The Walking Dead exclusive: On set for that surprise return
Tovah Feldshuh’s final words to the cast and crew, and the parting gift she received on the way out
[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “The Next World” episode of The Walking Dead.]
What’s worse than being killed off The Walking Dead? Being killed off TWICE!
That’s what happened to Tovah Feldshuh, whose Deanna was bit (yet strangely not devoured) by walkers in the midseason finale. Yet Deanna made a surprise return on Sunday’s “The Next World” episode, having now crossed over to the other side as a zombie. Her on-screen son Spencer (Austin Nichols) then had to finish the job, stabbing Deanna through the back of the head to put her out of her flesh-eating misery while Michonne (Danai Gurira) looked on.
I was fortunate enough to be on set in early September for Feldshuh’s return and official farewell (for real this time) to the show, and it was an emotional one. After one take of the death scene, there were hugs all around between cast and director Kari Skogland, with Nichols going and planting a gentle kiss on Feldhsuh’s forehead so as not to disturb the elaborate zombie make-up. Before another take, Feldshuh and Nichols stared into each other eyes intently. “My son,” said Feldshuh tenderly. “I’m so proud of you.”
Ever the professional, Feldshuh also spent a lot of time perfecting her zombie walk. “Have they done this before?” she asked Skogland as she straddled a small tree she was walking through so that it bent between her legs. (“They brush against but don’t straddle,” answered Skogland.) And occasionally, she would simply break into song. “I keep thinking of Jerry Herman,” laughed Feldshuh of the legendary Broadway composer and lyricist, then crooning “What a way to pass the time!”
After Feldshuh’s final take, assistant director Spencer Jarvis gathered the entire crew around. “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a Walking Dead wrap on Tovah!” Applause erupted and then Feldshush addressed the assembled cast and crew. “It’s the greatest job I ever had in television and I have you all to thank for it. And the best crew EVER! Thank you for being you. Thank you to the acting company. You know, to have this happen to me at this time of my life — what could be a better blessing? So I thank you and I’m honored to have been with you for this year.”
After more sustained applause, the hugs continued in full force, first with co-executive producer Denise Huth, the woman who is on set every single day, and finally with a teary Gurira, who presented a gift: an AudioFlood waterproof iPod shuffle — a perfect parting present for the workout fanatic.
Leaving the set for the last time, Feldshuh climbed into a transport vehicle to take her back to Raleigh Studios, where he was set to depart for Los Angeles for her next job, playing Rachel Bloom’s mother on The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. “You always hope you’re the one to last,” she said while climbing aboard the vehicle. “You hope you’re Daryl. Everyone wants to be Norman Reedus. I thought I would escape death through excellence, but I guess not.” And with that, Deanna Monroe fades off into the distance, her journey complete.
For more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss. Also make sure to check out our interview with showrunner Scott M. Gimple, who explains that huge Rick and Michonne shocker, as well as our chat with the man who plays Jesus, Tom Payne.