The end is nigh for Carl on The Walking Dead. When it was revealed in the final moments of the Dec. 10 midseason finale that Carl had been bitten by a zombie, it became clear that the character’s final moments were not far behind.
Carl’s journey will end in the Feb. 25 midseason premiere, which will also mark the end on the show for the boy-turned-man who has played him for the past eight years, Chandler Riggs. (Of course, the actor and character could always show up again in flashbacks or dream sequences.) We spoke to Riggs — who recently filmed the movie Inherit the Viper and has a burgeoning music career under the alias Eclipse — to get his take on what to expect from his final installment, what it was like having to say goodbye to his castmates, and how his character’s final message will play a major part even after he’s gone.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you say about playing this out in the next episode when the show returns?
CHANDLER RIGGS: Well, it is gonna be some of Carl’s final moments in the next episode. And though you can see that the story is coming to an end, he does have a lot to say because he’s been watching Rick over the last however many years, and has been learning from him and seeing every mistake that he’s made and every right decision. And he’s turned out to be a really well-shaped leader — kind of suited for this world and an icon for the new age. And so Carl’s just really going to be trying to teach Rick as much as he can.
It’s really interesting, because it’s such a reversal of the comic. In the comic it is Carl, not Rick, that really wants to kill Negan and show no mercy.
Yeah, it’s actually really interesting to see it kind of turned around. It’s just a complete 180 and kind of put Rick in this affair of wanting to kill Negan constantly. And it’s really cool to see a different side of it and see Carl trying to influence him in the other direction.
How emotional was it filming this next episode?
You know, it was obviously really emotional with all of the cast and all the crew, because I’ve had such an awesome experience working on the show for eight years. And it’s definitely been such an awesome ride and I’m super, super happy to have had this opportunity. And though it was a sad time on the set, it helps that they had such a positive outlook on it because of how bittersweet it was, for me, because it was just quite the shock to hear the news.
It was a weird kind of goodbye in that I now get to do all these other things and have so many more opportunities, but it was also kind of bitter because I have worked with these people for so long. And it’s really a family atmosphere.
It must have been nice having Greg Nicotero direct that last episode since he, like you, has been there from the beginning.
That too. It was definitely really nice to have a familiar face to work with for my last episode. Every episode with any director is going to be great, but it was nice having Greg there for the last one.
Did you find yourself approaching this episode or preparing for it any differently than some of the others?
Definitely, yeah. For the majority of the time that I was working on the show, I was in school half the time so I never really felt that I could mentally put 100 percent into my work. And it was really frustrating because I’d have to bounce back and forth between school and work. I loved going to work every day and it was so much fun, but I always had to think about school and have to worry about that. And that last episode, I got to put 100 percent into that because I had already decided I wanted to move out to Los Angeles.
And it was really nice that I got to focus on just my character and just the show and really put all of my effort into it. It was nice to be able to put 100 percent of my full capacity into just those moments and those scenes, and I feel like they’re going to mean so much to every character because of how much I was able to put into it.
Carl may be on his way out here, but it’s clear that his words and his influence are really going to be felt in a major way for the rest of the season.
Yeah, he’s definitely leaving behind a really long-lasting legacy, which was the coolest part about playing those final moments — knowing that Carl was going to have such a lasting impact on the story.
Was it a bit surreal when they went on filming without you? Did it feel like when you graduate from school, and the school keeps going but you’re not there anymore?
Kind of, yeah. It’s so weird not knowing what’s happening while they’re all down there. But I still get to see a lot of the actors at conventions, so it’s not really a final farewell. I’m still going to see them every few weeks and get to catch up and hang out. It’s definitely weird not being a part of it. But it’s really cool knowing that my character still has a legacy that was left behind. Carl wasn’t being forgotten. He might be gone, but he’s leaving behind something that’s going to last for a long time.
For more exclusive Walking Dead scoop, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly and follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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