Chris Hardwick made his return to “Talking Dead” on Sunday, following the midseason premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead.”
Yvette Nicole Brown was originally scheduled to replace Hardwick as host of the episode; however, AMC reinstated Hardwick after completing its investigation of sexual assault allegations.
AMC’s decision was met with some backlash.
During the week before Hardwick’s return, fans on social media continued to show support for actress Chloe Dykstra, who described her experience with an emotionally and sexually abusive ex-boyfriend in a June post on Medium. Though Dykstra didn’t name Hardwick in the piece, readers quickly assumed that it was referencing her three-year relationship with him. He denied these claims.
A number of “Talking Dead” staff, including an executive producer, also quit the show over Hardwick’s reinstatement, The Wrap reported.
On Sunday, Hardwick addressed the audience:
I really just want to take a minute, and I want to say that I am so appreciative to be standing here right now. And I want to thank you, the “Walking Dead” community, for all of your support these last couple of months.
You know, this show is not just a job to me. This is a vital part of my life, you know. This has been a sanctuary, these last seven years we’ve been here. This has been with me through good times and bad times, and I have so much gratitude to you, the fans and the producers and the amazing casts of both of these shows, for allowing me to come here and be a part of this community every week.
This is what this is. This is a community, and we’re along the precipice of a lot of changes on both “Walking Dead” shows in the coming weeks and months, and I am so looking forward to going on that journey with you, and I’ve said the following words a million times, countless times, and that I’ve never been more thankful than I am in this very moment, to say to you that I am Chris Hardwick, and this is “Talking Dead.”
Hardwick went on to praise Brown, who was a guest on the pre-taped episode, for taking over his various hosting spots. The two shared a hug and the studio audience applauded. He did not directly address the investigation or staff departures.
Dykstra’s Medium essay outlined disturbing emotional abuse and industry blacklisting that she said she suffered as a result of a past relationship. Shortly after the essay was published, Hardwick was removed from hosting his various shows on AMC as well as moderating San Diego Comic-Con panels, pending an AMC investigation.
Although Dykstra didn’t participate in AMC’s investigation, she recently tweeted that she would “100% stand by every single word” of her essay outlining the abuse she experienced:
Ahead of Sunday’s “Talking Dead” episode, Hardwick’s name was also restored to the Nerdist website, which he founded. Such information was removed in June.