‘The Walking Dead’: Actor Lew Temple Shares the Season 3 Plot Twist Deemed Too Dark for the Show

The Walking Dead isn’t exactly a lighthearted show. But some things are too dark even for AMC’s zombie apocalypse drama. Lew Temple, who played Axel in season 3, was recently a guest on the Talk Dead to Me podcast. He revealed that the show’s writers initially had a much different arc in mind for his character. 

Lew Temple played prison inmate Axel in ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 3 

Lew Temple
Lew Temple | Greg Doherty/Getty Images

Temple made his debut on The Walking Dead in season 3, when he played an inmate who survived the initial zombie outbreak because he and several fellow prisoners were locked in the prison cafeteria. 

Axel and the other prison survivors meet Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his group after they arrive at the prison and end up releasing them from the cafeteria. Rick and the others explain to the men what has happened in the outside world, and the two groups agree to work together to clear the prison of walkers (though that doesn’t exactly go smoothly). Later in season 3, Axel is killed by the Governor (David Morrissey). 

‘The Walking Dead’ Season 3 nixed a serial killer storyline 

Temple — who also auditioned for the roles of Merle and Daryl Dixon — said that when he first arrived on set, he thought he would be playing a much more violent character. 

“I showed up with the idea that it was going to be serial killer and foreboding, and then, the day-of, got a note to switch that,” he explained. “‘No, no, we’ve gotta lighten things up a little bit. We’ve been pretty dark.’” Instead he was asked to bring “a little levity” to the character. 

As a result, the character of Axel ended up being much less threatening; instead of being a murderer, he has a history of drug problems and has been imprisoned for trying to rob a convenience store with a toy gun.

Still, the writers still seemed to be planning a darker storyline. 

“There were some episodes where I do take Beth (Emily Kinney) out into the woods and slaughter her,” Temple said. “We didn’t get to any of those.” 

‘The Walking Dead’ ultimately killed off Axel 

Axel and Beth in The Walking Dead
Axel (Lew Temple) and Beth Greene (Emily Kinney) – in The Walking Dead | Gene Page/AMC

While the long-term plan was to eventually have Axel reveal his dark side, Temple said that changed when the writers revealed they’d painted themselves into a corner with the Governor plot. 

The Governor — the leader of a rival group of survivors at Woodbury — needed to “draw blood” or risk seeming like he wasn’t that threatening, Temple said. The writers considered killing off several different regular characters, but it was Axel who drew “the short straw.” 

Temple said he tried to convince the showrunners not to have Axel die. Even his co-star Andrew Lincoln pleaded the character’s case. But neither effort yielded the desired results. 

Once he accepted his fate, Temple said he had one request when it came to his character’s death: “Make it shocking.” 

In the end, Axel died when the Governor shot him in the head, which the actor thought was a fitting end. While it might not have been the exit he was hoping for, he was happy with his work on the series.

“It was a lot of fun to be on the show,” he said. 

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