After a guy survives both a boat explosion and a grievous head wound, you start to think that maybe he can’t die.
But Ward Cameron’s number was up in Outer Banks‘ Season 3 finale: Sarah’s double-crossing dad redeemed himself (a little?) by putting himself between Sarah and one of Singh’s thugs who was about to shoot her. Ward charged the goon, taking several bullets in the torso before the pair fell backward into a ravine, dying when they hit the ground. (Read a full recap here.)
To get all the behind-the-scenes scoop about Ward’s last stand, TVLine chatted with the man himself: Nashville alum Charles Esten, whose first single — “One Good Move (listen to it here)” — from his upcoming debut album was released today.
TVLINE | My goodness, I honestly thought Ward was unkillable at this point.
It’s nice to hear that. It means that we caught you off guard a little bit, and that’s what we were hoping for. Somebody unkillable is not human. I don’t want to play that, you know? I don’t want to play, like, the Terminator of characters — although, you know, who wants to go? [Laughs] Who wants to leave a show with people this wonderful, and is being enjoyed this much?
But you want to get when the getting’s good. We already did the head fake before… You can’t do that again. [The audience will] be like, “Come on, man!” That’s why they intentionally showed Ward after falling. It wasn’t like he just fell into the brush and you never saw him, or into the ocean and you never saw. It’s like, no, there is he is. They buried him, yeah. So, I thought that was actually important, and hopefully that’s what made it powerful.
TVLINE | How early on did you know that this season would be his last?
Not very early on at all. It was fairly late in the game. These guys are my friends by now, like [executive producers] Josh [Pate] and Shannon [Burke], the writers, and Jonas [Pate]… I think they were always going back and forth on it. There’s pros and there’s cons of having me around later, to cause whatever havoc I can.
For me, I’m a little weird in that the actor, the guy in me that has real loyalty to the character, that’s the one that I generally follow. There’s the other [Laughs] you know, Chip wants to stay on the show and go to Barbados and see these beautiful people and all these things! … When I heard it, I was like, “Oh man.” Then I was a little bit lie, “No, yeah, yes. I totally get that.”
The how of it all wasn’t always a given either. It could’ve gone other ways that weren’t perhaps quite as redemptive. But I, from the very beginning, had said if it ever happens, can it please happen trying to save Sarah? I don’t know if they remembered that, but I remember thinking it.
This is a character that’s a little conflicting. He’s not all bad. And then they allowed me to run with what they were writing, in terms of the emotions of it all. I rarely did anything here it was like I wasn’t regretting it mightily as I did it. You can sort of see that Ward look: “Oh, why are you making me do this?” Which is a terribly sociopathic thing to think, obviously. [Laughs] But they could still see that pain in there, and they could see the real love for Sarah.
TVLINE | Please tell me everything you remember about shooting his death scene.
Well, everything there is so scenic. I used to love, when we were on Nashville — and I’ve spoken a hundred times about that — I used to love the being in Nashville, being at the Opry. Always, to me, it just really makes it easier on you as an actor when you’re surrounded by actual proof, and that kind of stimuli. This is no different. I mean, when we’re in those jungles, they’re jungles. We were up on actual cliffs.
The view was breathtaking. The terrain was treacherous. I don’t have to pretend it’s a hard hike up that hill, it was a hard hike up that hill! [Laughs] I was really grateful for that… When it came to shooting that scene, it was just, it’s a dance that they wanted to get exactly right, who was standing where, how it works, where you were set up for the final moment… And there’s a little bit of a stunt in it, too, which was very, very fun.
We have fantastic stuntmen, so the actual tackle was off of a platform, so they could get a camera under it… And just as they were finishing — and they were nailing it, it was amazing — I went over to my director, my buddy Jonas Pate, and I whispered in his ear, “You think I could do one? Think I could get one?” And he looked at me, and he goes, “Do you want one?” I said, “If you think you will see my face, and it will make the shot better and more meaningful, then yeah, I want one.” … He stops, he thinks, and he goes, “I think we’ll see your face.”
Before I wanted to be an actor, years ago, when I was a little kid, all my friends and I, we wanted to be stuntmen. So, we’re jumping off roofs onto, you know, to bushes and things. So, anyway, that was kind of a fun, thrilling little bit of adrenaline way to end the whole story, to actually get to be the guy that turns and runs at him, buries my shoulder in his gut, and takes us both over the edge.
TVLINE | I’m impressed, because I am almost 45, and I can hurt myself trying to tie my shoe.
[Laughs] And you know how old I am! You’re doing the math on how old I am, “What’s his old ass doing, going up—”
TVLINE | No! I’m just very impressed!
No, I feel you. Believe me, believe me. It just felt like the last full measure of being Ward, and going for it. So it was nice to get to do that.
TVLINE | Before we have to go, can we talk about your upcoming album for a minute?
The first single’s called “One Good Move.” I was writing at a writers’ retreat with some young women. During lunch, I was sort of saying that I did not envy them, being the age they were. I’m glad there were no video phones walking around in everybody’s hand when I was their age, because I wasn’t the brightest guy. [Laughs] I made a whole lot of bad decisions at that point, I said, except for one thing: my wife [Patty Puskar]. Back then, she was my one good move.
And then later, they go, ‘Well, we’re going to write that.’ And I didn’t even realize I had said this title! But they were absolutely right.