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'Walking Dead': Brutal cliffhanger season finale took the cast to 'this deep, dark place'

'Walking Dead': Brutal cliffhanger season finale took the cast to 'this deep, dark place'
Jeffrey Dean Morgan, standing left, and kneeling from left, Danai Gurira, Michael Cudlitz, Andrew Lincoln, Sonequa Martin-Green and Chandler Riggs appear in the end scene of "The Walking Dead"season finale. (Gene Page / AMC)

If you were upset by the brutal season finale cliffhanger of AMC's "The Walking Dead," in which a key character was bludgeoned to death by the sadistic villain Negan with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire, you're not alone.

The cast was also upset during the filming of the scene, which took place during a grueling two-night shoot in a clearing close to the show's headquarters near Atlanta. During the scene, the group of zombie-apocalypse survivalists led by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) are captured and forced to their knees in a semicircle while Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) taunts them over who he is going to kill.

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"The finale has been the pinnacle of the emotional connection that we've all had from the past," actress Lauren Cohan said at an awards consideration screening of the finale for industry members at Hollywood's Ricardo Montalban Theatre.

"We all go through crazy things on the show, but there's something about that final scene where we're all in a semi-circle so powerless, especially with Andy, because we've never seen him so broken. You don't see us en masse at a loss of what to do," said Cohan, who plays Maggie Greene in the hit drama. "It's more than about television at that point. That defines a turning point."

Executive producer Greg Nicotero, who directed the episode, explained how one night the cameras were mostly focused on the captives, and the following night was primarily on Morgan to capture his performance.

"I remember looking down the line at everyone that first night, and seeing Sonequa [Martin-Green, who plays Sasha Williams], who had tears coming out of her eyes between takes," he said. "It was such an emotional moment for everyone. All of our actors were asked to take themselves to this really deep, dark place of not knowing what was going to happen or where this horrible person was going to take them."

He said he apologized to the cast on the second night, telling them that as "wrecked" as they were the first night, they would have to do it all again. "They had to put themselves in that place over and over again... and it was cold. There were no leaves on the trees, and everyone was shivering."

Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon, said he remembers talking to Lincoln the following day. "He had been just full of snot," he said with a slight chuckle, "I remember calling him after leaving the set and saying, 'Hey, buddy, are you okay?' All the lumps in our throats in that scene, that was all real."

And no, there were no clues about which character was killed in the scene. (The beating was blacked out, but conveyed through sickening thuds of the bat against someone's head.)

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