Wilson’s rep Dominic Mancini confirmed the news to TMZ and said Wilson was “a national treasure, a calm voice, and a gentle spirit to everyone who came in contact with him.”
Wilson was a working actor for more than 50 years and appeared in more than 50 films and TV shows in his career. From the very start, Wilson’s roles had a fascination with the macabre. The Georgia native portrayed characters suspected of murder in his first three films.
His second-ever role was portraying infamous real-life murderer Richard “Dick” Hickock in the 1967 film adaptation of Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood. In Cold Blood director Richard Brooks selected Wilson for the role in part because he was unknown at the time. Wilson’s performance would help jumpstart his long and consistent career.
Wilson had notable roles as George Wilson in 1974’s The Great Gatsby and as Chaplain Farley in 1995’s Dead Man Walking. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his role in 1980’s The Ninth Configuration.
Wilson joined the cast of AMC’s zombie hit The Walking Dead for its second season in 2011. It proved to be something of an exclamation mark on his career, and likely his most famous role. Wilson portrayed farmer and family man Hershel Greene. Hershel was unable at first unable to confront the horrifying reality of the zombie apocalypse, insisting that the undead were simply sick and could get better. By season 2’s end, Hershel was tragically disabused of this notion and joined the show’s central group full time where he served as a councilor figure to lead character, Rick.
Like many characters on The Walking Dead, Hershel did not survive the harsh world of the show. Wilson’s character was killed in a shocking fashion during season 4. The scene is still recalled and references amongst Walking Dead fans for it’s tragic nature and brutality. During his time on the show and even after, Wilson regularly appeared at fan conventions like Walker Stalker Con.
Despite his illness, Wilson appears to have never truly stopped working. He continued his TV work in recent years with a role in Netflix’s The OA. He returned to The Walking Dead once and it was revealed just today that he in fact will do so once again. Wilson as Hershel will guest star in the already-filmed The Walking Dead Season 9.