‘The Walking Dead’ Cast talks Final Season, Connections with Fans, and More!

Jace Downs/AMC

As most fans of the beloved series are aware, The Walking Dead is reaching its bittersweet conclusion this weekend. Tomorrow night, AMC and AMC+ are airing The Walking Dead Live: The Finale Event, which will kick off at 8:30 EST with red carpet footage featuring cast members arriving. At 9:00 EST, the final episode will begin, and lastly, at 10:30 EST, there will be a live large-scale episode of Talking Dead!

Here at Fandomize, we were able to chat with a number of cast members ahead of tomorrow night’s excitement to discuss the recent episodes as well as what the series as a whole has always meant to them; check out highlights from the interview below!

Shaun Hood: Is there one definitive moment during filming when the fact that this is the end suddenly felt real? If so, tell us as much as you can about what was happening in that moment and why it hit you that way. If nothing like that happened during filming, then tell us about what it’s been like to process what I would hope is a bittersweet sentiment of achievement.

Ross Marquand (Aaron): I think we were also eager to finish because it had been a 15 month shoot, and we were just wanting to get it done, and get it done well, but also just get it done in a timely fashion. It wasn’t until really the finale when – and I can’t tell you what happened – we’re running around like crazy in a scene and I realized, “Oh my gosh, this is the last time we’ll be doing this together.” It hit hard. I was with Seth, actually, and we were just like, “Man, this is it. This is the end of it.” It was very bittersweet to say the least.

I think we were also eager to finish because it had been a 15 month shoot, and we were just wanting to get it done, and get it done well, but also just get it done in a timely fashion. It wasn’t until really the finale when – and I can’t tell you what happened – we’re running around like crazy in a scene and I realized, “Oh my gosh, this is the last time we’ll be doing this together.” It hit hard. I was with Seth, actually, and we were just like, “Man, this is it. This is the end of it.” It was very bittersweet to say the least.

Lauren Ridloff (Connie): I just want to remind you that the order that you see the scenes in is not actually how we shoot it; we shoot things out of order. The final scene might actually have been the first scene that we shot. So, when you asked that question, I was thinking about how the final scene that Connie is in was not shot on the last day. I shot it way before that, but I think it hit home because in this specific scene, I had a prop in my hands and on that prop it actually tells me what Connie’s actual last name is, and that was a big deal for me.

Jace Downs/AMC

SH: Lauren, since Season 9, I’ve always been a Donnie shipper, waiting for some actual romance to come about between Daryl and Connie. I want something that goes beyond the duo making a great team and having such heartfelt conversations. Is there anything that you can tease Donnie shippers with leading up to the finale or possibly the future?

LF: That question again? Ok, well, I don’t know. Daryl and Connie, went down the shit tunnel. I think that in itself is pretty intimate. I can’t say anything is more intimate than going through the sewers together. So, I guess that’s the intimacy.

SH: I’m always getting the impression that people who don’t watch The Walking Dead think that it is a fun zombie show with a heavy emphasis on blood and gore. I don’t know about all of you as cast members, but when people who don’t watch the series show me that they perceive the show in such a stereotypical way, I personally get annoyed. Is there any type of feeling that any of you get when you hear things like that from people who don’t watch it, or are you usually content with the fact that they don’t know because they don’t watch?

Khary Payton (Ezekiel): I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not trying to convince anybody anymore. I used to say, “You got to watch it, it’s not about the zombies. It’s so much more.” In the way I see it, we are very lucky to have had this incredible fan base that has stuck with us through thick and thin. The truth is that everybody don’t need to watch and I don’t need to convince everybody. That’s one of the things that makes the fandom family, if you get it, you get it, and if you don’t, you don’t.

People apologize to me like, “I’m sorry, I don’t watch the show.” I’m like, “Listen, you don’t have to.” We got plenty of people watching. We’re doing just fine. We all have a connection that’s amazing. I guess it may have annoyed me at some point, but then it’s like, “That’s all right if everybody can’t be a part of this team.”

LF: A while ago, I did a translation for an Alcoholics Anonymous book. They wanted an ASL version of The Big Book, which covers the philosophy behind alcoholism and addiction, and the 12 steps. While I was preparing to do the translations, I was so fascinated with the book. Now, when I’m actually working on The Walking Dead, I couldn’t help but be constantly reminded of that book because I feel the same. This world is created by Frank, and it focuses on a mishmash of people that are all thrown in together and they’re in this sinking boat. It’s very similar to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. These are people from all walks of life, and they’re thrown in together trying to deal with crisis, and they have a guideline. It’s just about that with morality issues that tend to come up.

That is The Walking Dead to me. It’s a reflection of the real world. It doesn’t matter if you’re comparing it to AA or the public school system or whatever it might be, but then again, in real life, we actually find ourselves thrown into a world with a lot of different people, a lot of strangers that have nothing in common. We are forced to try to problem solve issues and we have to confront that together as a team. That’s where that community comes from. When people tell me that The Walking Dead is gross, gory, and has a lot of killing. I’m like, “I get it.” but real life is gory too, and we still come together. We still band together. We work through all that gore. I think that’s what I love about The Walking Dead. It really is just this cool, fun house mirroring the real world.

Jace Downs/AMC

KP: At the end of the day, what Lauren says is so true because there are people who love this show for all the cool things that it is. There is a core of people who use the show like people use AA. They use it as a coping mechanism because they’re going through some hell in their life and they find like-minded people who are working their way through a tough situation with found family. That to me is what makes the show so amazing. It’s cool that there are millions of people watching, but those people who are like, there’s something in here that spoke to me and it’s not just getting me through the day, it’s getting me through life – I’ve met so many of those people.

SH: Eleanor, so much of this final storyline has focused on uncovering the dirt on the Commonwealth and its government, then aiming to take down Lance Hornsby and the Miltons. Most character’s Commonwealth journeys had already ended when they were taken captive, however, Pamela Milton chose not to go after Yumiko in particular, and attempted to use her against Eugene. While she chose to remain loyal to her friends and not to follow through with what Pamela was trying to put her through, Yumiko still came across to me as back in her element. She’s a badass and all, but it seems like one pre-apocalypse skill of hers that will never fade, is her diplomacy. How do you feel about Yumiko fighting for what’s right without needing a weapon?

Eleanor Matsuura (Yumiko): Cool question! I think everything you’ve described is Yumiko to a T. I think Pamela knows that. I think it’s very much a case of keeping your enemies closer. Yumiko can’t disappear, she’s too public at this point. Pamela would be giving away her hand if I was to suddenly disappear. I think I’m fully aware of that. Yumiko knows that she is in this totally unique position, where she is inside the Commonwealth Walls in the upper classes. We’ve never really dealt with that kind of war before.

In all the past seasons of The Walking Dead, we’ve never dealt with a class division before. Everything has always been about survival of the fittest and the apocalypse. This is the first time we’ve receded back into this society where they have divided people by their abilities and class. I don’t think Yumiko’s always been comfortable with that, but she’s definitely from that world. I think she knows that she has to use that to her best advantage, and I think she knows that is her best weapon in this world and in this moment. It’s not about having her bow and arrow, or even finding a new weapon to fight. It’s going to be 100% through using her words and her brain to get through their, “justice system,” Even though we all know it’s been set up and it’s rigged. I think at this point, that’s all she can do. If there’s one thing we know about Yumiko is that she will try anything and do anything. I think that’s a beautiful question, and I think that she takes that very seriously. It’s like, her words and her brain at this point are the only things she can use to save her friends.

SH: Josh, since being introduced to the audience, Eugene has been considered a coward by his friends at times, but at this point, he’s become much more brave and has even used his own experiences with fear to connect with others and how they are dealing with such a crazy world. I know he represents me, and other viewers probably feel the same way. How does it feel knowing that so much of the audience is able to relate to Eugene’s story?

Josh McDermitt (Eugene): Maybe I am biased, but I think he’s one of the more relatable characters on the show. We all wish we were Daryl, we all wish we were a badass, and could do all these amazing things that Daryl can do, but I think deep down, a lot of us are scared. If our world went sideways, I think there would be a lot more Eugenes. You would see people that maybe have a facade on now, but as soon as the shit hits the fan, you go, “Oh, you were just a Eugene the whole time.”

Yeah, I was honored that he was such a relatable character, I definitely related to him. I loved the fact that he evolved and was able to step up in ways that gave him confidence. I just think that I am a lot like him in that sense, that I would just be scared. I like knowing that there are other people out there that relate to him because it makes me feel closer to others.

Be sure to catch all of the festivities tomorrow night on AMC or AMC+!