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"I got bit.”
And with those three little words, Carl Grimes’ eight season stint on The Walking Dead officially came to a close during Sunday night’s midseason premiere of the undead AMC drama.
Following Carl’s fatal bite from a rogue walker, the beloved teenage character was forced to give a heartbreaking goodbye to his father, Rick, his best friend, Michonne, and little sister, Judith.
Now that we’ve all cried a million post-apocalyptic tears, actor Chandler Riggs is opening up exclusively to ET about the episode’s most harrowing moments and how the 18-year-old actor originally envisioned Carl’s journey would end.
ETonline: We can’t believe Carl’s journey is officially over. What was your final day on The Walking Dead like?
Chandler Riggs: Well, the last day was when we shot the goodbye scene to Judith and it was grimy and in the sewer. August 31st was the last day and I knew it was coming for a long time, but it was weird to think that that would be it. We were in the sound stage studio and when I walked out everyone had eye patches over their eyes and everyone was clapping and cheering. They gave me a hat from season one and a framed T-shirt of one that I wore back in season one. It was definitely hard to get through that speech [to the cast and crew] and that was just a very sad day.
Some fans might be a little bit confused after watching this episode because they were watching it through a stream of tears, so let's clear a few things up: When exactly did Carl get bit?
CR: Carl got bit back in episode six when he was with Siddiq in the woods and he was trying to help him honor his mom. He tripped and fell into this, like, deer carcass and both of these walkers ended up on top of him. Since he doesn’t have two eyes, of course it got him on his blindside and that's when it happened.
In the other line of clearing things up, let's talk about those flash forward dream sequences. What would you say that those were? Were those Carl's vision for Rick? Was that a glimpse into the future?
CR: Well they were originally kind of Carl's ideal future of what life could be like, but with the end of the episode and everything with Rick with the blood all over him, I mean I don’t really know. I don’t get the scripts anymore, so I don’t really know what happens. They teased it as Carl's envisions of the future, but now it's kind of playing out like that's kind of how it's going to be. But again, I honestly don’t know.
We were seeing this beautiful dream sequence -- Negan was being nice to Judith and then they cut to Rick underneath this tree and his hand is all bloody. What do you think that could mean?
CR: I think it could mean that Rick is kind of on his way out. Disclaimer: I have no clue, but that's kind of what I think.
Let's talk about Carl's final moments and his decision to be the one to kill himself. Why do you think he chose that path?
CR: I think he knew how much this was impacting Michonne and Rick and he really didn’t want to put them through any more suffering and didn’t want them to have to do that. He knew that they were going to have to bury him anyways and that was definitely going to suck, but he figured that was the least he could do to help out. It was a really kind of empowering thing because it’s showing that he was really the only one that could take himself out and put himself down.
Do you think that the fact he had to kill his own mom had something to do with his decision to end his own life?
CR: Oh definitely, yeah. That one moment changed him forever. It really kind of steeled him and matured him and kind of pushed him towards that psychopath kind of mentality for a while. Yeah, that moment I think definitely had an impact on him.
It was really poignant to see that Carl told Rick the story of the unarmed boy he killed in the prison. What did that mean for you to see that they put Carl’s confession into this final script?
CR: It was really cool because Carl didn’t know that Hershel had told [Rick] about [that moment,] so [Carl] was telling him about it like he had never heard about it before. I think in that moment, Carl was really just trying to tell [Rick] what he did was right and he could go back to the way how things were, and after he brought all those people in and it was really him just trying to teach him one last lesson before he goes.
Which was the most difficult scene for you to film in this episode?
CR: Definitely that last scene. Luckily, we shot it first in the order of the episode, but it was definitely the hardest to film. Although, the goodbye scene to Judith -- that was super depressing as well. That was super hard to get through, but just a really sad episode overall.
How did you feel about Carl’s decision to give Judith his hat?
CR: That was super depressing. I remember reading the script and I was just like, 'Awww I'm really going to have to do all this? ' And it was rough to get through but I'm glad I got through it.
We started tearing up when Carl was taking those polaroids with Judith, but where did those polaroids go? Did they get blown up in the Alexandria fires or do you think that Carl put them in the letter to her?
CR: That's actually a really good question. That could be a possibility. I honestly don’t know the answer to that, but yeah that would be a cool idea.
We got to see Carl say a lot of heartbreaking goodbyes -- especially to Rick -- but he also didn’t necessarily say goodbye, physically, to everyone. Was there anyone that you wish that he had gotten to say goodbye to?
CR: I think definitely Maggie and Enid and really everyone at the Hilltop -- they’re really, I think, who he was hoping he could say goodbye to. That's why he wrote the letters. He didn’t know if he was going to get to say goodbye to anyone and I think he definitely wished he could’ve said goodbye to them.
Were there any lingering storylines from the show that you wish Carl had been able to finish or any moments that you wish you could've done that you didn’t get to do?
CR: I was really excited for all his stuff in the Whispers wars and his whole relationship with Negan in the future in the comics, but it'll be interesting to see who else kind of takes on and is put in that role. I think I read somewhere that some characters are going to be taking on some of the stories that Carl had [in the comics] so it will be interesting to choose to see how they do that.
How did you originally envision that Carl’s journey would end on The Walking Dead?
CR: I kind of expected the last shots of the series to be Rick handing Carl the gun and the hat and everything, and Carl kind of walking into the sunset after his father dies or something like that. That's kind of how Andy envisioned it -- that's how a lot of people envisioned it -- but now I really have no clue how it's going to go. We'll see.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. PT/ET on AMC.