Former Carl Grimes actor Chandler Riggs admits it was “pretty hard” leaving The Walking Dead after eight seasons because his exit, a curveball for the star and comic book readers, wasn’t “as expected” as he hoped. By the time Carl died midway through the eighth season — where the teen said goodbye to parents Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) before taking his own life, preventing him from succumbing to an incurable walker bite sustained episodes earlier — his counterpart was alive in the pages of creator Robert Kirkman’s comic book, which would conclude one year later with Carl living through the end of the series.
“When I left it, and I feel like it still is, it’s like the majority of my memorable life was on that show,” the now 21-year-old actor said during a virtual appearance at Wizard World 2020. “So it was just an incredible experience being able to be part of a family like that for so, so long and to grow up on a show that got to where it is now. That just doesn’t happen, ever.”
“I just feel super, super lucky to be a part of everything Walking Dead,” Riggs added. “I’m happy to have been a part of it, to still be a part of it and have people show up and be excited about it, so it’s really, really cool. I thank the fans for keeping me a part of it. It’s really cool, and an experience I will always be grateful for.”
In 2018, Riggs said then-showrunner Scott Gimple “didn’t mention” Carl’s death in preliminary talks for Season 8, where Carl died amid Rick’s war with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors. Carl’s death would inspire his father to spare Negan and take him prisoner in the season finale, “Wrath.”
Riggs wouldn’t learn Carl was being killed off until he performed rehearsals for Season 8 episode 6, “The King, the Widow, and Rick,” where Carl is bitten while helping lone survivor Siddiq (Avi Nash) put down walkers.
Three episodes later, in mid-season premiere “Honor,” Carl would be dead in a major departure from the comic book story.
“Honestly, being on that show, it was just an irreplaceable experience. It was really all I had known, and it was pretty hard leaving because it wasn’t as expected as I was hoping,” Riggs said. “But regardless, I feel like being off the show now, it’s opened up so many more avenues, and I’ve gotten to play so many other characters that I wasn’t used to playing because I had just played one character for eight years.”
Riggs has since joined ABC drama A Million Little Things and appeared in two films, Only and Inherit the Viper, in addition to releasing popular music under the moniker “Eclipse.”
“Getting to be on other shows and getting to explore so many other things, it was just really eye-opening for me,” Riggs said. “I felt like I really hit my stride as an actor in Season 8 with those last few episodes, and really getting to create and close out an arc for Carl.”
During a convention appearance earlier this year, Riggs admitted he “didn’t think that Carl’s story would end at any point” on the television show now heading into its eleventh season.
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