'It was the most painful year of my career,' says Andrew Lincoln about losing the original showrunner
Credit: Scott Garfield/AMC

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The Walking Dead has a massive, always-changing cast. That’s what happens when you continuously kill people off at an alarming rate. But there are six characters that were there at the beginning in season 1 and have somehow managed to survive until now: Rick, Carl, Glenn, Carol, Daryl, and Morgan.

We sat down with the actors who play them — Andrew Lincoln, Chandler Riggs, Steven Yeun, Melissa McBride, Norman Reedus, and Lennie James — for an exclusive roundtable discussion that can be found in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly. We already shared one juicy excerpt with you, in which it is revealed that actress Sarah Wayne Callies (who played Lori) helped save Carol back in season 3. Now, in this latest excerpt from said roundtable, Lincoln, Reedus, and McBride reflect on their time with original showrunner Darabont and his removal by AMC.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Original showrunner Frank Darabont brought you all into this world and then was taken off the show a year later by AMC in what has proven to be a pretty contentious dispute. I know that hurt for a lot of you. Was there ever a moment where you said to yourself, “I don’t want to keep doing this without him?”

ANDREW LINCOLN: It was the most painful year of my career.

NORMAN REEDUS: I didn’t get to know Frank as well as everybody else. I came in on the third episode, and he was already editing the first episode, and I kind of met him a little later. I’ve always been a huge fan of his and grateful that he created this part for me, and I owe him a ton. I remember he came back and he directed a portion of an episode when I come and I save IronE [Singleton, who played T-Dog] on the freeway, and it was my first time to be directed by Frank, and I was super excited. I’m always trying to be filthy on the show, but the makeup artist said, “That’s enough dirt.” But Frank was like, “Dirtier!” and I’m like, “I love this guy.” He’s super f—ing cool and I wish I had more time with him, to be honest.

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Melissa, you had worked with Frank on The Mist before this.

MELISSA McBRIDE: Yeah, and that was a blast to work with him on. It was just a short, day-player role, and I never thought I’d hear another thing and didn’t anticipate that I would. I didn’t really know him that well, and even going into The Walking Dead, he came to set and at the CDC was the first time I had an opportunity to talk to him and thank him, and I did. I turned around and he was gone. It’s just like he was this elusive person that …

He was the mist.

McBRIDE: Yeah, kind of like that. And then when that happened, it was awkward — so awkward, and a little heartbreaking, to say the least. But it was a gift, and it’s still a gift, you know? He’s a creative force and I feel very blessed and indebted to him.

To read the entire roundtable, you can pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly right here. You can also hear the roundtable on Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) on Feb. 19 at 2 p.m. For more, keep checking back here on EW.com for tons of scoop on the show.

Episode Recaps

The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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