The Walking Dead celebrates 10 years of TV history on October 31, 2020. In celebration of this historic milestone, we I nterviewed several actors who have participated in the show over the years. These interviews started to be published in early September and run until the end of October, are being launched daily. When we will end with a big surprise that we prepared exclusively and with great affection for the fans.
Our guest today is Lawrence Gilliard Jr., who played Bob Stookey during seasons 4 and 5. The actors told us about his audition for a role in season 1 of The Walking Dead, the work alongside Sonequa Martin-Green, the importance of The Wire in his life and much more!
Without further ado, check out our exclusive interview with Lawrence Gilliard Jr.:
It’s an honour for us to talk to you in such a special moment for The Walking Dead. It’s not just any show that get to its 10th anniversary. Can you start by telling us how was the audition for the show? How did you hear about the part? Did you know the show beforehand?
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: I first heard about the show when they were casting for the pilot. I read the first script and loved it. I auditioned for the role of Morgan, but I didn’t get the part. When the showaired I watched the first episode to see who got the part and saw that it was Lenny James. I was happy for him because I think he’s a phenomenal actor. I didn’t watch anymore of the show because I’m not really a fan of the horror genre, but my wife started watching and she loved it.
Years later they wanted me to come back and audition for the role of Bob. I didn’t tell my wife because she was a fan of the show and I didn’t want her to get too excited. I hadn’t watched the show or read the books so I really didn’t know anything about the guy. When I got to the first audition there was this older White guy there. I thought to myself, “We can’t be auditioning for the same role”, but we were. I later found out that in the books Bob is a white guy.
Robert Kirkman, Scott Gimple, Gale Ann Hurd and a few others were at my second audition. When I finished auditioning one of the casting directors, Sharon Bialy, asked me how I felt about working in Atlanta in the summertime. At that point I knew I got the part.
In two seasons time Bob had some very intense moments on The Walking Dead. He was an alcoholic, then he had been through some bad times in Terminus, had a fling with Sasha and died sacrificing himself to the cannibals. How do you see all of those moments? Which one was your favourite to play? Why?
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: Yes, Bob went through a lot in a very short time. He was an alcoholic. I would always think to myself, “In an apocalypse,there would probably be a lot of people trying to drink their miseryaway.”I saw Bob as a guy using an addiction to deal withhis demons.To overcome addiction you have tobuild self-love. Sasha helped Bob to find that self-love.She made him feel like he was important and necessary.As much as it hurt himto leave Sasha and the rest of the crew, after he was bitten he knew he had to leave, unfortunately he was caught by the cannibals.
The “TAINTED MEAT” scene is a good scene. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite to play at the time because it wasa cold night and things were tense. They actually cut a piece of pork into the shape of my legand barbecued it during the scene. It was pretty crazy.I was also very emotional because the character was dying and I knewI’d have to go out and start auditioning again for a new job.
My favorite Bob scenes are the montage of Bob walking through the woods in the “ALONE” episode and the moment on the train tracks when he reunites with Maggie and Sasha. The scene I thought was the most fun to shoot was the scene with Daryl, Michonne,Tyreese and Bob in the car when they get stopped by the herd of walkers. It was just fun watching Greg Nicotero createall of that TV magic.
Despite all the problems, we have always seen Bob full of hope and very positive. Those were very important traits to help Sasha go through a rough patch in her life. How was the process of developing the character’s personality? Did you inspire yourself in someone or something?
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: I’m a very optimistic person by nature. It was easy for me to tap into the positive and optimistic side of the character. It was harder for me to tap into the alcoholic side of Bob because I don’t drink alcohol. I loved Bob’s good heart and positive outlook.
You and Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha) shared lots of scenes together. How was it to work together in the development of the characters? Do you two still keep in touch?
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: It was great working with Sonequa. She such a talented, smart and hard working actor. Sometimes we’d sit together and talk about the direction of the characters or we’d createa back storyso the sceneswould feelmore authentic. When Bob is talking to Sasha as he’s dying in the church, we cried on every take.It was so emotional.We would just look at each other, start saying the wordsand start crying. Hahaha.
Every now and then I reach out to her and her husband Kenrick. They just had a new baby girl. They are one of my favorite couplesand I am so happy forthem, the family they are buildingand all of their success.
In the comics Bob Stoockey is a white man, while he was played by a black man on the show. Did you know the character beforehand? Did you think this change was important in terms of representativeness?
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: I did not know that Bob was white in the comics. I’m glad I didn’t know.If I did know I probably wouldn’t have takenthe audition. I don’t think it matters that he was a black guy. What really matters is the story of the man, not his race. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they decided to make him black because I got to play it and it gave thisblack actor some great tv momentson an iconic show.
Looking back at your time on the show, which one would you say was the most fun episode to shoot? What about the most challenging? Why?
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: The most fun scene for me was thecar getting stopped bythe herd of walkers. The most challenging scene was when Bob got bit in the food bank. We were submergedin water all Day and there was a lot of special effects that went into me wrestling the walker in the water and things had to be just right.
Do you remember your first day on the set? What about your last one? We’d love if you could share some details of your reception and farewell on the show!
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: I remember driving toset the first time. I parked in the parking lot and just sat for a minute. Then I saw someonein the distance running toward me. I couldn’t really see who it was, but when the person was closeenough I could see that it was a walker. He kept running and ran right past my car.I just sat there smiling for a few minutes and thinking, “WOW! I’m really on this show!”
My last few days were really sad. The entire cast wentout to dinnerto say farewells.The very last day of shooting was very hard. They pull all of the cast and crew together and announced that it was my last day and they thanked me for being a part of the show and I gave a speech and everybody cheered.
If Bob had survived longer on the show, with which characters would you like him to interact with? Is there any actor you’d like to have worked with more closely during your time on the show?
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: Fortunately I got to work with the late, great Scott Wilson who played Hershel. Wish I had more time with David Morrisey. Would have been cool to work with Lenny James and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. I’m sure there are many more fantastic actors who have been on the show that I would like to work with, but I stopped watching after Bob died.
Now, about The Walking Dead ending: I don’t know if you continued to follow the show after leaving it, but we’d like to know how you think the show should end.
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: I have no idea what’s happening on the show right now, so I don’t know how it should end. I’ll just quote Bob. “Nightmares End”
Besides your memorable part as Bob in The Walking Dead you were also in one of the most iconic shows in TV, playing D’Angelo Barksdale in The Wire. Which good memories do you have about this project? How did The Wire contribute to your career?
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: D’Angelo will forever be one of my favorite characters and “The Wire” will forever be one of my favorite working experiences.It was just one of those shows where all the stars in the heavens aligned. It was and will always be one of the mostamazing pieces of story telling.I was blessed to be a part of it.
Being on the show did a lot for my career.Up until then onlyother actors knew who I was, but after The Wire, random strangers would come up to me and know my name.TV producers and directors who watched the show would offer me roles on other shows. Sometimes people will yellout one of D’Angelo’s lines from the show. It’s all pretty special.
The Wire, amongst many other things, shed some light into a very contemporary subject: the relationship between racism and the United States’ police force. How do you see it in the 2020 context?
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: Unfortunately,The Wire is still very relevant in 2020. It seams things haven’t changed very much. There’s still gangs and drugs and police brutality and political corruption. Who knows if or when or how things will ever, really change.
Also in The Wire were Seth Gilliam, playing officer Ellis Carver, and Chad Coleman. How was it to meet them again in the set of The Walking Dead so many years after you worked together? We know Robert Kirkman was responsible for casting many The Wire actors in The Walking Dead, because he is such a big fan of the show. Did you get to talk to him about it?
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: I didn’t get to talk to Kirkman about The Wire, but I had dinner with Scott Gimple one night and we talked about it. It was awesome being with Seth and Chad on The Walking Dead. The Wire hasa huge family of actors and it’s always fun working with each other on different projects.
You’ve been in many other shows, playing different kinds of characters. If you could choose one of them to be a survivor on The Walking Dead – either on the good side or the bad side – which character would you choose and why?
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: I’d choose to let Bob survive for all of his good qualities. His resourcefulness. His kindness. His optimismand his wisdom.
We know the pandemic postponed a lot of projects and The Walking Dead fans are still suffering for the season finale. How did it affect you? Were any of your projects postponed? How have you been taking care of yourself?
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: I’d just finished working on the movie “One Night in Miami” and I was in Hollywood trying to get my next job when the pandemic hit and everything shut down. I’ve just been staying healthy and hanging with my family. For the most part I’ve been in wait mode.
To wrap it up: here in Brazil we are particularly fond of The Walking Dead and all of its cast and crew, past and present. Brazilian fans are very passionate! Does this love get to you somehow, through conventions or social networks? Can you send a message to your Brazilian fans?
Lawrence Gilliard Jr.: Yes! I always see the Brazilian fans on my social media. I love how much they love the show and the character Bob. I can tell that they are very passionate about The Walking Dead. Brazil is on my list of places I want to visit. Hopefully I will visit soon. In the meantime, I hope all of the TWD Brazilian fans follow me on Instagram. If they follow me and let me know that they are from Brazil, I will say a special shout out for them.
Congrats to The Walking Dead on its 10th year. Thanks to THE WALKING DEAD BRAZIL for interviewing me. I want all of your fans to follow me. THANKS TO ALL OF THE BRAZIL FANS!!!! And I will be looking for BRAZIL in the WORLD CUP!!!