The comic book is a different story — Robert Kirkman’s story. He’s an executive producer on the TV show, and writes his share of episodes, but the AMC show is a “remix” of the source material and it’s very rare for a character from the books to have the same death on TV. The death itself is often changed or the timing of it is changed — either way, you can’t really look at the books and think “This is when and how X will die.” Just ask Dale. And Hershel. And prepare to get an earful if you ask Andrea.
That said, Entertainment Weekly Radio asked Robert Kirkman how tough it is to say goodbye when actors are killed off the show. "It’s kinda worse than that, because I got a pretty good idea when all of them are dying,” RK said. “To a certain extent, if we follow the comic, like possibly even more than Scott knows.” He then eerily pointed at imaginary people, saying, "So I’m always like…two years, three years, six months, two weeks, oh, God this is awful! It’s really rough. Doing the comic, it was fine because it was just lines on a paper. Whatever. We’re killing that guy. Cool. But the show, it sucks because we all work together, we hang out, and have a great time."
However, he said they can't tell the cast members when their numbers are up until the last minute, "because we change our minds all the time. And that’s the other really bad thing about it. We can’t really give them that much warning because there’s always a chance that we’ll get into actually writing the scripts after we plan things out and we’re like, ‘Nope, that character’s living.’ Which has happened many times. So we don’t want to have many false news giving situations.”
It would be good news to get a bit of a reprieve, but can you imagine hearing that you'll die in Episode 6 and then suddenly it's Episode 2? Eek. (For example, Hershel, Carol, and Shane all had life extensions, but Dale died on screen earlier than intended.)
Also at Comic-Con, ComicBook.com talked to Scott Gimple about warning the actors about their characters' deaths. "It's an incredibly difficult thing, and the circumstances do dictate things, but it is good to try and give some notice -- actually a lot of notice -- but it's not like a whole season's notice because it is an evolving story," Scott said.
"Although we do have some pretty hardcore plans, things change and also timelines shift and suddenly, 'Oh my God, I thought that was four episodes away and it was three' or 'I thought that was two episodes and it's six.' [...] I will say what's wonderful though about this cast is we still see each other a lot, even the people who died. We got to see Jon Bernthal for a hot second and that was amazing. It is weird sometimes. I have dinner with Scott [Wilson] on occasion and sometimes as we're eating I wonder, 'Is he thinking that I killed him?' As we're eating? It still weighs on me."
If you start choking on poisoned food, you probably have your answer.
But that just shows that you can’t look at a character from the comics and expect him or her to have their source material death. If that were the case, Carol, Tyreese and Judith would’ve been gone by now, but Andrea and Dale would still be with us. No one is safe!
The Walking Dead Season 5 premieres Sunday, October 12 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.