In Sunday night's new episode of The Walking Dead, Danai Gurira made a fitting exit for the character, coming full circle in many ways for the journey which began in 2012. However, while the character of Michonne has been around since the earliest days, Gurira's final episode was spent with a newcomer. Kevin Carroll checked into The Walking Dead's cast in the current tenth season as Virgil, a mysterious character who promised Michonne the resources her people will need in order to take on the Whisperers. However, Virgil had other intentions, and his plan evolved into something with much bigger implications for the Dead universe.
Carroll took the time to talk with Comicbook.com about being hurled into a pivotal episode of AMC's show, a series which is in its tenth year. As it turns out, much of his character's role and the ties to Rick Grimes which surfaced before the end of the episode were a surprise to Carroll. Despite the episode being the finale for Gurira's tenure, Carroll and the rest of the crew treated it with the same professionalism and approach as any other effort, culminating in a grand sendoff and grander going away party.
Check out the full, uncut interview with Carroll about The Walking Dead Episode 10x13, below! It includes spoilers.
ComicBook.com: This, this episode was wild so I just want to start at the beginning for you. What was it like to join the show, and so quickly become a really integral part of this massive part of the story?
Kevin Carroll: Yeah. Well, Brandon, these things are always tricky, because when you... The focus for me was just to try to uphold the foundation and the high standard of work that's been set in doing the show. And, as far as what comes out of that, and the effects of it, these things are just starting to happen. Because for me, my first concern was just being true to the story as it was laid out, and trying to keep a sense of truth in this world. And so, it's only now, and the months after we'd done the work, that you start to really absorb and understand the fanaticism of The Walking Dead fans. It's incredible, man.
CB: I can only imagine, man. It's a passionate fan base. Very much so.
KC: It really is. And it's unlike any other thing that I've come across, so far. I had done my episodes, and I was working another job, and I was getting mail. I was like, "Nobody's announced it. How did they figure this out?" People were so insane. I was on another job getting mail and I was like, "Oh, this is weird. People are sending me mail on this job?" No. It was the Walking Dead fans that had figured it out and were sending stuff. And I was like, "Oh my God. I love it. It's insane."
CB: This season was filmed the episodes out of order to accommodate Danai Gurira's exit. When did you film Episode 10x13, and by the time you filmed this episode, how many cast members from the overall cast had you even met, by this point?
KC: Well, I have some friends that I've seen on the show, from time to time. I mean, and it's been so many seasons, I just can't sort of name everyone. But Norman [Reedus] and I had worked on a movie years ago called the Ballad of Bettie Page. So when we were in New York together, I worked with Norman. Danai's been a friend of mine for years. I was in a Broadway show and she came to the show. And, at the time, she was just starting to write. We all had just had an artist powwow and I was encouraging her, saying, "Danai, do not wait for the world to define you. Write your own things." And she had a writing partner at the time.
Well, little did I know, Danai was already a prolific writer in progress, and I think I'm really sharing a great bit of inspiration. And I turn around 15 years later, and she's taken over the industry. I'm like, "What was I... What an idiot!" I'm thinking I'm really giving her something to chew on, you know what I mean? I think I'm really encouraging her and little did I know it was just a matter of time before she put on this great takeover of the industry. I'm like, "Oh my God."
So, it's always great to run in, and work with her, and be a part of something so special for her. And such a marker in time for her as a person, and more so for her as an accomplished character in this show. It was great. And, thank God... The focus wasn't about it being her last episode, because Danai just doesn't work like that. So we both were just able to try to find the best way to satiate her character's journey. And it stayed about that, rather than going down and focusing on, "Oh, this is her last episode, do this, do this." We barely even talked about that. All of the work, from the writer's room, to doing the work, was sort of about the journey of character and the truth of moment.
CB: Given that relationship you guys have, which was pre-existing, that probably makes this extra special. I know this family always has cool ways to say goodbye to people when they wrap. What did you guys do to kind of send Danai off in a celebratory fashion?
KC: Yeah. I guess all of the diehard fans of the show will know that this is shot deep in the woods, right? Every moment that you're there, you're swallowing bugs, you're running from snakes, you're dodging bats, something out in the woods. And also trying to remember lines. I think, at the end of every episode, there was sort of this duality of knowing that it was Danai's last time around the block, but everyone sort of stayed focused. And then, at some point, just around the time that it wrapped, but not on the exact last day, there was a huge sort of party in the woods.
t was insane. It just sort of fell on the way we worked out in the schedule. So, I had to unfortunately hear about it, and witness the aftermath of sort of people the next day of the Danai send-off. It seemed to be a good night for folks. But yeah, apparently, I mean there was this big kind of thing in the woods that the people who were there on that night got a chance to take part in, and it was amazing.
It was really great. They gave her a really big thing, I don't know. Might even have been some skywriting, or a fireworks show, it sounded like it was apparently insane.
CB: We're 10 years into The Walking Dead now. Had you watched the show to date? Were you familiar with how integral some of these props that you're holding are, in reference to Rick Grimes? Were you working solely off of what was in the script, or a little bit of both?
KC: To be honest, because I've worked in the theater for a lot of years, so being able to get on board with a lot of series watching... I'm so used to working at night, in the theater, that following a lot of series is sort of... I was never a big person like that, you know what I mean? So, I have seen and watched episodes here and there over the years, because I think the work is fantastic. The costumes and just knowing what they do with the makeup on the show was always incredible to me.
And then when I had my friends, I would catch them on some episodes I would watch, but I didn't yet know the... One, I didn't realize the enormous fan base its show had. I wasn't aware of how dedicated just the whole family of The Walking Dead... And I didn't realize all of that, because I just hadn't gotten into a lot of series in the last 10 years, to be honest. So I was working mainly from the script, and it's only after we finished that I was sort of sat back and said, "Oh my God. This is insane. This whole thing..." I mean, when you go into work and you ride through a town that is named... Or that has a store that is specifically for the episode, and then you figure out that people would come out at four o'clock in the morning to see you, and figure out where you're shooting and all of this stuff, you start to say, "My goodness, this is crazy town." Do you know what I mean?
CB: Obviously, everybody knows Rick movies are coming up. It seems to be the plan that Michonne will hopefully have her story unfold there as they ideally reunite. Are you interested? Have you heard anything? Your character is left still alive but open-ended. Are you game to pop up there?
KC: Listen, with the actors, and with the show and the family on the show, I'm game to pop up anytime, anywhere. It's just a matter of how they want to do it, or how they want to integrate it. But, yeah. I'd be game to pop up again, although I would have to say that this is not just a show where it's as easy as popping up into anything because everything is bigger than it seems, if you know what I mean.
If you're talking about just popping up in the woods, you don't just pop up in the woods, you are fighting the elements, you are out... I mean, if it's cold out, then you're freezing. If it's hot out, it's blisteringly hot. It's like having an uncle that's always present, that always does things over the top. So, if you're doing a birthday party, he's going to show up with the things that blow and blowing and hitting people in the face. And he's always doing something dangerous. So, the elements of this show make it all like... It's like the old uncle that shows up always in rare form and in top peak. So, I became the pop up. But I know that wherever you pop up on this show, it is going to be all guns blazing all the way with every bit of environmental elemental... It's going to be a full-bodied experience, no matter where and when and how you pop up on this show.
CB: Pretty quickly you're thrown into a sequence where you're in a tight space filled with walkers, and I just want to know what that experience is like for you on set, between your performance and Danai Gurira whipping her sword around in an action sequence.
KC: It is brand new. And I have to tell you that there was a slight part of me, when I booked the role, that thought, "Oh, they're going to send Danai out, and maybe I'm going down as Pepé Le Pew." Like, "Oh, ha ha," like that. Little did I know that I would go down and Danai would whup my butt for two weeks... Four weeks, actually. I left, I was sore, with a jammed neck, everything that you could think of. Because once Danai locks in to Michonne, and where they meet it's like a ass kicking festival. She really gets and goes 110% into the world of Michonne. And to just sort of watch her do her thing with the swords, and the combat stuff, it's really a sight to see.
So for me, all of that was brand new and the commitment of everybody playing the walkers is all so incredible. They are as locked in as anybody else. And some of these walkers are very good at physicality and they... I mean, there's a whole world down there, and everybody's at the top of their game, in that world, and in their roles. So, it was great. It was amazing.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC.