving-est character. He may be the oldest member of the group, but not even an amputated leg can keep him down. After last night’s episode, we’ve also discovered he’s immune to sickness even when surrounded by a bunch of contaminated people coughing up blood. Vulture caught up with Scott Wilson to talk about outlasting all the young people in prison, and what the Governor’s return means for Hershel. We also asked him about the season’s long-standing mystery: Where did all the elderly folks from Woodbury disappear to?

Were you worried about Hershel’s fate when he decided to help all the sick people?
Probably. It’s a concern in every episode, though.

You didn’t get the warning call, then.
There’s nothing set in stone about anything like that, as far as I know. In the past, people have known a little bit in advance, but then it becomes an issue of keeping it quiet. So, anything could happen without me knowing it.

How did Hershel survive it?
With the Spanish Flu, which [our executive producers] likened the virus to, there were two kinds of people who were ultimately not as vulnerable to it: older people, whose immune systems were in the process of not being as strong as they had been, and young people, whose immune systems were still developing. It really hit people in their prime the hardest. So, once I understood that, I felt a little more confident [laughs].

What was Lizzie trying to do with that walker?
I think she was luring him away from Glenn, but then she tripped and fell. She was actually being rather brave there. And it worked. It could have turned bad, though.

Right! She still thinks they’re human. Shouldn’t Hershel, who once believed his family could be restored too, have a chat with her about this?
It seems as though the kids had names for the walkers, didn’t they? They’re kind of confused. I think probably Hershel has been trying to keep her safe, sending her away to read Tom Sawyer, telling her to stay put in her cell, which she ignores as most kids her age would. He can’t really tie her down! It is what it is.

I thought it was rude when Sasha and Glenn didn’t laugh at his spaghetti joke.
[Laughs.] I thought it was funny, too.

I heard your mom watches the show.
Oh, yeah! Knock on wood, she’s 99 years old. She watches it with my sister. That was the first call I got last night, my mom and sister.

What did they say?
They were really jacked up over it. They watch the show every week. I try not to let them know anything that’s going to happen so their reaction will be pure. I get a big kick out of my mom’s reactions to it. She loved the thing where I talked about the resurrection of the dead. She was laughing about the spaghetti joke, too.

What did you think of Rick ousting Carol?
There were some solid reasons for that, and Carol more or less knew that too. When Tyreese finds out, there are going to be some problems. Certainly Daryl stands to be upset over her not being there. I’m very interested in seeing how she’s reintroduced at some point. You assume she will be.

But you know, Carl shot a kid who wasn’t even posing a threat. Hershel was there. Isn’t that worse than what Carol did?
Uh, well … in this crazy world you can almost justify any action you take. Hershel still seems to be able to make distinctions between what’s necessary and what’s excessive. Carl’s justification for that later was pretty logical, saying, you didn’t kill so-and-so and they came back. He also had that experience with the walker that was in the swamp that got out and killed Dale because he didn’t shoot it. So he has experiences where not taking action really cost the group.

Will Hershel be forming a mini AA with Bob? Both of them are doctors (well, Hershel’s a veterinarian) with alcohol problems.
Well, he does, and I’m curious to find out a little more about [Bob’s] troubles [laughs]. You can see that he has a confused personal life but you also see that he has a professionalism, too. Maybe Hershel could help him out. That’s a good thought.

I’m just saying that Lizzie and Bob should be Hershel’s priorities. One thing that’s been bugging me: Last season, when the Governor was getting ready to raid the prison, he said he was leaving the kids and the old people behind in Woodbury. Those people have since moved into the prison, but I don’t see any old people besides Hershel in there.
I kind of see what you’re talking about. There were several, I think, in last night’s episode, not in dominant roles. I think it’s an interesting question.

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll have to rewatch. So what do you think Hershel’s going to do to the Governor, given what the Governor did to Maggie?
Well, given the opportunity, I’d be curious to see that myself. The Governor’s proven himself to be a strange character. No elderberries for the Governor.

Walking Dead’s Scott Wilson on Staying Alive