The Walking Dead star turned director Michael Cudlitz calls all interpretations of the relationship between longtime best friends Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) "valid," but he doesn't expect their "loving friendship" to take a romantic turn. As director, Cudlitz brought Daryl and Carol together in Season 9 episode "Stradivarius" — where Carol asked Daryl to look after her boy, Henry (Matt Lintz), before giving the ragged Daryl a haircut — and Season 10 episode "Silence the Whisperers," where Daryl was seen leaving a tray of food for a withdrawn Carol in the wake of a haunting reminder of her son's death.
"I see it the way I see it. I see them as kindred spirits because of what they've been through," Cudlitz told Skybound's Talk Dead to Me podcast. "Personally, I don't see a [romance], I see a loving friendship. I don't personally see a relationship. Others do, and I think that's great. Do what you do, you know?"
On viewers hoping for "Caryl," the term embraced by a significant portion of Walking Dead fans calling for a romantic relationship between Carol and Daryl, Cudlitz says it's "all correct."
"I've been asked this before, 'What did you mean for us to feel during that scene? What did that scene mean?' I'm like, 'What did it mean to you?' I'm not going to tell you 'no,' that was your experience," Cudlitz said. "That's a valid experience, that is your experience. Why would I ruin your experience? It's for the audience. We make it, we have a script, we shoot it, we put it together, and we put it out there. After we put it out there, it's yours to do with what you want."
"If you want to have them get together, I think they should hope for that," the former Abraham Ford star added. "That's what they're getting out of it — they didn't make it up out of nowhere, so that's their experience. I'm like, 'Knock yourselves out, that's great.' I think it's all great, it's all valid, it's all correct."
Ahead of Season 10, where the relationship became strained by Carol's pursuit of revenge against Whisperer leader Alpha (Samantha Morton) over her son's death, showrunner Angela Kang told TVLine Carol and Daryl are soulmates "whether or not their relationship ever goes into romantic territory. They are tied to each other in this world and have been through so much together."
In March, Kang said The Walking Dead is "not trying to pit any shippers against each other," referring to the other significant portion of fans calling for romance between Daryl and Connie (Lauren Ridloff).
"I think the interesting thing is everybody ships Daryl with somebody else," Kang told Insider. "I think we've always tried to portray that Connie and Carol actually really like each other, and I think that we've shown that Carol thinks that Connie is maybe a good person for Daryl."
The Walking Dead will air its Season 10 finale as a special episode on AMC later this year. For all things TWD, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.