Before landing his breakout role as unstable alpha male Shane Walsh on AMC’s The Walking Dead, Jon Bernthal nearly got cast in a different part.
Before landing his breakout role as unstable alpha male Shane Walsh on AMC’s The Walking Dead, Jon Bernthal nearly got cast in a different part. While it may not be quite the ratings juggernaut it once was, The Walking Dead remains one of the most popular shows on TV. It’s also served as the launching pad for lots of great actors into the upper echelons of Hollywood stardom. That’s true even of original series lead Andrew “Rick Grimes” Lincoln, who when he was cast was still best known by American audiences as the dude holding the cards in Love Actually.
It was also the case for Bernthal, who after only playing Shane for two seasons of The Walking Dead, has found himself never at a loss for work since. Most notably, Bernthal went on to play Frank Castle in Netflix’s highly acclaimed The Punisher TV series, which sadly met an early end thanks to the dissolution of Disney’s relationship with Netflix.
What many Walking Dead fans may not be aware of is that Bernthal came very close to playing an even more prominent role in the original cast. One that would’ve put him on the other side of the good vs. evil fence.
The Walking Dead Role Jon Bernthal Almost Played
Two of the last roles cast for The Walking Dead were in fact Rick and Shane, who begin the series as police partners and best friends, then end up pitted against each other due to a shared love and differences of opinion on how to navigate the post-apocalypse. Rick was the hardest character to cast, and many actors auditioned for the role without ever getting a call back. Jon Bernthal actually auditioned for both characters, and was in the running for both until the later stages of casting. One day, former Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont had all his remaining Rick and Shane contenders come in and play both sides of a scene where the two friends eat burgers inside a cop car together before the zombies hit the fan.
That day ended with Bernthal getting firmly cast as Shane, but no one was chosen for Rick. Bernthal actually says this was his preferred outcome, as after reading the Walking Dead pilot script, he was more interested in Shane than Rick, despite the other being the leading role. Finally, a bit later, Andrew Lincoln auditioned via tape, then was brought in to read scenes with Bernthal’s Shane. Bernthal says everyone involved almost immediately knew Lincoln was the man for the role, he got it, and the rest is TV history. Considering how things worked out for both actors, it’s doubtful they have any regrets.