It's difficult to image anyone other than Michael Cudlitz playing The Walking Dead's mustachioed Texan, Abraham Ford, but the part almost went to former WWE and TNA wrestler Matt Morgan. Abraham was a central character in The Walking Dead between the Governor and All Out War arcs and delivered dramatic pathos and light-hearted comedy in equal measure before going on to have his head caved in by Negan in the season 7 premiere. Such is the character's popularity that rumors are rapidly spreading that Cudlitz will soon reprise his role in Fear The Walking Dead.
Far away from the world of zombies and sadists with baseball bats, Matt Morgan is a professional wrestler who previously appeared on WWE's Smackdown! brand between 2003 and 2005, teaming up with figures such as Brock Lesnar and Carlito. Morgan would go on to have a more storied career in the TNA promotion but has limited experience when it comes to acting roles. The performer has, however, made appearances in The Good Guys and Death From Above.
Morgan now claims that he came extremely close to being cast as Abraham Ford in The Walking Dead. Speaking on the WINC Podcast, the wrestler stated:
"I auditioned for that part [Abraham] and I was all but told that it was mine. So I got bitchy about it and refused to watch because I didn't get it. I was at my brother's house in Boston, supposed to be there for the holidays and I didn't pay attention to anybody because I was supposed to be memorizing my scripts and then, at the last second, they pulled the carpet out from underneath me."
If Morgan's account is true, it's understandable that he'd feel hard done by after losing out on what would have been his most high-profile acting role to date by some margin very late in the day. With that said, from the producers' point of view, it certainly makes more sense to cast an experienced and respected actor in such a pivotal role, rather than a man seeking to transition into acting from professional wrestling. With the benefit of hindsight, it's certainly hard to argue that Cudlitz's casting wasn't an inspired decision.
Plenty of professional wrestlers have attempted to forge a path into movies and television once their in-ring career begins to wind down but the results are unpredictable at best. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is obviously a shining example of how to transform from a wrestler to a cinematic star and although you can criticize the limited range of his roles, it's hard to argue that the most bankable actor in Hollywood hasn't been a bona fide success post-WWE. Dave Bautista has experienced similar success, as has former WWE Champion John Cena, who appears in this month's Daddy's Home 2.
On the other hand, anyone who has had to sit through any of the latter Marine films will tell you that when wrestlers turn their hand to acting, the results are generally quite poor. It's impossible to say whether Matt Morgan would've fallen into this category on The Walking Dead but if he is a genuine acting talent, hopefully another opportunity at the big time is not far off.
The Walking Dead continues with "Monsters" November 5th on AMC.
Source: WINC Podcast