‘The Walking Dead’ Cast Really Didn’t Take Carl’s Death Well

The Walking Dead fans are used to characters dying. But from the moment we knew that Carl would depart the series after a fatal zombie bite, something felt different.

It’s partly because Carl has been around since the beginning, and he feels like part of the fabric of the show. And it’s partly because, over the years, the character — and the actor who plays him, Chandler Riggs — almost feels like he’s our occasionally annoying but increasingly awesome little brother.

The fan backlash to Carl’s death was swift and severe. And it may have been, at least partially, the reason for a huge change in The Walking Dead’s Season 9 creative team. But while fans were obviously upset about losing Carl, and by extension Riggs, the actors who played alongside him were equally shaken.

Here’s how many of them reacted to losing one of their own.

1. The post-Carl’s death Talking Dead was a love fest

Carl in The Walking Dead Season 8 episode "Honor"

Carl in The Walking Dead Season 8 episode “Honor” | AMC

AMC knew it would have to give the fans a chance to grieve after Carl’s death. So pretty much the entire Talking Dead episode following “Honor” was devoted to saying goodbye to him, and the actor who played him. The episode featured a lengthy video with many of Riggs’ co-stars weighing in on what he meant to them and the show. It was a tear-fest, to say the least.

Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie, said, “I always just think of Chandler as a sound, caring person who you can get honest advice from. And he’s a beautiful, compassionate, spiritual person.”

Katelyn Nacon, who plays Carl’s love interest, Enid, mused on how similar their on-set lives were, balancing school and filming. “There was just a lot I could relate to with him,” she said. “He was always really kind and always had a good head on his shoulders.”

Alanna Masterson, who plays Tara, said she thinks of Riggs as “a little brother.” And Pollyanna McIntosh, who plays Jadis, summed it up for everyone. “I’m brokenhearted to lose Carl as a character. Absolutely brokenhearted,” she said. “But Chandler is going to be just fine… and nobody is going to forget him.”

Next: It should come as no surprise that this actor, in particular, will miss Carl.

2. His TV dad experienced a range of emotions

Rick and Carl on The Walking Dead

Rick and Carl on The Walking Dead | AMC

Andrew Lincoln and Riggs played family for eight years on TV. So it’s not surprising that the man behind Rick Grimes would truly feel the loss of the man who played Carl.

On AMC’s The Talking Dead, Lincoln told Hardwick that he considers Riggs to be his “American son.” And he spoke about how hard it will be, both for Rick and for him as an actor, to carry on without Carl (and Riggs).

In another interview, Lincoln elaborated on what the loss has meant for him, personally. And what it was like to film Carl’s goodbye scene. “The final farewell is really unbearable,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “The crew is just astonishing. I said to them during the church scene that you could hear a pin drop the whole night.

Lincoln also tried to lighten the mood in The Walking Dead fandom. Before the Season 8 midseason premiere on Sunday, Feb. 25, The Walking Dead’s Twitter account shared a video of the series’ star offering his goodbye to Carl (to the tune of Camila Cabello’s “Havana”).

“God I hate those frickin’ zombies,” he sang. “They keep eating all of my friends and family.”

Not everyone on the cast has been able to reflect on his departure with humor, though.

Next: Danai Gurira couldn’t process the thought of losing Carl.

3. His TV surrogate mom was completely devastated

Carl and Michonne on The Walking Dead

Carl and Michonne on The Walking Dead | AMC

Many fans have treasured the loving dynamic between Michonne and Carl. Because, throughout the seasons, they’ve really helped each other open up and accept the world around them.

So, it’s understandable that Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne, was upset to learn she’d be losing one of her biggest allies on the show. In a video commemorating Carl and saying goodbye to Riggs, Gurira didn’t hold back when it came to her feelings.

“I was in so much devastation about the storyline because it really was something I could not process,” she said. “For me, Michonne grew as a character through Chandler and my interaction on screen. That’s how her heart opened was through Carl.”

Next: Some of The Walking Dead actors had a hard time keeping their emotions in check where Carl’s death was concerned.

4. Norman Reedus reflected on Carl’s irreplaceable place on TWD 

Daryl and Carl on The Walking Dead

Daryl and Carl on The Walking Dead | AMC

Like Riggs, Norman Reedus is one of the few remaining The Walking Dead actors that’s been around since the beginning of the series. And so he had the opportunity to watch both the character and the actor grow over the years.

Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon, was noticeably emotional when he shared his feelings about Riggs and Carl during the Feb. 25, 2018 episode of The Talking Dead. “He started off almost like an old soul, he knew what he was doing. He knew what it all meant, he knew what it was all about from the beginning. And watching him grow into a leading man was a real joy.”

The actor had a hard time separating his feelings for Riggs and for Chandler. He said, later, on The Talking Dead, “I’ve always thought Carl, and Chandler for that matter, were the most level-headed people on this whole cast.”

And he told Entertainment Weekly that he was “desperately unhappy” when he learned that Carl would be killed off. “Chandler is definitely a family member to me. I was not happy about it. I always thought Chandler would be the last man standing, to be honest.”

Next: One cast member flooded her social media with fond memories.

5. Melissa McBride shared her sadness on social media

Carol and Carl on The Walking Dead

Carol and Carl on The Walking Dead | AMC

As Carol, Melissa McBride has showed fans that sometimes, holding in your grief can be destructive. And as an actress, she modeled the opposite when she took to Twitter while “Honor” was airing on AMC. When a fan asked her how she was holding up, she responded, “I’m taking it pretty hard. You, me … we’re not alone.”

Later, McBride shared a candid photo of a younger Riggs with Lincoln, along with a touching caption. “I’m certain I’ve never felt such a mix of surreal and real at the same time #TheWalkingDead #Carl #RickGrimes #ChandlerRiggs #AndyLincoln oh, the heart. #Beautiful and #Heartbreaking.

Next: Another soon-to-be-dearly-departed star weighed in on what losing Carl will mean.

6. Lennie James wasn’t shy about the cast’s less-than-happy reaction

Morgan, wearing a tan jacket, and aiming a gun straight ahead of him with his right hand

Morgan on The Walking Dead | AMC

We already know Morgan isn’t long for The Walking Dead. But that didn’t stop Lennie James, who’s been around since the first episode, from grieving Carl.

“It’s heartbreaking,” he told Metro UK, before admitting that he understood the fan backlash to the shocking death. “The reaction they’re having, the righteous reaction, is the reaction that I think most of us on the show had when we were told it was going to happen.”

Next: Even Carl’s enemies wished Riggs well.

7. Jeffrey Dean Morgan lamented the life (and storyline) cut short

Negan and Carl on The Walking Dead Season 7

Negan and Carl on The Walking Dead Season 7 | AMC

Even though they only shared a few scenes together, Negan and Carl formed a special, if strange, bond during The Walking Dead’s seventh season. And despite their limited shared screen time, Jeffrey Dean Morgan was more than happy to wax lovingly about Riggs.

The actor took to Instagram on Feb. 25, 2018 to share a picture of himself and Riggs, along with a lengthy caption. He praised Riggs’ performance as Carl, and his off-screen persona. And he admitted that one of the reasons he wanted to join The Walking Dead in the first place was the way the relationship between Carl and Negan unfolded in the comics.

“I’ll forever be [disappointed] we only scratched the surface of what could have been.” Morgan wrote. “BUT… I can take total solace in the fact that you are out there… doing your thing. You’ve grown into an amazing young man as well as a powerful actor… the world is your oyster Riggs.”

Next: The young man at the center of the tragedy has been open about what it was like to say goodbye to Carl.

8. Riggs, more than anyone, had all the feels about Carl’s death

Carl on The Walking Dead

Carl on The Walking Dead | AMC

Sure, it was hard for The Walking Dead cast to lose Carl. But for the young man who grew up in the spotlight, Carl’s death was life-changing. Riggs has been nothing but gracious about his time on the series and his feelings about the shocking twist. And he’s also acknowledged that the strong fan reaction helped him see how much fans truly cared about Carl.

“When [the midseason finale] first aired, the amount of messages that I got on Reddit, the amount of comments that I got on Instagram and then Twitter and everything, it was really just kind of overwhelming to see the amount of support from fans that were super sad to see my character go,” Riggs told a group of reporters before the midseason premiere.

Riggs, too, focused not on the backlash, but on the fans, the night the episode aired. He told his followers on Twitter, “My final episode of the walking dead airs tonight. i’ll be on talking dead afterwards to elaborate on how much the cast, the crew, and the show as a whole meant to me. i hope i’ll see you there.”

He followed that up with a heartfelt reflection on what he took away from The Walking Dead. Riggs tweeted, “None of us could have done this without you. it was always for the fans, and it always will be. so thank you for giving me this chance to let me pursue my dream and continue to make you angry, sad, happy, and everything in between. i won’t let you down.”

We’ll all miss Riggs’ presence on The Walking Dead. But if anything, the reaction to his death has proven that he’s earned more than a few fans for life.

Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox.

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