How Tony Danza ended up on The Walking Dead (and other untold stories)
Season 7 of The Walking Dead had some downright gruesome moments. But it had a few fun and goofy ones as well. And the story behind perhaps the goofiest moment of all can be found on The Walking Dead: The Complete Seventh Season Blu-ray (plus Digital HD) and DVD sets available Aug. 22.
At the start of the season’s third episode “The Cell” — the one where Daryl is tortured by Negan and the Saviors — we see Dwight watching an old VHS copy of the opening credits to the 1980s sitcom Who’s the Boss? How did this end up happening? It turns out it came down to a few chance meetings between Who’s the Boss? star Tony Danza and Walking Dead favorite Norman Reedus.
“I ran into Tony Danza a couple of times actually,” Reedus says during the commentary track for “The Cell.” “It was originally in Atlanta at a wrap party a couple of seasons ago. And then I saw him again in front of The Four Seasons. And then his manager ended up sending an email via someone else to me about Tony doing something.”
That’s right, it seems Danza is a big Walking Dead fan and his team reached out about the former Tony Micelli appearing in some fashion on the AMC hit. When Reedus informed showrunner Scott M. Gimple of the interest, it eventually led to the screen-within-a-screen cameo. “[Scott] had asked me, ‘Hey, send an email and see if it’d be cool if we did something to the credits with his show.’”
It all worked out, but one thing that did not make the final cut, according to Reedus, was a creative suggestion from Danza’s manager. “We did that and then his manager wrote me back and said something like ‘Oh, it’s cool. It would be cool if Norman said like, ‘Oh, see — he’s still the boss.” Or something like that. Something crazy. Which, of course, we didn’t do.”
Cheesy one-liners aside, Reedus and The Walking Dead team have nothing but love for their celebrity fan turned cameo star. “He’s super cool,” says Reedus of Danza.
That’s not the only secret revealed during the season 7 commentary tracks. Here are a few other tidbits spilled by the stars and producers. Click through all three pages to read all the secrets of The Walking Dead. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
NEXT PAGE: That time Norman Reedus thought he was in The Walking Dead comic book
Why Abraham does not look at Sasha before Negan takes him out
Originally, Abraham was supposed to look over at Sasha before Negan bashed his brains in during the season 7 premiere. That was the plan. But then producers remembered that they had also filmed the scene from Abraham’s point of view in the season 6 finale cliffhanger, and that point of view never turned to the left. “I think I had even scripted it,” says Gimple of Abraham looking at Sasha. “And it couldn’t happen where Abraham actually looks at Sasha, and I realized dammit, we’ve already filmed his perspective. He doesn’t turn. And we were both bummed to lose that.”
But then, it was Michael Cudlitz who had the brilliant idea about a half-hour before filming to have Abe acknowledge Sasha by flashing her the peace sign — a call back to similar moments between the two in episodes 601 and 615. Cudlitz saves the day!
Sasha was pregnant… kinda
I guess Abraham and Sasha were trying to make pancakes after all. At least they were in the dream sequence from the season premiere in which you see a future in which Glenn, Abraham, and Spencer had all survived and were enjoying a feast together in Alexandria. Cudlitz notes during the commentary track that if you look closely you can see Sasha is sporting a baby bump. This was made clearer in a much longer version of the scene that never aired which also appears on the Blu-ray/DVD, and you can watch right here!
Norman Reedus thought he had become a TWD comic character
Daryl Dixon was the first major regular character that was original to the show and did not come from the comic book. But at one point Reedus thought that TWD comic creator Robert Kirkman had decided to add him to the original source material.
The confusion comes over the character of Dwight. First, a little background: In early drafts for The Walking Dead’s first season, the character of Daryl was actually called Dwight. So then, when Kirkman introduced Dwight in the comics in issue 98 — which came out after the show had already started — and gave the character a vest and a crossbow, Reedus naturally thought it was him. “I was so stoked thinking I was in the comic book,” says Reedus on the commentary track. Unfortunately for him, Kirkman then had to break the bad news that it was not him but an entirely new character — a character that would end up plaguing Daryl on the TV version.
‘A’ stands for…
Ever wonder what the giant ‘A’ on Daryl’s Sanctuary sweatshirt stands for? Co-executive producer Angela Kang enlightens us. “It just means a–hole,” says Kang on a commentary. “They’re being juvenile. Like an a–hole and an F and an S for f—face and s—head.” Reedus himself seemed surprised by that revelation. “I thought it meant Aquarius,” he jokes.
By the way, the original plan was for Daryl to be in a factory jumpsuit instead of sweats, but showrunner Gimple thought it bore too close a resemblance to another famous show. “Scott thought it would look too much like Lost,” explains Kang. Apparently, he didn’t want Daryl signing up for the Dharma Initiative just yet.
NEXT PAGE: That time Morgan killed a fictional president
Tara shows up to the Kingdom with Rick and Co. to recruit Ezekiel in “Rock in the Road,” but if you look closely, you will notice that you never see her face when the group walks into the theater for their first meeting with the king. That’s due to a scheduling snafu where Alanna Masterson had to shoot some scenes at the Oceanside beach for episode 6 at the same time. Well, at least she was there in spirit… I guess.
How long is the entire season 7 timeline?
While it seemed to take Rick a long time to go from a beaten down shell of a man to fighting back with his new army, co-executive producer Denise Huth reveals that the entire timeline of season 7 was only 19 days. That’s it! 19 days! I guess that helps explain why we still have never seen winter on this show.
The little boy who plays Benjamin’s younger brother Henry is Macsen Lintz. If that name seems familiar it’s because his sister Madison played Sophia from seasons 1 and 2. But Macsen almost made it onto the show before season 7. Originally, the roles of Lizzie and Mika (from season 4) were imagined as boy characters like in the comic book (where they were named Ben and Billy). Macsen auditioned for one of the brother roles before producers switched the gender.
Macsen is not the only newbie who had auditioned before. Gimple notes that Cooper Andrews (who plays cobbler-loving Jerry) had tried out for a variety of “tough guy roles” before landing his current part. “Jerry was basically made for him,” notes Gimple. “I knew that Ezekiel needed a foil.”
(Almost) choking on your own vomit
The choking sounds you hear as Morgan strangles Richard for causing Benjamin’s death were done by none other than showrunner Gimple, who adds that he almost threw up in the studio from making said choking sounds. The man suffers for his art!
Morgan kills a famous (fictional) president
Lennie James was practicing his stick training at home when he experienced a little mishap. “I was trying something out that I hadn’t been taught that I had seen on YouTube,” he explains on a commentary track. One second, James was swinging his stick around, and the next, it went flying into his TV. James was watching The West Wing at the time and notes that, “Josiah Bartlet got it straight through the head.” Can’t say Eastman would approve of that one.
There are tons more tidbits to be uncovered — as well as featurettes and deleted scenes — when The Walking Dead: The Complete Seventh Season is released Aug. 22 on Blu-ray (plus Digital HD) and DVD. And for more Walking Dead scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.