Former Walking Dead star Chandler Riggs says he enjoys the budding dynamic between half-sister Judith (Cailey Fleming) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who are now playing out a plot thread that belonged to Carl Grimes in Robert Kirkman’s comic books. “I mean, honestly, I really like the direction they’re going with her character,” Riggs said aboard Walker Stalker Cruise. “It’s super, super cool to see a completely different take on Carl’s interactions with Negan.”
“He doesn’t watch the show anymore,” Morgan interjected with a hearty laugh, prompting Riggs to deny the accusation before laughing it off with a smile. (Riggs said in December he does still watch the show, remarking at San Jose Fan Fest “it’s interesting not knowing what’s gonna happen every week.”)
Morgan previously admitted he’ll be “forever disappointed” Carl’s Season Eight death prohibited the show from carrying over a storyline that sees Carl quietly engaging with the jailed Negan.
“Honestly... a huge reason I wanted so badly to join this band of misfits... was because I was such a fan of the Negan Carl relationship in the comics,” Morgan wrote in an Instagram post published after the premiere airing of Carl’s death episode in February 2018. “That storyline was one of my favorites, as I know it was one of yours. I’ll forever be [disappointed] we only scratched the surface of what could have been.”
Season Nine showrunner Angela Kang, who inherited that position from Scott Gimple, previously told THR the Walking Dead writing team “love the relationship between Negan and Carl in the comic book” and wanted to carry it over into the show despite Carl’s death.
“This gave us an opportunity to tell a very different sort of story, because Judith is a different kind of child than Carl,” Kang said of Judith, now aged 10 following a six-year time jump that followed the disappearance of father Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). “It’s really fun to put those two together.”
Judith was the first to catch a fleeing Negan after his cell door was mistakenly left unlocked, allowing him to escape with a promise to be good. She later confronted him at gunpoint, at which point he willingly returned to his cell. Though that unlikely friendship has been strongly condemned by mother Michonne (Danai Gurira), a largely independent Judith continues to make the case for Negan’s rehabilitation.
“With Judith, she bears certain similarities to Carl. She’s also very much her own character as well,” Kang previously explained to EW.
“She’s really spunky. She’s funny. She is an apocalypse native. That makes things a little different than a kid who remembers life before the apocalypse. What’s exciting about it is we get to have that feel of the Grimes kid who’s 10 years old, like we have in the comics, but we’ve really been enjoying finding Judith’s unique version of what that story is because she, again, has a very different background than Carl.”
When asked if Negan would ever betray Judith, Morgan answered, “No, no.”
“Honestly... he wouldn’t. I think that he holds her in very high regard,” Morgan said during Walker Stalker Cruise. “He’s on her side. I like [Rick’s] kids. They’re good kids. They just need a little proper guidance is all.”
The Walking Dead premieres new episodes Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.