The Walking Dead Executive Producer Robert Kirkman has addressed the recent on-set death of stuntman John Bernecker during a Television Critics Association sit-down with reporters. Following a drop in viewership in its seventh season, The Walking Dead's hope for a rebound in season 8 this fall was dampened earlier this month when Bernecker died of a head injury sustained in a 30-foot fall to a concrete floor while performing a stunt for the AMC horror series.
As a result of Bernecker's unexpected death on July 13, production was suspended on the series temporarily, and out of respect for the veteran stuntman, showrunner Scott Gimple and other creatives cancelled the show's TCA panel to attend his funeral. According to Deadline, Kirkman – the show's EP who also co-created The Walking Dead graphic novel series – did take questions about the accident at a TCA press event, however, saying, "It’s a tragedy, so it’s something that everyone is dealing with in their own way, and it’s something that will continue to stick with us for years to come.”
While Kirkman didn't elaborate on the circumstances surrounding Bernecker's death, he did note that the loss of Bernecker – whose credits over his 10-year career include work on 24: Legacy, Logan, Get Out, The Hunger Games franchise, Olympus Has Fallen, Looper and the upcoming Black Panther – would not affect this season's storyline.
“No storylines were changed, you know, that was a tragic accident. It wasn’t story related, it was just a freak accident that happened on set and it’s something that we’re dealing with, but it hasn’t affected the storyline in any way.”
While the tragic death of the 33-year-old Bernecker will not affect season 8 plans for The Walking Dead, there's no question that his loss will continue to be on the minds of Kirkman and his fellow crew mates this year, if not beyond. Since Bernecker’s union, SAG-AFTRA, is reportedly investigating the logistics of the lethal fall, his death is hardly an open-and-shut case.
The Walking Dead has no doubt featured many dangerous stunts since the show's inception in 2010, so it goes without saying that there will be efforts both on the inside and by outside parties to look into how Bernecker's fall occurred, and how such a tragedy can be prevented in the future.
Naturally, a great deal of time is put into the planning of elaborate stunt work on not only The Walking Dead, but film and television shows across the industry, so you have to be believe that directors, producers, stunt-coordinators and the like have been rocked by what happened to Bernecker and are doing their best to ensure the safety of their stunt performers moving forward.