Is that Lew Temple or Greg Nicotero?
EW: After you got shot, did you have to sit there and do those scenes as a human shield for Carol or did they bring in an Axel dummy for that?
TEMPLE: That’s a good question. Since this was under appeal from several people, including some of the cast, writers and producers, we had not done a life cast — which is a cast of my head and body so that we could build a mannequin. So it had not been done. Interestingly, because [co-executive producer, director, and all around zombie makeup guru] Greg Nicotero himself has been a walker a few times, we were able to use his life cast. Greg Nicotero and I, believe it or not, bear an incredible resemblance. He built a life cast of me, using his face and head. I have pictures and of it and I can’t tell its not me.
EW: So that’s Greg’s face and not yours down there.
TEMPLE: The prison massacre scene was two days of shooting, and it was this prosthetic mannequin there with Greg Nicotero’s head built for Carol to use as a human shield. And I was wrapped. I wasn’t there. Plus, that guy was better than me! He didn’t breathe! He didn’t blink his eyes! He laid there perfectly! He didn’t complain about the heat or lying on cement with dried blood all over him. That guy should get all the accolades. And he took bullets in the back! He deserves all the credit.
EW: Axel was such an interesting character, because for a minute there we thought, hey, maybe this guy is a perv the way he was leering at Beth, but then we saw him as more of a goofy and harmless likable type.
TEMPLE: Those are the things we were really starting to peel back. I had layers in reserve to the point of in the prison suit, keeping it buttoned up. You saw one tattoo. The idea was when all that came off, you were going to see hundreds of tattoos a la Henry Rollins. You were going to see white supremacy — or maybe not. But at least it was there in reserve to play with. The fact that he references that he’s a pharmaceutical user but then later comes clean that he’s in for armed robbery. Is he a pathological liar? What can we believe? What I was trying to do with Axel is have all these optional layers. I think people after this episode are generally going to say — sweet guy. Just a guy trying to fit in. But I did have some fangs in reserve if production ever wanted to go that way.
EW: For a minute I was wondering if we were going to be looking at an Axel-Carol-Daryl love triangle. What do you think would have happened in terms of any possible relationship had Axel not bitten the dust?
TEMPLE: I think that was definitely in place. Look, Axel’s a lonely guy. That’s a big part of his makeup — the need for connection. He’s been trying since day 1 to put his best foot forward. So when he’s able to do that with Carol, it supports the idea of whoa, there could be something a little passionate between the two of them. Certainly he’s taken with her and there’s just a moment where she hands him the gun and it’s almost where they touch. And in these days of Walker World, human touch cannot be underrated. And it harkens to the idea that maybe they were doing something in the tower. Keep in mind, Axel has very little awareness of Carol and Daryl’s relationship at this point. And she has not offered that to Axel, by the way. And we do that when we’re smitten — we don’t always tell the truth. But Glen Mazzara pointed out that if you look at Carol, a lot of the guys that have connected with her have not done very well. So she’s got a little Black Widow attachment to her. So I would caution Daryl — heads up, dude!
EW: Anything from Axel you worked on that we did not get to see?
TEMPLE: There was something in episode 9 where Axel finds out Oscar has been killed, and he really blames Rick for that. And when Rick leaves the cell to come to the common area before he attends to Tyrese’s group, we had done a scene where Axel attacks Rick because he blames him for taking Oscar and getting him killed. And he’s up in Rick’s grill and has to be pulled back. It was interesting because Axel is very upset and angry and we haven’t seen Axel get his ire up, especially physically. We did it a couple of times but it didn’t serve the rest of the episode because it was a lot for Rick to have to do that and deal with Tyrese and then see the ghost. It was too much.
EW: Did you get to have a Death Dinner where the cast and crew takes you out after your demise?
TEMPLE: I did. Andrew Lincoln usually heads that up and bestows upon you such lovely offerings, as do the rest of them. And you get a free dinner out of it, which is pretty good. The tab comes around and it never passes your place, which is realy delightful. It’s such a good family and they do things so right, so it was really an honor to be attached with them. I’ve been around for a long time. I’ve got nice little career, and I will say this is the hardest working group of professionals that I’ve been associated with.
EW: Do you wish from a character standpoint that Axel had been given more time to grow?
TEMPLE: It was too short for Axel. There was more to do. But I’m happy that I was there for the Governor to get his revenge and that Carol was able to survive. I served the story. I’m just so thrilled to have been a part of it.
EW: What else do you have coming up? You’re in The Lone Ranger, right?
TEMPLE: I was three months on a horse for that, playing a ranger. Clearly, based on virtue of the title alone — The Lone Ranger — I don’t fare well in this picture. When I was cast for Walking Dead I was still doing Lone Ranger, so I have my Lone Ranger look with the handlebar mustache. I think everybody appreciates the professional mustache.
EW: It’s all about the stache!
TEMPLE: It’s all about the stache, and I have so many fans that offer me tips on mustache wax that I actually really appreciate. I’ve been able to get some leads on some good products.
Make sure to read showrunner Glen Mazzara’s take on Sunday’s episode of ‘The Walking Dead’. Also, Clark Collis chats with executive producer Robert Kirkman, and Darren Franich breaks it all down in his episode recap.
For more Walking Dead news & views, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.