"We are all still trying to deal with Carl getting bit. And I think it's seismic, everything that drove Rick from the first episode, everything, his engine, was his family," says Rick Grimes actor Andrew Lincoln. "I'm trying to figure out how he moves on from here."
Rick promised his dying son he'll make Carl's last wish — to have "everybody kind of happy," says Carl actor Chandler Riggs — become reality, but the survivors are still in the middle of brutal, all out war against Negan and the Saviors.
And now a grieving Rick Grimes has lost everything: his son is dead, Alexandria is in ruins, and the alliance between Alexandria, Hilltop and the Kingdom is once again on the ropes.
"Rick Grimes doesn't have his son anymore," Lincoln says. "There's nothing more terrifying, that somebody's lost everything. I think he will come back and he will be willing to lose every part of himself to wreak vengeance on this."
The loss of his son will irrevocably change Rick Grimes, says co-executive producer Denise Huth, who explains so much of Rick's journey to this point has been ensuring Carl retains his humanity.
"That I think has always been so critical to the show, and losing that I think changes Rick in ways we can't even imagine yet," Huth says. "Not having [Carl] here to sort of be his mirror."
"I was in so much devastation about the storyline, because it really was something I could not process," she admits. "For me, Michonne grew as a character through Chandler and my interaction on screen, that's how her heart opened, through Carl."
"He sees Carl as the future of this world, 'cause this kid's special," says Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays Negan. The bat-wielding villain had a unique relationship with Rick's son in Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman's ongoing comic books, but Carl's comic book plots will now be divvied up and given to other characters.
One candidate is Carl's younger half-sister, Judith, to whom Carl bequeaths his beloved hat on his deathbed.
There's definitely a lot of responsibility that comes with the hat, but I think by season 15 Judith will live up to it," Riggs jokes.
Though his exit from the show was abrupt — Riggs told ET Live he didn't know about Carl's death until it was time to shoot episode 8x06 — the 18-year-old actor has since come to terms with his departure, telling ComicBook.com he's okay with being off the show.
"He started this when he was 10, he ended when he was 18," Huth says. "He spent almost half of his life on television, and not only on television, but on a giant television show. For the first time since he was 10 years old he gets to do whatever he wants."
Riggs, addressing the fans, offers a simple goodbye:
"I want to personally say thank you to all the fans of this show and to everyone that's grown up with Carl," Riggs says. "It's been awesome."2comments
AMC has released the preview for episode 8x10, "The Lost and the Plunderers."
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.