When the midseason premiere of The Walking Dead Season 7 came to an end, a title card came up dedicating the episode to someone named James Heltibridle. That name may not have immediately rung a bell, but it was clear he was involved in the production of the show since the episode was honoring his memory. But who is James Heltibridle and how was he involved with the show?
Heltibridle was a member of the behind the scenes crew for The Walking Dead, and he passed away just a few months ago in November 2016. His passing was announced on the Michael Jaegers Officially Undead Fan Site Facebook group, with the following statement: "RIP to James Heltibridle, one of our unsung heroes on The Walking Dead and part of our film industry family. James worked in the Props Dept and was killed in an auto accident last night."
According to another announcement made on the alumni Facebook group for Heltibridle's alma mater, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, his accident occurred after leaving the set of The Walking Dead. While most of the members of the cast have not officially commented on Heltibridle's death, everyone who worked on the series has always seemed to get along well. The episode dedication was a way for the show to acknowledge his contributions.
It's not entirely clear how long Heltibridle had been working on The Walking Dead because the show does not appear on his IMDB page, but it seems to have been a big part of his life for at least the last few years. Heltibride's Twitter account has a few pictures of him attending the show's Season 6 premiere in 2015 and taking photos with cast members and other attendees.
In the bio section of his Twitter, Heltibridle described himself as an artist, designer, and filmmaker. He graduated from UNCSA in 2013 with a B.F.A. in film production and production design, after which he seems to have worked on a few short films before landing his job in the props department of The Walking Dead.
Michael Rooker, who played Merle Dixon in The Walking Dead's earlier seasons, also posted about Heltibridle's passing on his Instagram account. In response, an extra on the series named Coleman Youmans commented, "Damn damn. James was a nice guy and hard worker committed to his craft and worked so hard on TWD. He will be missed."
At the time of his death, Heltibridle was 28 years old, which is, of course, way too young. It's a heartbreaking situation, but I appreciate that the series took some time to honor his memory.