I’ve had nearly six months to prepare myself for last night. I thought I was fine, but I’m really not. In fact, I’m pretty beat up this morning.
Move over Chris Hardwick. I consider myself to be the biggest Walking Dead fan. I started a Walking Dead podcast, which went to number one on iTunes, that turned into fan meet-ups, that turned into the largest zombie, horror and sci-fi convention in the world, that turned into owning a replica of Dale’s RV, playing a walker on The Walking Dead, being on the cover of The Wall Street Journal, featured in countless articles, and being the party-starter when it comes to Walking Dead fandom.
I don’t say any of this to brag, as I am humbled daily on how honored I am to be a part of this fandom and community. I truly feel the weight of the responsibility to provide an amazing experience to every attendee who comes to one of my Walker Stalker conventions. It’s why I started these events and it’s why I continue to do them.
But in all of this, I’ve made some amazing friends from the volunteers, to the staff, to the actors who attend my conventions. And that’s where the hard part comes in.
I’ve gotten to know Steven Yeun and Michael Cudlitz fairly well over the years. When I needed someone to help me do an Apple Talk in Chicago, Steven graciously volunteered. Whenever I need some advice on talent interaction or someone to help promote an event, Michael is always the first to step up and help me out. More importantly, both of these gentlemen have always taken the time with me when I needed their ear or insight to help make me better at what I do and to make our events better.
These two are just a couple examples of how amazing and down-to-earth the entire Walking Dead cast truly are and how much they really are just regular people like you and I.
Knowing how much they’ve physically and emotionally invested themselves into their characters over the years, it’s hard for me not to watch The Walking Dead and see past them as Steven and Michael to their characters, Glenn and Abraham. I can see their transformation into their characters, but at the heart of it, at the base of each of those characters, it starts with the real person portraying them. They both do one hell of a job. But with every swing of the bat, I grimace for both Glenn and Steven and for both Abraham and Michael.
Separating the actors from their characters is extremely difficult when it comes to the finality – the brutal death – of their characters. For me, the death of their characters reaches beyond the screen. As I’ve seen with so many others, the death of the character on the screen impacts the life of the actor off the screen. Knowing that Glenn and Abraham are dead means accepting that Steven and Michael are never the same. Their lives change in so many ways personally and professionally. They no longer play Glenn and Abraham; they played Glenn and Abraham.
I’ll see them both in five days at Walker Stalker Con Atlanta. They’ll arrive in a different place than the last time I saw them. I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve brought to our favorite television show. They both made me believe in and invest myself into a world that doesn’t exist.
The loss of Glenn is the loss of the group’s moral compass.
The loss of Abraham is the loss of a loyal not-giving-two-shits and kicking-ass-anyway-attitude character that propelled the story-line (and the loss of endless one-liners).
But where The Walking Dead lost these two, the fandom and I have not lost at all. We take in two more brilliant actors into the alumni of television’s greatest show of all-time. They will always be part of the story; a baseball bat can’t take that away.
So here’s to the thousands of times to come where a fan will say, “Excuse me, Glenn, I mean… Steven,” or “Abraham, can I get.. I’m sorry, Michael, can I get a photo with you.” Deep down, your characters are always a part of you to us and separating you from your characters completely will be an impossible task for the rest of your lives.
Thank you, gentlemen, for being part of something great that couldn’t have been without either of you.
James Frazier, former INC 500 CEO and Founder, takes his creative abilities to Crooked Llama to create a new platform for entertainment news and content. The goal of Crooked Llama is to provide entertainment new but do it in a way that’s entertaining and from the perspective of a fan, not a critic.