‘The Walking Dead’: Melissa McBride Opens Up on “Carzekiel” vs. “Caryl”

Despite shippers’ calls for Carol (Melissa McBride) to romantically link with longtime friend Daryl (Norman Reedus), The Walking Dead Season Nine finds Carol settled into a loving relationship with Kingdom leader Ezekiel (Khary Payton).

“I don’t see it that [Carol and Daryl’s relationship] isn’t happening anyway. I mean, they are what they are,” McBride told Skybound.

“Whether I say she’s pining for him, whether I say he has secret feelings, whether I say they’re just best friends, whether I say maybe they already did have something. It’s doesn’t matter…it doesn’t matter for them, whatever they are they have each other’s backs. They trust each other more than probably anyone else in their lives.”

The season finds Carol and Ezekiel officially involved, with Ezekiel wanting to deepen the relationship even further. In 901, during a Sanctuary-set scene, Carol and Daryl share a tender moment — but it’s strictly platonic — when she tells Daryl she enjoys Ezekiel’s “corniness,” citing her troubled relationship with abusive husband Ed (Adam Minarovich).

“It’s come as you are, you know? They meet each other wherever they’re at and it’s been that way since I’ve had to discuss them, you know? They’re each other’s breathing rooms. They’re resuscitators. They’re best friends, I don’t know,” McBride said.

“But then Ezekiel comes along… and we saw that in the [Season Nine premiere], [Daryl’s] happy for her. And she confides in him that this is a little difficult for her.”

While a subset of fans have long called for ‘Caryl’ — the romantic pairing of Carol and Daryl — McBride advocates shipping their deep friendship while the love between ‘Carzekiel’ continues to bloom.

“I want to see it from where the fans are coming from, sometimes I get that glimpse. Like I understand it as a viewer, okay? But I don’t know what else to say,” McBride said. “They have a beautiful relationship, sure! Let’s ship that! Whatever that is. But it’s been established that Carol and Ezekiel are happy.”

Carol has also long been close to Alexandria leader Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), and with Lincoln soon leaving the show, The Walking Dead will continue on — leaving Carol and Daryl the last-remaining survivors from the series’ inaugural season.

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“We knew for a while he was going to go so we had time to prepare for it,” McBride said. “The days certainly feel very different, but also he was such a good leader. And the way he presented himself every day — he was there early every day. Hours before his call time. Nobody else is that early. He’s missed, but the story is still moving on.”

The Walking Dead Season Nine premieres Sunday, October 7 on AMC.