Back in April 2016 when the last episode of The Walking Dead Season 6 aired, we knew that Negan had killed (at least) one of Rick's crew. We also knew we'd have to wait six months to find out who it was that bit the bat. Six months is a long time in the zombie apocalypse, and fans went through agony trying to work out who we lost.
Michael Cudlitz, the man who brought Abraham Ford to life, knew about that ocean of shit all along. But, like the big Ginger Ninja himself, he did what's right: He lied to protect us from spoilers. Talking to Comic Book, Cudlitz spilled the details on how long this subterfuge about Abe's death lasted:
"I found about a year and three months ago. They told me that they were going to take me out. They were talking about the end of Season 6 and the beginning of Season 7. They weren’t sure how they were going to do it, Scott [Gimple] wasn’t sure how he wanted to structure the storytelling for the greatest impact. Our whole big thing was wondering how we could possibly keep this secret because of the people out there whose only jobs in the world are to ruin everyone else’s television viewing experience. They had to balance that knowing that there were people who were trying to get that information out there and also knowing that we had some sort of in-house leaks so far. And also because of the very real nature that the show airs all around the world at the same time. A lot of eyeballs are on the show."
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AMC put out rumors that the vital scene hadn't even been filmed yet, and we bought it hook, line and sinker. Cudlitz confirms:
"We filmed the scene about a year ago. It was literally the last episode of last year. We usually finish filming just before Thanksgiving and we had finished filming that one just before Thanksgiving. I had been sitting with it and Steven Yeun had been sitting with it — it’s been sitting with the rest of the cast for a year now. One of the good things was that we were able to spread a rumor that not even the cast knew what was going to happen and that they were going to find out when they came back and they filmed everybody’s death scene just in case. And they said they were re-doing contract negotiations for some of the cast — all that was a lie. But what it enabled us to do was not have to defend who was dead or hide who was dead for at least five months, which was great."
You know you're in deep with a beloved show when you even gotta lie to your hairdresser to avoid spoilers:
"I went in to the guy who cuts my hair, and I had gotten my hair dyed and he said, 'Aren't they doing it on the show anymore? What's going on?' I told him that if I do it at home, I get to stay home an extra day because if I go out there, then they have to bring me in a day or two early because they've got to get it done before I shoot. Sometimes it wraps around a weekend so that one day could be three days. I told the guy who cuts my hair that, 'If you do it, they'll allow me to stay in LA a day longer and I can hang out with my family longer.'"
Well done to Michael Cudlitz for a great performance — and for keeping The Walking Dead's secrets!