His death was announced Saturday on The Walking Dead official Twitter account.
Wilson played rural farmer Hershel Greene on the series. He was a regular on “The Walking Dead” during its second, third and fourth seasons. His character helped the resistance led by star Andrew Lincoln in battling the show’s walkers. The character lost a leg in season three and was killed off in season four.
News of Wilson’s death came shortly after it was announced at “The Walking Dead” panel at New York Comic Con that the Wilson would be among past cast members appearing in the AMC show’s ninth season, which debuts Sunday. Wilson had already filmed his scenes.
“Scott will always be remembered as a great actor and we all feel fortunate to have known him as an even better person,” AMC said in a statement. “The character he embodied on ‘The Walking Dead,’ Hershel, lived at the emotional core of the show. Like Scott in our lives, Hershel was a character whose actions continue to inform our characters’ choices to this day. Our hearts go out to his wife, family, friends and to the millions of fans who loved him. Scott will be missed.”
Frequent “Talking Dead” guest Yvette Nicole Brown tweeted that “he was a wonderful man.”
Wilson was born in Atlanta on March 29, 1942. He graduated high school in 1960. He left college and hitchhiked to Los Angeles to become an actor and after five years broke out in a pair of high-profile 1967 movies — as murder suspect Harvey Oberst in best picture Academy Award winner in “In the Heat of the Night,” and as murderer Richard Hickock opposite Robert Blake in Richard Brooks’ film adaptation of Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.”
Wilson played a key role in 1974’s “The Great Gatsby” in which his character killed Jay Gatsby (Robert Redford) while at his mansion swimming pool, then turned the gun on himself. He received a Golden Globe nomination in 1980 in the supporting actor category as Captain Billy Cutshaw in the thriller “The Ninth Configuration.”
He played pilot Scott Crossfield in “The Right Stuff,” a prison chaplain in “Dead Man Walking,” the U.S. Ambassador to Japan in “The Last Samurai” and a victim of Charlize Theron’s serial killer in Patty Jenkins’ “Monster.” His credits included “The Heartbreak Kid,” “Hostiles,” “The Gypsy Moths,” “Pearl Harbor,” “G.I. Jane,” “Junebug,” “Judge Dredd,” the Shiloh film series and “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.” He had a recurring role in several episodes of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” as Sam Braun.
Wilson was also active in the Screen Actors Guild and strongly opposed the attempts to merge SAG with AFTRA. He received the Screen Actors Guild’s Hollywood division’s Ralph Morgan Award for service to the guild’s Hollywood members in 2007. SAG noted at the time that Wilson had taken a leading role in resolving major issues such as the task force that created Global Rule One, the guild’s internal rule requiring members to work under SAG contracts anywhere in the world. He served on numerous other guild committees.
“Scott was an extraordinary actor and a dedicated union activist whose efforts during the union’s Global Rule One campaign helped secure important provisions for actors working internationally on union contracts. His performance as Hershel on ‘The Walking Dead’ was an emotional core of that show,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Scott’s career embodies the inscription on his Ralph Morgan Award: ‘devotion to the cause of actors, courage to fight for the right, and sacrifice of self for others.’ Our hearts go out to his wife, family and friends.”
“I loved him,” said longtime friend and activist Arlin Miller. “Scott was a great actor and a wonderful man who was always looking out for the best interests of the union and his fellow actors.”
Wilson is survived by his wife, Heavenly, an artist and attorney. No memorial plans have been announced.
Here’s the tweet about Wilson’s death: