Lew Temple starred as Axel, one of the prisoners, along with Tomas, Oscar, Andrew, and Big Tiny, locked in the cafeteria by a guard who never returned when the apocalypse broke out. If you’ll remember, this was the first time we saw Axel, staring at the Survivors through the grating as he watched in shock as they amputated Hershel’s leg
I liked Axel. I wish he was still around to fight the Saviors. He might have had problems with pharmaceuticals but he was just a good guy with bad habits. I was hoping his and Carol’s friendship would grow into something more. She needed someone who was kind. When the Governor shot him in the head as he and Carol stood in the courtyard talking, it hurt my heart. Then when Carol had to use his body for protection from the hail of bullets, I think Axel would have been proud he helped save her, albeit posthumously.
Lew is just as great a guy as Axel was, minus the pharmaceuticals. 😉 I guess an actor’s personality can’t help but shine through in the character he is portraying. You can read all about him below in his baker’s dozen interview.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. This is particularly a fantastic place to have your imagination rooted. There is so much pageantry and revelry happening all of the time everywhere. It truly is a menagerie of living. The culture is unlike any other that I have experienced and I would say it is the best place to live or visit, at least for me.
Did you always want to be an actor?
I never thought about being an actor growing up. I was passionate about baseball, still am. I wanted to play Major League Baseball. I have the same dream today as I did when I was twelve. Taking the field in a Big League stadium, playing a Major League game. I thought the people I saw on screen or television were real. I had no idea they were acting. That was a wonderful fantasy to hold, and I always think it is best as a child not to know who is playing those parts. Alas, that ship has sailed in this information society and the wonder bubble has burst. I started acting when I followed an attractive young lady into an acting class to get a date. I saw what was being done on stage and I was bit by the bug from that moment on. I knew that is what I was supposed to be doing. I have been trying to figure it out ever since.
What was your very first acting role?
I spent my early years acting on stage, mostly at community theaters in Houston, Texas. I did several of the classics, Picnic, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Owl and The Pussycat, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Then I moved up to regional theater at the Alley Theatre and did more avant garde’ pieces. But my first role on television was Walker, Texas Ranger. I played a brother villain duo, Whit Gantz. Chuck Norris had to take us down. It was so exciting at the time to be playing the bad guy. I remember it fondly.
How did you land the role of Axel on The Walking Dead?
I had been made aware of the graphic novels prior to it becoming a television series. I was skeptical that they could pull off that type of violence on the television. What did I know, right? Then I was invited in by casting to read for the role of Merle. Thankfully, they hired Michael Rooker. A few weeks later I was asked to audition for Merle’s brother, who did not have a name or any dialogue yet. They said, just read the Merle sides, but do it differently. Thankfully again, they hired Norman Reedus to play Daryl. When the role of Axel came around, they had me on their radar and I did audition for it, and this time, thankfully, they hired me. It was such a wonderful experience to be part of such a cultural phenomena.
Were you a The Walking Dead fan before you got the role?
I was aware of the graphic novels, the comics, and I had seen the show. I was impressed with the work they were doing. I would not say that I had read all the comics prior to having been cast. We just don’t typically have that kind of time, as we are always reading other scripts. But I was a fan of what I had been exposed to, yes.
Did you do anything special to prepare for the role?
I was entirely aware of Axel’s presence and popularity in the comic books. I wanted to give him the same colloquial charm. He is bigger than I am, so I definitely hit the gym and added some muscle. I grew as much hair as I could, and in particular the mustache. I think we kind of made that a signature piece. I was working on the decoy of being a junkie, so I was doing a lot of research on drug addiction and withdrawal. That was a big part of Axel’s introduction physically. But that was later not to be the case, so it was all a bit of a red herring with the white knuckling. In the end the likability was the main thing I was trying to land with Axel, while receiving some secrets that could be sued for future story lines.
What are your thoughts on Axel’s fate?
As I said, I loved Axel, and I think most of the fans were won over by him as well. He worked hard to gain the trust of our Survivors, probably too hard. I think that Axel definitely had a lot to offer the group, Oscar too for that matter. I am not happy that Axel went away as quickly as he did, but am pleased with the shock in which it happened. I wanted it to be something that we did not see coming. I am also pleased that Axel was there to serve as protection for Carol, and I think the audience can appreciate that as well. Axel never knew the Governor, but probably would have tried to offer peace with him. It is sad to think he was a victim of war. He was just talking gently to a friend.
Did you experience any funny or memorable behind the scene moments?
The work on the day is so focused and intense that there are not many opportunities to have a laugh. And yet we do, we must. On occasion we would switch wardrobe, and throw Andrew Lincoln, by one of us wearing Daryl’s costume. Sometimes we would enter scenes wearing sombrero’s or snorkels. Or somebody that was a walker would be carrying Judith. It is a family and we are close, so some practical jokes are always a part of the fun. I can remember when there was a running scene we all were trying to race as if we were in an event. It made it that much more difficult for the leader to hold position. Something different each day.
You are multi-talented, working in both television and movies, as well as theater. Which do you prefer and why?
I like film probably the most. It is where I get to have the most discovery in my work. Television is great, but you don’t have the urgency to land every line, as you do in film. That is great if you are building a character like Axel. But in a 90 page script of a film, almost everything that is written has value. When you can dig in and really develop the character over a short period of time, the discoveries can catch you completely off guard, and this is where the magic happens. I feel as if theater has a great deal of discovery as well, but is rehearsed so much that the spontaneity is dulled down. Discovery is my favorite part of acting. It is after all called fishing, not catching, right?
Do you have any new acting roles in your future?
I have a film coming out in April, The Endless, it premieres at the Tribecca Film Festival. It is a sci-fi thriller that is written, directed and stars Justin Benson and Aaron Morehead. It is really in vogue with the high concept material that is being done in today’s arena. It is about a cult that is stuck in a time loop. Really fascinating story, and I think it will have an audience. Also a film called Feral, that is a creature horror film. A smart version of a cabin in the woods story. Directed by Mark Young, and starring Scout Taylor Compton. I like all of the young people’s performances in it. I am the old guy, but hold my own. And of course there is Kidnap, with Halle Berry that is due out in August. This is a thriller in the same vein as Taken.
Who has inspired you in your life and acting career?
My Grandfather, he was a gentleman, and taught me to be such. He had integrity and a sense of style and humor. I have tried my best to live up to those qualities he instilled from my upbringing. Also my stepfather, he has always been a solid man who has been there for me and still is today. I love Paul Newman. He had an authenticity about him that would be unique in any era, a man’s man, timeless. I am inspired by all of his work which is praise worthy. I was always fascinated by just watching him as he was a craftsman of the highest magnitude.
What are you most passionate about?
Baseball. As I mentioned above it is my first love, and still my true love. I think for me baseball is the essence of life. It moves at a pace the emulates life with ebbs and flows. There is excitement and lulls. It offers a great deal of social opportunity and community. You can root for and against. It is the perfect drama, as with any competition, you don’t know how it will turn out. I think watching a baseball game is zen, it is the beat of life. If a space alien came to observe, I would take it to a baseball game, and say, “This is life here on earth…”
NOTE from Wikipedia: Lew was the 1982 Baseball MVP at Rollins College. He was a minor league bullpen catcher for the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros. In 1986, he was the scout for the New York Mets, and would later go on to serve as Assistant Director of Minor League Operations and Scouting for the Astros until 1993.
Is there anything you can tell all us fans about yourself that we don’t know?
I love the human experience. The joy that it is to be alive. I have had that taken away, a bout with cancer (leukemia), and given back again (remission). I fear for human suffering; it hurts me emotionally. I love children and the whimsy of their play. I like old school country and rap, and I’m talking about food. I like brown liquor, cold beer, and banana splits. I rely on the wisdom of the unknown, and am my best when I am not in control. It’s a good world; it’s good to be a part of it, take your blinders off and get you some of it. I’m wishing you a peaceful journey.
I love this picture of Lew…love that tinge of red in his hair. I’ve always been attracted to redheads and he is one handsome man! I can’t wait to see him in all his new projects. Maybe someday we’ll get a flashback of Axel on The Walking Dead. Wouldn’t that be something?! We miss you Axel and will never forget the mild mannered prisoner that saved Carol’s life even in death.
We’re coming to the end of Season 7. I can’t wait to see what happens; but then again, I don’t want to know because it will be months and months before we see our Survivors again. Tune in with me Sunday night on AMC at 9/8C and let me know your thoughts @sassypoo.