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 Lew Temple, who played Axel during the season 3. The actor told us curiosities about his audition test for the show, the memories he has of the recordings, the relationship between Axel and Carol, how it was working with Andrew Lincoln and more!
Without further ado, check out our exclusive interview with Lew Temple:
First of all, congratulations on being part of such a great project as The Walking Dead. How is it to have participated in a production of this magnitude?
Lew Temple: Thank you. It was such an incredible experience for so many reasons. The biggest reason was probably the friendships that I made while on set. These are people that I will always have with me. That as my take away experience from The Walking Dead. I had no idea when I joined the show, how big it was. I knew it was popular, but the visibility it gave me was a bit overwhelming in the beginning. I think it was for all of us. Really an amazing experience. I was really invited to be a part of the family when I arrived. The work was so supportive and validating. I think that is why the show is as good as it is, because everyone is pulling on the same side of the rope to make a great show.
The show is turning 10 in 2020. You have contributed to the story, both of the show and the lives of many fans. Being on the air for such a long time is quite meaningful for a TV show. As part of the cast, to what you credit this longevity?
Lew Temple: Well certainly the graphic novels help lay the foundation for the story line. I think that the two properties the comics and the television show work well together. The production team of producers and writers do a fantastic job of keeping the show fresh. I think that comes from having a good relationship with the audience. Somehow the show instinctively nows what the audience wants and needs, and they write it. Very symbiotic. I also believe that the style of the show lends itself to doing the work correctly, and as they show evolves that has never changed. Andrew Lincoln, Sarah Wayne Callies, Jon Bernthal set the bar very early on about the type of work that was required to maintain this show. That has been passed on every since.
Axel was a character who had a quick pass through the show, but he is still remembered by many fans. How was the experience of playing him? How long did the process take, from the audiction to the role until the beginning of the shoot?
Lew Temple: I had been brought in to the casting office for the pilot to read for the role of Merle. Thankfully they hired Michael Rooker. I was then asked to auditor for Merle’s brother who did not have a name yet, or any lines…Thankfully they hired Norman Reedus. When Axel came around they had a good idea of who I was, and thought it would be a good fit. I was still doing the Disney film, The Lone Ranger when I got the offer from The Walking Dead. A month later, I went from riding a horse to eating one. Axel was such a delight to present. He wore his heart on his sleeve, and said what everyone was thinking a lot of the times. I think he fit in quite well with the surviving group. I would have liked him to stay around a bit longer.
Being a part of a big show, with a cast as vast as the one of The Walking Dead, must be quite different from other jobs. What is the difference between working as a guest star in shows like ‘CSI’ and ‘Criminal Minds’ – in which you worked at – and being a series regular in The Walking Dead?
Lew Temple: The work ethic is the main difference. Not that those other shows don’t work hard, but The Walking Dead typically outworks every other show. As I mentioned before, the tireless effort to get it right is the focus. Everyone is on the same page with this. The show takes on an organic type of approach, so it adjusts from episode to episode. Of course they are following a script but they can rewrite in the moment. The entire production is very capable of adapting. I think that gives them the versatility that makes for a great show.
When you think about all the moments you spent in The Walking Dead Universe, what are the memories that you have in mind and what is your favorite moment during your participation in the show?
Lew Temple: Again the people that I will forever have as friends in my life. That is the take away, I mentioned before. The memory that I have of Carl coming out with a baby and a gun, and his father breaking down, was very moving. I was so amazed by the commitment. This was also true with our introduction scene, when we watched the group cut off Herschel’s leg. The cast came in and did that scene again, just so we could react to it. Amazing. Of course the scene with Carol, and the “short hair” was priceless. We had a lot of fun on set. Laughed a lot, cried a lot. It was real.
Whenever we talk to people involved in The Walking Dead, it seems that the atmosphere in the set is the one of a large family. Is is really like that? What can you tell us about everyday life on the set?
Lew Temple: It is entirely a family. We all look out for each other everyday. We live with each other in some very difficult conditions. Not just the cast, everybody, Camera, Hair, Makeup, Wardrobe, Sound. Everyone is part of the team. We eat together, and sit together, we don’t segregate as far as any type of hierarchy. And when somebody leaves the show, like Axel, it is felt by the entire production. That is your teammate you are losing. Someone who helps, how will we replace them. It is felt by everyone.
In an interview with KyTalk, you said Andrew Lincoln tried to save your character in The Walking Dead. How was your relationship with Andrew and what was your reaction knowing that you were really leaving the show?
Lew Temple: I love Andy. He is a tireless perfectionist. He is someone who Must Be what he Can Be. He tries to make every scene better than possible. I watched him work so hard everyday. He just commands respect with his approach to work. He is a kind, caring individual who sees everyone as being equal. He is British of course, so just being in the head space of keeping the right accent is quite a lot to navigate. At that time all story went through the Sheriff, so he was doing a lot of heavy lifting. I feel very fortunate to have worked with him, and even more fortunate to call him friend.
Axel was part of a small group of survivors who were found in the prison. From his group, he was probably a fan-favorite character, since he was a very charismatic guy. One of the things that fans like the most are theories and fanfics. In this sense, if it was possible that your character was still alive in the current storyline, do you think he would have joined the villains at some point? Or do you believe that he would have remained with Rick’s group? Do you think he could have more stories to tell, if he wasn’t dead?
Lew Temple: Axel would have been with Rick’s group to help maintain HOPE. That is what he wanted, to believe there was a better day, a better way. He would be in favor of resolving issues peacefully, that is not to say he would not fight if that was the only recourse. I don’t thin the could have stood by and watched Neagan. He probably would have lost his life there. I do believe that he may have tried to talk to Carol into being less reactive. But then where would we be. WE need Carol to come save the day. Yes I think Axel would have been good service to all.
Many people had the impression that Axel could have been Carol’s love interest. Did you ever think about that? How do you think Axel would react if he was a relationship with a woman who had just got out of an abusive relationship?
Lew Temple: We did talk about that. But we were focussed more on friendship to begin with. Axel was somebody that Carol could open up too, and talk. I think he would have listened to Carol’s troubles before, no doubt. He would have been able to offer good approach to life and it’s twists and turns. And I believe that Carol would have brought out the best in Axel. He was ready to be reformed. He need a friend. Where that led, very well may have been romance. They both had a a story to tell about being abused.
The pandemic, unfortunately, postponed projects, premieres and productions worldwide. How did it affect you? Did you have to postpone or cancel something because of Covid-19?
Lew Temple: Just like everyone, I was shut down from two films and a television show. It is unfortunate, but not just for me, everyone has suffered form this event. I am chasing to try to find positive opportunities. This pause has been good to reflect on that which is important to all of us. Family, Friends, Health, Home, Happiness, Community. Not unlike The Walking Dead, we must rally together and help each other through this difficult time. Respect is never more important. I think this has shown us as well that we are all very similar in life. The instagram lifestyle we present is not always so true. This has come to the forefront, and gives us a chance to get to know each other in truth again.
Brazil has gone through a difficult period of some discredit for cultural productions. We have asked this question to everyone involved in The Walking Dead that we have the opportunity to talk to: in your opinion, what is the importance of culture and productions in general in order to get through the present moment?
Lew Temple: I think the the idea of being able to respect cultural heritage, while understanding the capability to adapt and adjust is the key. We should be aware that not everyone is going to deal with this in the same approach. We have to be respectful of political and religious beliefs, and ask to be patient as we work through this. Everyone should be trying to get the same results, human safety, world safety. Take care of each other. No ulterior motives or agendas.
In ‘Talk Dead To Me’, you revealed that the arc in which Axel would become a serial killer and kill Beth was discarded. If this arc had been developed, do you believe he would still be alive? Or would Maggie have killed him, when she found out that he had killed her sister?
Lew Temple: I am not of the opinion that a person that is out to harm, lasts very long. I believe had that path been taken, that soon that version of Axel would have met his demise at the hands of those who would avenge there loved ones. I would not want any of those characters chasing me down for revenge. They would have it.
You’ve been working as an actor since 1996. How did you choose this job? Or was it the job that chose you?
Lew Temple: I would say the latter. I followed a young lady into an acting class to ask her out for dinner. When I saw what they were doing on stage I thought, that is what I must do. I can do that. Well, I couldn’t, but I learned by going back to school. Brooklyn College to learn how to act. It is a craft that requires developed skills. the passion must be there, but also the technique. It is an ongoing evolution in the craft. I am very fortunate to have been able to pursue this occupation, and be on this journey for so long.
If you could choose any scene of The Walking Dead to participate right now, which one would you choose? Considering that you could choose to play any character that you wanted.
Lew Temple: That is an impossible question. I am going to say the standoff scenes with Rick, both the Governor and Neagan. I would be the villain in each, just to feel the power of staring into Rick’s eyes when he makes his stand. As a viewer I, like everyone was captivated. I thought it was pitch perfect. Maybe to be Rick for just one day would be very cool. The Nebraska scene is one of my favorites.
To finish: here in Brazil we always send a lot of love to everyone involved in The Walking Dead. Leave a message for the fans of our country!
Lew Temple: I can’t wait for the opportunity to come over there and meet everyone. Keep smiling, it makes the world a better place. Take off whatever blinders are keeping you from seeing all of the gifts that life is waiting to bless you with. Keep having faith, that brings hope, hope brings tomorrow. Thank you so much for having me.