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Scott Wilson on new film 'Hostiles' and his time on 'The Walking Dead'


Posted Wednesday, December 20, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his myAJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Atlanta native Scott Wilson has been acting in show business for a half century, going back to "In the Heat of the Night" in 1967. Over the years, he's been in films ranging from "The Great Gatsby" to "Dead Man Walking." His avuncular but tough-minded Hershel on "The Walking Dead" remains one of the show's most popular characters years after Hershel was decapitated by the Governor.

This Friday, 75-year-old Wilson is back on the big screen in a modest but pivotal role in the film "Hostiles," a Western starring Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike. It opens in a handful of cities this weekend, then goes into wider release, coming to Atlanta January 5, 2018.

Set in 1892, Bale's character Capt. Blocker has been fighting Native Americans all his life and hates them. But as his final act of duty, he is assigned to escort an important Cheyenne family back home through treacherous lands. At one point, Wilson's character shows up and he's not terribly sympathetic toward either Blocker or the Cheyennes. To not give anything obvious away, Wilson's character helps inform how Blocker's viewpoints have shifted.

"I like the movie myself," said Wilson. "It's well written and well acted and shot beautifully. That's why I got involved. It's a conflicted period of history. It was pretty clear Native Americans were not treated well. But it's clear they had issues among themselves, too."

Wilson has done many Westerns before, most notably one starring Kris Kristofferson on HBO in 1988 called "Dead or Alive."

"They are a lot of fun if you think about it," mused Wilson. "A lot of 'The Walking Dead' shows were shot more or less like a Western, particularly the first episode I was in. Other episodes were shot with that Western scope, that Western feel."

The moments before Hershel died had classic Western tropes: the good guy vs. the bad guy. The good guy trying to convince the bad guy to put down his arms, that they can get along. The bad guy saying no and hacking Hershel's head off, creating chaos. "I loved Rick coming down with that six-shooter on his hip."

It has become such an iconic scene, "The Walking Dead" donated one of his prop heads to the Smithsonian museum, the same place where Archie Bunker's chair and the Fonz's jacket reside. Other "Walking Dead" artifacts that made the cut: Daryl's crossbow, Michonne's katana and Merle's weaponized arm rig.

Wilson recalls going to the Smithsonian as a sixth grader and seeing this huge skeletal dinosaur. "That had a big impression on me," he said. "Now there I am!"

He also got to keep one of the heads as a souvenir. It's not on his mantel, though. "My wife keeps it in the closet," he said. "One head like that is enough around here!"

RELATED: 2011 interview with Wilson about his Hershel character

Wilson has been killed many times on film. "I have more lives than cats," he said, with a chuckle. I think I was killed on my second film. I have been killed in war two or three times. Quite a few gruesome gang kills. I've been blown away, squibs all over me. I guess it's part of acting to get used to dying. At least my career is still alive!"

He gets back to Atlanta every so often where his sister still lives. He likes to go to the Walker Stalker convention around Halloween.

Since "The Walking Dead," he landed a regular role as the dad on the first season of "The O.A.," a Netflix super-natural show that has not gotten nearly as much attention as "Stranger Things." He wasn't on the second season but said they plan to bring him back for season three.


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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.