"I think [showrunner] Scott [Gimple] first brought it up to me as a possibility probably about a year ago at this point," Kirkman told EW. "At first, I was kind of like, 'Well, that's a big one, you know?' I might have had a little bit of trepidation. But once he laid out to me exactly what his long-term plans were, and the things that come out of it, and the things that it leads to, it was something I got on board with."
Executive producer Greg Nicotero expressed a similar sentiment, expecting fans to come around on the big death and deviation from the comics when they are able to watch it play out. "I really do believe that a lot of people will put those feelings aside when they watch this episode, because they're really going to get an opportunity to make some peace with it," Nicotero said.
"It's a great tribute to Carl the character, and Chandler the actor," Kirkman adds. "It's definitely Chandler's best work. His work in this episode is absolutely amazing. It's something he should really be proud of. I think it's something people will be talking about for a good long while. We're just really excited to share with the audience."
They are, however, very much aware of the online chatter among fans who feel betrayed or unhappy with the decision to take Chandler Riggs' character off of the AMC series. "I know that some fans online have been very upset, but that's by design," Kirkman said. "We're not supposed to be happy when these characters die. We are supposed to be worried about what comes next, and anticipating what comes next, and stressing about what comes next. That just shows that you're engaged and you're interested. Our job is to now pay that off and fulfill that interest, and prove that this was a decision worth making. That's what we've got to do."
Norman Reedus and other cast members seem to have a bit more of a fear regarding the upcoming death and how it can affect the show. "The people that started this show, to me, are the heart of the show," Reedus said. "When you lose those key members, it's such a big blow to the show, and to the fans, and to us that are there. Who's left? There's only a few of us left out of all those people. If you wanted to turn it into a totally different show, you get rid of those people. But if you want to hold on to what made the show special, you've got to be very careful what you do with those people."
The Walking Dead returns for the second half of its eighth season on February 25, 2018. For complete coverage and insider info all year long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.