I would argue that The Walking Dead does a pretty good job of being as diverse as possible without pandering to any race or gender. Everybody is united against a common enemy - walkers - who don't really care what you look like. They just want to take a bite out of you because you're human. And to walkers, humans taste gooood.
So, what racial issue is the show getting flack for then? It's *SPOILER ALERT* the death of the black characters on the show recently - most notably black male characters. Just last season, the following black men were written off the show:
Bob (Lawrence Gilliard)
Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman)
Noah (Tyler James Williams)
At a time when black males are targeted by the police and many of them are dying because of it, it's difficult to watch the black characters we grow to love get the axe on the show. I mean, I understand it's fiction, but this hits a little too close to home.
Showrunner Scott M. Gimple had a very fair point though when he was forced to confront this epidemic of black characters being left for dead on the series.
"You know, I was aware of who was going to die last year. Even before last year for some of those characters. And at the beginning of the year, some of those characters weren’t cast. It was always about casting the best person. It’s very difficult.”
It wasn't as if they had these black characters and realized they wanted to kill them off. It was already part of the storyline before they were cast... and many of these characters were cast as black even though they weren't black in the comics. It's really a "what came first? the chicken or the egg" situation.
The show is set in Atlanta, GA, constantly at the top when it comes to black cities' populations... especially black major cities. They made sure to have plenty of prominent black characters on the show. But still, there are complaints - probably justifiably.
Well, here's an example of a couple non-black characters in the comics that they made black.
“Bob wasn’t a black character in the comics, but I wouldn’t wanna miss out on Lawrence Gillard. And Noah, when we were casting him, Tyler was the best actor. I loved what he did and what he brought to the show. All sorts of people came in, from all sorts of different backgrounds and ethnicities. It’s tough because I also want to be sensitive to how people feel. Two of those characters were destined to die, and they could’ve been cast in any direction, and I just cast the best people — or at least the people I just felt were best and I loved what they did with the role. It’s weird to imagine not using them. But I did know those characters were dying, and I did cast those people.”
So, it's really a double-edged sword. You can cast these character who have death as part of their arc as white or you can cast them black. Either way, you're going to either get people saying you didn't hire enough black actors, or you're going to get people saying you're killing off too many. It's really tough.
Gimple also added,
“It’s about representing the world that’s there.”
Here's how he explained what goes into his decision-making for the cast.
“In this case it really was about the best actor for the gig. I would’ve loved people to have seen Lawrence’s auditions — which were totally fake sides — and he was amazing. Tyler’s audition was amazing. It’s a very, very difficult issue, and I honor anybody who felt hurt. It’s very tricky. I would’ve hated to have not seen those actors on the show, because they were fantastic and are part of the family now. It’s tough.”
Tough indeed. Here's the trailer for Season 6, though, which should be amazing. Barring any flashbacks, the new season won't include Bob, Tyreese, or Noah but there are plenty of other high-profile black actors who will continue carrying that torch. I'm not mad at Gimple, and this clears up a lot for me.
You can still joke about how black characters often are written into an early death on the show, but just know it's not planned that way. Nowadays, in TV important characters get written off the show. Sometimes those roles are taken by amazing actors. It's just the way it is...
Season 6 of 'The Walking Dead' returns on AMC October 11th.