Walking Dead season finale brings some relief into sight

Spoiler alert: This story contains spoilers for The Walking Dead.

The end is near. The end is also here.

Sunday’s Walking Dead season finale is poised to finally bring to a close the “all out war” between the Alexandrians, led by former sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), and their opponents the Saviors, led by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

But one character had to miss the final showdown. That would be Simon, played by Canadian actor Steven Ogg, who was Negan’s right-hand man until he tried to overthrow the boss.

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“I enjoyed that I got to cannonball out of it as I cannonballed into it,” Ogg said, referring to Simon’s introduction in the 2016 episode in which the Saviors brought the Alexandrians to their knees, literally.

“You always want that kind of a nice death. (Simon) gets beaten and choked and turns into a zombie. Beautiful, damn, done, onwards!”

While Negan has been the chief villain in the AMC series for the last two seasons, Simon turned out to be bloodthirstier than his leader. Before his attempted mutiny, he was already in Negan’s bad books for wiping out a group of survivors known as the Scavengers — against Negan’s direct orders — and trying to do the same to some of Rick’s allies.

It’s not the first time Ogg has played a villain. He’s also known as the voice of violent criminal Trevor Philips in the video game Grand Theft Auto V. And he plays a murderous “host” in the HBO series Westworld, which returns for its second season April 22.

Ogg says he’s not afraid to look ugly for a role and, in fact, playing a bad guy can be liberating.

“I don’t care necessarily that the character’s likable,” he said. “You’re not boxed in as much when you get to play those characters … As a bad guy, you don’t have as much to answer to with your behaviour.”

Speaking of answering to people, Ogg was asked about fan criticisms of The Walking Dead — which reached a peak when the character of Carl Grimes was killed off at the beginning of the season — and what he thinks of them.

Ogg said he doesn’t take the criticisms personally.

“If you don’t like the show, you don’t have to watch it,” he said.

“Some people think the show is too slow and dumb. OK, cool, that’s great. To each his own.”

One of Ogg’s cast mates, American actor Seth Gilliam, who plays Father Gabriel, said there’s relief in sight for fans who feel the war between the Alexandrians and the Saviors has dragged on too long.

“It’s coming to a conclusion. The story is going to be told to its end,” he said last month when he was in town for Toronto ComiCon.

Whether Father Gabriel will also reach his end in Sunday’s finale remains to be seen. The last we saw of him he was being held prisoner by the Saviors and a promo for the season ender shows him with a gun pointed at his head.

If it is the end of the road for Gabriel, it will be more than Gilliam bargained for when he joined the series in 2014.

“I wasn’t expecting him to last for more than a few episodes,” Gilliam, 49, said. “I thought maybe I’d have a nice monologue before being eaten alive and that’s it. It’s really been an incredible journey.”

Gilliam, who has had memorable roles as a corrupt prison guard on Oz and a drug cop on The Wire, was leary of joining The Walking Dead at first since he wasn’t into horror, but “I got hooked after watching about 14 minutes of the pilot.”

To him, The Walking Dead is about heart, and he said he loves his character. Gabriel started out as a coward and a villain — a priest who abandoned his parishioners during the zombie apocalypse — but has grown into a trusted member of the Alexandrians. “I love that he’s so desperate to try and that he’s so willing to push himself beyond his boundaries,” Gilliam said.

Being part of The Walking Dead has “been an experience unlike any other that I’ve had professionally and personally,” he added: partly because of the fans he’s met “everywhere from Tokyo to Toronto,” and largely because of the friendships he’s made on set.

That’s also what Ogg will miss the most about not being on the show anymore; hanging out with his cast mates, even though he’ll still talk to them and see them at fan conventions.

“What resonates, what you’re gonna miss, is that: those relationships, those people,” he said.

“They have been such wonderful additions to my life.”

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