Former Carl Grimes actor Chandler Riggs details how he found out about the death of his long-surviving The Walking Dead character after rehearsals on 8x06 — the same episode Carl sustained an incurable walker bite that would eventually force him to take his own life episodes later in 8x09.
“I found out — we got the script for episode six, when [the bite] was supposed to happen,” Riggs told his Q&A audience during his Fandemic Tour Sacramento appearance over the weekend when asked how he learned of Carl’s death.
“We were doing rehearsals for it and then, after the rehearsals, [The Walking Dead executive producer and then-showrunner] Scott Gimple brought me in and then told me. He said, ‘That’s why you kind of act weird after you trip, because [the bite] happens,’” Riggs explained.
Despite Carl’s untimely and unexpected death, Riggs holds no ill will towards the series, where he starred for eight years.
“But you know, regardless, it was great being on the show,” the 18-year-old actor and musician said. “I definitely miss being a part of it, but being able to go and do other roles and do so many other things I wasn’t able to do when I was on the show was really, really cool.”
Riggs previously told Entertainment Tonight in February Gimple “didn’t mention” Carl’s death in preliminary talks for season 8, only learning of his fatal bite before cameras rolled on episode 8x06.
“Usually he doesn't bring me in with my parents, usually,” Riggs said. “I had actually talked with him months before, just like to lay out the season and everything, but he didn't mention that.”
Asked if Gimple might have not yet had the Carl plot twist development in mind, Riggs answered, “I think he did, I think he knew what he wanted to do, but he just wasn’t sure yet. But I think, yeah, by then he kind of made up his mind.”
Riggs had just purchased a house near the show’s Senoia, Georgia set, he told The Hollywood Reporter — a decision made after the young star was told he would be with the series for its next three seasons, according to Riggs’ father, William Riggs.
“Watching Gimple fire my son 2 weeks before his 18th birthday after telling him they wanted him for the next 3 years was disappointing,” the elder Riggs wrote on Facebook in December in a since-deleted post.
“I never trusted Gimple or AMC but Chandler did. I know how much it hurt him. But we do absolutely know how lucky we have been to be a part of it all and appreciate all the love from fans all these years!”
The Carl Grimes actor said his character was killed off midway through season 8 as a way to reconcile the decision made by Rick Grimes’ comic book counterpart with Andrew Lincoln’s TV version: Gimple needed a way to get the show’s Rick Grimes to spare Negan, a benevolence Rick was lead towards as result of letters penned by his dead son.
“In the comics, Scott was trying to figure out why there was a hole between Rick slitting Negan's throat at the end of the ‘All-Out War’ arc and then there's the time jump and Negan is alive and in prison and Rick didn't kill Negan,” Riggs detailed in a talk with THR.
“Scott was trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between Rick not wanting to kill Negan and Rick also really wanting to kill Negan, which he does right now [in the show's story]. Scott's way to get around that was to make Carl this really humanitarian figure and person who could see the good in people and see that people can change and not everyone out there is bad. That's what Carl's talk to Rick was in [8x09]: There's no way that they can kill every one of the Saviors and not everyone is a bad person and there has to be some way forward than just killing people.”
The Walking Dead returns to AMC with its ninth season this fall.