‘The Walking Dead’ Stars React to Series Finale and Tease Upcoming Spinoffs: “The End of the Beginning”
The Walking Dead capped off an 11-season run on Sunday night, with the stars of AMC’s zombie hit celebrating the series finale at a fan event in Los Angeles.
Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan and Melissa McBride, alongside their costars of past and present, walked the carpet at downtown’s Orpheum Theatre and weighed in on wrapping up the longtime show.
“These last few episodes really moved me in all ways the show has cumulatively done over the years, so I loved it,” Cohan told The Hollywood Reporter of reading the final scripts and learning now the series would end. “I think it demonstrates the friendship that these characters have; I think it demonstrates how we deal with loss and how inevitable loss is, and how we celebrate being together. And ironically, that’s really how I feel tonight, too.”
As fans witnessed, Sunday night’s finale ended on a bloody yet hopeful note — with some sad surprise deaths along the way — and saw the characters set to go their separate ways. Morgan, who said he was in denial throughout shooting that the show was really ending, admitted that “every time I read a script I knew I was getting closer to the end, so it was like this horrible countdown that I was in denial about most of the time.” He also revealed that he hadn’t watched any of the final eight episodes, and wanted “to be alone, I want to be able to cry, I want to be able to process it. I haven’t watched to watch with my kid or my wife even, and I’ve been working, that’s been my excuse to everyone.”
Morgan took his plan so seriously that although the evening was scheduled to show the finale to thousands of fans inside the theater and then film a live Talking Dead show for AMC, he committed to “go find the bar in the back, and I’m going to drink during it and not watch it.”
Looking back at those final days on set, Reedus remembered “there was a lot of goofing off in between takes because we weren’t going to see each other for a long time; some tears, there might have been some alcohol rolling around in the camera crew’s truck.” Cast members who weren’t even in a day’s scenes would come to support those actors wrapping up their scenes, as Cohan added, “The storyline just had ways of bringing us all together in little pockets and in a very big way together at the end. It was emotional, it was things we’d never done on the show and a lot of things we had.”
Though The Walking Dead has come to an end, AMC has made a major commitment to the franchise, setting spinoffs for Reedus (The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon), a two-hander with Morgan and Cohan (The Walking Dead: Dead City) and an untitled series featuring the return of Danai Gurira and Andrew Lincoln.
Reedus said that his series, which is set in France, “is very different — it has a different tone, the photography is very different, it’s all in French, the zombie threat is different,” adding, “after 12 years, it feels nice, [doing] some of the things I’d always hoped to be able to do.”
Cohan and Morgan just finished shooting the first season of their show, and Cohan said she’s “excited about where all of the other stories go, and the possibility for the intersection of them: “I think the fans are going to enjoy characters that they love being seen in new challenges and maybe seeing each other again.”
Morgan added that he feels very good about their show, but says moving onto a spinoff with a mostly new cast has been “fucking weird.”
“Looking at video village or the cast chairs, like, where is everybody? It’s just different,” he continued, before teasing that possible crossovers and guest appearances may be in the cards. “I’m happy to still be playing Negan, but I’m sad I don’t get an opportunity to work with these folks anymore — unless I do!”
Lauren Ridloff, who said she was “on the edge of my seat the whole time” watching the finale for the first time, summed up the current state of the franchise: “We have started a universe. This is the end of the beginning, and we’re entering into a new phase.”
Inside the event, where host Chris Hardwick hosted a live version of his Talking Dead aftershow, Gurira made an appearance after her character Michonne and Lincoln’s Rick Grimes had surprise roles in the finale.
“I am so excited to be here. I have to say, watching it tonight was really momentous for me, I cried many times,” she told the crowd. “I was so astounded by the work that you guys do and have done, I was floored. You guys have just done such an incredible job doing the show and to finish it like that, I’m truly gobsmacked. I really am. I adore you people, just so much respect and love right now.”