Jace Downs/AMC Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon on 'The Walking Dead'
It's a sunny March morning in the city of Newnan, Ga., and the downtown area is filled with equal measures of hustle and bustle. But instead of locals popping into cafés and coffee shops for their morning sustenance, it is camera operators, key grips, prop masters, and boom mic operators that are scurrying about, transforming the downtown area into [REDACTED] for a scene that takes place [REDACTED] approximately [REDACTED] years before or after the events of [REDACTED].
"This is [REDACTED] because it all comes down to [REDACTED]," says [REDACTED] after filming a big scene alongside [REDACTED]. "And especially when [REDACTED]. Of course, that's all because [REDACTED]."
If that secrecy sounds a bit extreme, it is because we're on set for the series finale of the game-changing, record-breaking, zombie apocalypse-making phenomenon that is The Walking Dead. After 11 seasons, 177 episodes, and countless orange backpack sightings, the AMC drama that revolutionized the horror genre and brought flesh-eating undead into the mainstream is finally calling it quits, and things are getting pretty gosh darn emotional on set with the finish line now just a few days away.
For example, take executive producer and finale director Greg Nicotero, who has been with the show since day one back in 2010. He must be freaking out right now about the end of this 12-year journey. "It hasn't hit me yet," says Nicotero, who quickly excuses himself to go block a scene. "There's too much to do."
Oh, okay. Well… what about Corey Reed? That guy is sure to be experiencing the weight of the moment, having penned more than 20 episodes during his Walking run, including co-writing the series finale. "I'm still busy," the wordsmith says while pouring over pages of the script. "I have two more scenes to work on. Maybe next week."
Hmmm…. Certainly Angela Kang, the showrunner and co-author of this final installment, must be infected with a serious case of the feels right about now. Right, Angela? "Not yet," shrugs Kang. "I think it will hit me next week once we are closer."
Even the cast members — some of whom are still filming and some of whom have already wrapped yet returned to watch these last few days for themselves (so don't read too much into who was where and when in this story, lest we start redacting again) — say the finality of the moment has yet to truly take hold. "It hasn't really sunk in yet," says Josh McDermitt (Eugene) during a break in between scenes. "It feels like a finale, but not a series finale. It feels like we'll wrap this up and go home and come back in a few months to start up again."
In a way, many of them will, and already have. For while this last batch of episodes premiering on Oct. 2 and wrapping up on Nov. 20 does, in fact, mark the conclusion of The Walking Dead series, it comes at a time when the franchise is expanding like never before. The dichotomy poses a somewhat awkward question that many of the key players seem to struggle with themselves: How do you celebrate the end of something that, in many ways, is not really ending at all?
It's almost impossible to overstate the impact of The Walking Dead during the past 12 years as the program ascended from surprise hit to full-on pop culture phenomenon. Nobody quite knew what to expect when "the zombie show with that guy from Love Actually" debuted on Halloween night of 2010. But the premiere of the series based on Robert Kirkman's comic book riveted fans and astounded industry insiders when it attracted 5.35 million viewers. And that was only the beginning.
Nine million people took in the season 2 finale, in which Hershel's barn burned down, while 12.4 million witnessed our heroes take down Woodbury. Sixteen million got bummed out watching Violet the pig get sick. An incredible 17.3 million fans saw Rick Grimes and Co. escape the cannibals of Terminus. And two years later, more than 17 million people were still glued to their sets for the season 7 premiere to learn who was on the receiving end of a Negan's barbed wire-covered baseball bat.
No scripted basic cable program has posted ratings like that either before or since. Even those hiding under a dumpster couldn't avoid the show completely in its heyday. (Still too soon?) And though The Walking Dead's viewership numbers are now just a fraction of what they once were (the most recent episode garnered 1.61 million overnight linear viewers), the series remains the second-highest rated scripted basic cable entry on TV, after Paramount Network's Yellowstone. So why end it after 11 seasons?
"It certainly was hotly debated and discussed," says AMC president Dan McDermott. "Not only internally here, but with [Walking Dead chief content officer Scott M. Gimple], and Angela Kang, and the creative team. At the end of the day, all great shows have to come to a conclusion. We're talking about 11 seasons of this one."
To hear Gimple tell it, the decision to end the series sounds a bit like a case of the network asking the creative team to go look at the flowers. "That was AMC," says Gimple. "It was heavy when it happened. I wasn't expecting it and had all sorts of plans for the future." And so the plans changed. "When the end was announced, it was like, 'Okay, how do we pivot?'" says Gimple. "'How do we enmesh even some of our plans for the future into this final season? And how do we do it in other ways, outside the series."
That's how, in true JSS mode, the franchise ended up both swelling and contracting at the same time. For while Nov. 20 will indeed mark the final episode of The Walking Dead, not unlike the scores of people that die and then come back to life on the show, there appears to be no killing a network-owned cash cow that has already spun off into three other scripted series — Fear the Walking Dead, which will return for an eighth season in 2023, anthology series Tales of the Walking Dead, which is currently in its initial run, and The Walking Dead: World Beyond, which wrapped up its two-season sprint last year — as well as a Talking Dead after-show that has aired 221 episodes and 12 specials.
Add to that a veritable herd of new Walking Dead offerings on the horizon. Norman Reedus' Daryl Dixon is heading to France to star in his own spin-off. Ultimate frenemies Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) are going to New York to star in the somewhat repetitively titled The Walking Dead: Dead City. And lost lovers Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) will be reunited on a currently untitled series that was first announced to a standing ovation at the end of TWD's Comic-Con panel in San Diego.
While AMC's playbook appears to have been scripted by none other than the mythological Hydra (chop one head off, three more appear!), there are worries that come with the new strategy. For one thing, there's the very real possibility of — slight pun intended — Walking Dead overkill. However, McDermott argues that zombie math is on their side. "We spend a lot of time focusing on how much is the right amount," says the AMC president. "The last couple years, we've had 16 episodes of The Walking Dead, 16 episodes of Fear of the Walking Dead, 10 episodes of Walking Dead: World Beyond. That's 42 episodes of television. That's a lot."
And, he points out, that's more than what is coming up under the new plan in 2023: "Going forward, the Rick and Michonne show is six episodes. The Daryl Dixon show is going to be six episodes. The Maggie and Negan show is going to be six episodes. We have Tales of the Walking Dead. So you're actually going to see fewer hours of Walking Dead content on our platforms."
Of course, all that is down the line. The announcements of these various other series raises a more immediate concern for the mothership endgame: Namely, how does a show with one of the most prodigious body counts in television history maintain its finale stakes when it has already been established that so many key characters (including Melissa McBride's Carol, who was originally announced as being part of the Daryl spin-off before she bowed out) will make it out alive?
It is a thought that was very much on the minds of the creative team, especially when AMC surprisingly broke the news of the Negan and Maggie series (originally titled Isle of the Dead) while filming on TWD season 11 was still taking place. "It's tricky," says Kang, "because we didn't know the exact timing of the release of information of Isle of the Dead. I assumed that wasn't going to be announced. So it does change the way certain things are going to play in the season compared to how we thought they would play."
"We were a little surprised," Nicotero reveals of the early announcement. "Because we thought, 'Well, that could mean that certain characters are going to live, and now there's a little bit less jeopardy involved knowing that. I think even Jeffrey was a little like, 'Well, okay, I guess the cat's out of the bag and we don't have to worry about anything happening to Negan or Maggie because they've already announced a spin-off.'"
"That's not the way we should have gone about it," says Morgan, shaking his head. "But this is how it was chosen to play out. And who knows? Maybe we couldn't have kept the secret. But it seems to me we could have given it a shot. I would've tried to go about it in a different way, but look, that's above my pay grade."
Josh Stringer/AMC Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan and Lauren Cohan as Maggie on 'The Walking Dead'
While the producers were clearly not thrilled with all the post-show plans being publicly revealed in advance, they argue that not all great onscreen drama hinges on life and death. "Even if you [know] this person's going to survive, do you know exactly what choice they're going to make?" notes Kang. "What psychic scars that's going to leave? Are they going to be horribly injured? Are people they care about going to face an awful fate? So I think there are still ways to have that sense of scares and stakes, and that's what we went with, because there are just certain things that we know are continuing."
Or, as Morgan says ever so cagily, "There are still some tricks up our sleeves. As an audience, don't think that you know how this is going to be, because I guarantee you don't."
"The approach that we took was that for the people who've been following this show, the series needs to feel like there is an ending that is for this show," says Kang. "And so we always approached it from, 'If there was nothing else beyond this — we just know that certain characters have to be alive at the end — how would we come to an end with them?'"
"We definitely didn't want to just make it a setup," adds Gimple. "We wanted to have a conclusion to The Walking Dead. We didn't want to do anything that nailed the door shut, but this season is about closing a season and closing a series in a satisfying way that speaks to all of the themes and all of the history of the show."
Whether they involve lumberjacks, blue French horns, or the sweet, sweet sounds of 1980s arena rockers Journey, series finales of long-running hit shows are always heavily scrutinized, and the fact that the Walking Dead finale is directing traffic onto so many different off-ramps while also closing down the main highway makes for a higher degree of difficulty than normal — especially for the person directing it.
"Everybody wants to say, 'Is this going to be the M*A*S*H finale? Is it going to be The Sopranos finale? Is it going to be the Seinfeld finale? Is it going to be the Game of Thrones finale? What is it going to be?'" says Nicotero. "But the truth of the matter is that we're ending one story, but we're continuing other stories. So part of it is yes, The Walking Dead is coming to an end, but the stories will continue. There are other characters who still have stories. So it's sort of an ending. It's an ending for a lot of those characters, but it's also a detour for others."
Jace Downs/AMC Christian Serratos as Rosita on 'The Walking Dead'
Some of those detours have already begun. Reedus has been living over in France for production on his Daryl Dixon spin-off, a series that "changed directions multiple times" over the course of more than a year, according to the star. "We knew we wanted to make a show that went in the opposite direction, just because we didn't want to do the same thing. And it's going to be way different. The story's way different. The characters are way different. There's a different tone, there's different light, there's a different sound. It's a whole different vibe. This is going to be f---ing epic."
As for the new show's plot, the location of the action indicates a connection to the end-credits scene from the World Beyond finale, in which a scientist in an abandoned French lab was shot after watching videos from Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich) about tests being done on variant walkers. What are these tests, and what exactly was happening in this French lab, and by whom? Whether these questions will be answered in the spin-off remains to be seen, but McDermott drops a few hints as to the general story, saying that the series will "follow Daryl as he wakes up and finds himself somewhere on the European continent and tries to piece together what happened. How did he get here? How's he going to get home?"
And then there is Dead City, which McDermott says follows "Negan and Maggie's journey onto the isle of Manhattan, where the bridges and tunnels were blown up at the onset of the pandemic, because the walker herd had just overrun the island and it's been left that way for 12 years. And so now it's a 2 million walker-strong herd that is dominating the streets and making it treacherous and dangerous."
The person most surprised by the mere existence of the NYC set spin-off is none other than one of its stars. "If you had told me that a year ago that I would be doing it, I would've said, 'There's no way. I'm going to end this and walk away,'" says Morgan. "I think that The Walking Dead ending and walking away from it would've been a noble thing for us all to do. But the story was so good and so worth telling that it simply came down to, I couldn't say no. And I felt invigorated and wanted to continue it."
Invigorated is exactly the same word Cohan uses to describe the experience of filming the series in New Jersey. "The story that [showrunner Eli Jorné] has written lets us really go into the dark night of the soul in a way that you don't always get to do with a huge cast," says the actress. "When people say to me, 'Wow, you've been doing that show so long,' I say, 'And I hope I do it forever.'"
While filming a Walking Dead series with a new crew and in a new location has been an adjustment ("It's very familiar and yet not," notes Morgan. "You look behind video village and it's not any of the same faces that you've known forever."), the two stars say the new show has, in a way, reminded them of the fervor that used to surround their former one. "There's been 200 people out to watch us film, which reminds me very much of how it was when I first got on The Walking Dead," Morgan says. "It was that kind of excitement and fan mania. And so to have that again, it's super cool."
Fan mania was certainly rekindled when Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira walked on stage to raucous applause at the end of The Walking Dead's Comic-Con panel in July to announce they were returning to the franchise for a new Rick and Michonne series to air in 2023. Originally announced back in 2018 as a trilogy of movies to continue Rick's story after Lincoln left the show in season 9, the films morphed into a series format because, according to McDermott, "It became clear the best, most epic story we could tell would be a multi-episode, six-hour long, epic love story about these two rediscovering themselves, reconnecting and setting off to reclaim their family." (Though McDermott's description makes the spin-off sound like a single-season limited series, AMC is not billing the show as a mere one-and-done.)
For Nicotero, who worked with Lincoln from the very beginning of the original series, the importance of bringing the actor and character back to the franchise — and vice versa — is paramount, especially as the show that started it all says goodbye. "I think it's critical because Rick Grimes really is The Walking Dead," says the director. "It was his story. We started the story with him. So it made me realize that The Walking Dead evolved into a lot of different things. All of them very entertaining and all of them very powerful and very emotional, but the Rick Grimes of it really stands on its own. And I'm really excited about where that's headed."
But is there a chance we might see Rick and/or Michonne before then? Could one or both of them pop back up in the series finale? "I can't answer that question," laughs Kang. "But I appreciate you asking." Dammit. What about you, Scott Gimple? An incredulous smile crosses his face. "I'd never tell you that in a million years."
Jace Downs/AMC Laila Robins as Pamela Milton on 'The Walking Dead'
Here's what they can tell us about what to expect in these final eight episodes of The Walking Dead: "The Commonwealth is pissed off," notes Kang. That's no doubt due to the big Milton family exposé by intrepid reporter Connie (Lauren Ridloff) putting a spotlight on all the inequality in the community. "I love that Connie is just stirring the pot," says Ridloff. "Connie is always searching for social justice, and she determines that cost is worth it."
But is everyone willing to endure that cost once the Commonwealth retaliates? "This façade of what this oasis has been is really showing the cracks," notes McDermitt, who has played zero-turned-hero Eugene since season 4. "Some people are going to have to make some tough decisions, whether or not they're going to do the right thing."
As hard as life is about to be for people inside the walls of the Commonwealth, it's even worse for those outside of it. After coin-flipping enthusiast Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) took all the communities (Alexandria, the Hilltop, Oceanside) by force, those able to escape his grasp are now homeless and on the run.
"Daryl's leading this group that is outside of the walls," says Reedus. "They're being chased at this moment, and they're trying to turn that around and kill that group that's chasing them and sneak in a different way into the Commonwealth. There's a plan that's been set up and that's being spread amongst all of our people to get back there and f--- it up."
Expect that plan to succeed, judging by Kang's comments that "a lot of these different threads of the story are going to start to come crashing together." As for what the heroes will do once they are reunited, it sounds like it is not just about surviving in the community that brought them in, but taking it over. "We should have the Commonwealth," says Cohan. "It should be ours."
But there are other problems beyond just the living. The trailer unleashed at Comic-Con in July featured Ross Marquand's Aaron worrying, "I've heard stories of walkers that can climb walls and open doors." While this haunting comment appeared to point to some sort of previously unseen super-walker variant, Gimple notes that, "It's addressing something that is inside the show already. The calls are coming from inside the house."
And it turns out the person making the calls is… season 1! As part of the production process of tackling the final run of episodes and making sure everything came full circle, producers went back to the very beginning of the series to rewatch early episodes. When they did, they noticed something. The downtown Atlanta zombies in the pilot episode moved a little faster when they were following Rick on his horse. And they started climbing a fire escape when chasing after Rick and Steven Yeun's Glenn in an alley. One even picked up a rock and was using it to smash a department store window.
"The truth is, we hadn't really figured out yet what the rules for the zombies were," says Nicotero of the behavior that never made it past those first few episodes. "We were still figuring it out. But we decided that it was an opportunity."
AMC Season 1 zombies on 'The Walking Dead'
The opportunity became using that early zombie testing ground to re-engage the idea that "there might be certain walkers in certain regions that might have different abilities," according to Nicotero. (While the French lab subjects in World Beyond would seem to also fall under that category, Gimple warns not to draw too solid a connection between the shows and continents: "These are very distinct environments and very distinct landscapes.")
But zombies with weird retro abilities will be far from the only connection to season 1. According to Kang, honoring the roots of the show in this last run "was something that was really important to us to try to do. These eight episodes help to capture some of that feeling of legacy." It was also a feeling that permeated the set during filming on the final installment, even if the magnitude of the moment produced tension at times. "This is as big an episode as we've ever done," says Nicotero. "So it was a test for me, and it was tricky, and there were some frustrations, and everybody took them out on me. They said, 'We love you. Sorry, you're just the one here.'"
If they weren't snapping at the director, the cast would often simply ignore him. "I could barely look at Greg for most of the last two episodes of us being on set," says Cohan, "Because he's such a deep-feeling, softhearted human. We did those little things where you almost want to push everybody away because it's going to end."
"It was just f---ing hard to do," says Morgan. "It was hard for all of us in so many different ways. We all felt not only a responsibility to say goodbye to something that means so much to fans, but it means a tremendous amount to those of us involved in it. This has not only been a job, but it's so much more than that because of the family that we have built."
But with the family all gathering together for the proverbial last supper, it only made sense that Nicotero — having been with the show since day one and as director of every season finale going back to season 5 (not including the COVID-related season 10 bonus episodes) — be at the head of the table. "If it would've been any other director, it wouldn't have felt right," says Reedus. "Because between setups, you're talking about it ending, and if you'd had a director that wasn't there for all the stories throughout the years, you'd have just been looking at your clock or sitting on your phone. But [there were] a lot of big talks around campfires between sets, and reminiscing, and Greg was the perfect one for that as well."
Jace Downs/AMC Khary Payton as Ezekiel on 'The Walking Dead'
While a typical Walking Dead episode is usually filmed in 10 days, the original finale script called for a massive, budget-breaking 23-day shoot. "We took that thing apart and we put it back together and we had it balanced into the perfect Jenga tower," says Nicotero. "We just said, 'Look, this schedule's going to work.' The only problem is if one of these things gets pulled out.'"
And then the pulling began. "Everything that could go wrong, went wrong," laughs the director. "We had a four-hour lightning delay one day. And then Norman hit his head and we had to schedule things to give him a couple of days to recoup."
Ah yes, the concussion heard round the world. Reedus hurt himself on March 11 during filming on the finale, and while reports of the concussion made the injury seem relatively minor, to the actor, it felt anything but. "That whole ordeal, for me personally, was terrifying," says Reedus. "I thought I was going to die. It was very serious. It was scary. I've been hit in the face and the head a million times. I've gone through car windows. But that one rung my bell. I was holding onto the walls."
Meanwhile, everyone else was just trying to hold it together. "I don't think I ever worked so hard in my life," says Nicotero, who still managed to somehow get the shoot done in 18 days. "Every day I would get home going, 'Oh my God, oh my God.' I think the Monday of the last week was the first time I was able to breathe for the whole shoot." With the finish line at this point right around the corner, both cast and crew were finally going to have to face the finality of the moment. But at least they would get to all go out together… or not.
"With this final episode, the hope was to shoot a scene where all the remaining people were together at the end," says Kang. "But that did not work out. So rather than everybody getting to wrap at the same time, it was a series of wraps throughout. So when we got to the final day, there were actually not that many people left to wrap!"
Jace Downs/AMC Eleanor Matsuura as Yumiko on 'The Walking Dead'
"We were supposed to wrap the beginning of March, and we wrapped the beginning of April," says Nicotero. "Some of the actors had other responsibilities, so it's like, 'Okay, you got to get this actor done by this day. You got to get this actor done by this day.'"
"I was ready to go," Morgan admits. "I just needed to get home. We went much longer than we had anticipated going, and because of the pandemic s---, I couldn't fly home on weekends and see my family. Greg was directing and I was like, 'Look, dude, I got to get home. I got a 4-year-old who's so upset that I haven't been home.' And so I wrapped first, and I just gave some quick hugs and disappeared. They had another week of filming to go, but I was on a plane within f---ing hours. I was gone!"
While Morgan chalks his Irish exit up to the fact that "I didn't want to cry again," other cast members gave into the tears when they finished their work on the series. "It made me think of my wedding day," says Ridloff. "I was a mess on my wedding day. And so fast forward to my last day of shooting, and I was a mess. I bawled."
The succession of wrap days also meant a succession of goodbye speeches, many that were cut abruptly short due to Barnageddon-level tears. "My grandfather always says, 'Every goodbye is the start of the next hello,'" recalls Cohan. "And I was like, 'I'm just going to give my thanks and then just say that.' I got about three words out and then I was just like..." as the actress makes an uncontrollable sobbing face.
"That was a rough day," says McBride, her voice quivering at the recollection of her own goodbye as she holds back tears just thinking about it. "Our last scene, some of us were trying to just keep ourselves from becoming the puddle that we knew we would become once they said 'That's a wrap!' There were so many things that I wanted to say and just couldn't because I was choking on a knot in my throat."
Cohan and McBride weren't the only ones left speechless during their speeches. Even the more loquacious members of the cast had trouble finding not just the right words, but any words at all. "I'm never one to not have something to say," says former stand-up comedian McDermitt. "I'm always quick with a joke or a quip. And then it came time, and I couldn't even speak. I was just overwhelmed with emotion. I couldn't say anything. My throat just couldn't." And with that, the actor catches his breath. "I feel my chest tightening right now!"
Jace Downs/AMC Josh McDermitt as Eugene and Margot Bingham as Max on 'The Walking Dead'
Reedus was at least able to string a few sentences together. "They handed me a microphone and I spoke to a bunch of people who were hugging and crying, and I just sort of winged it and spoke from the heart. And it was really sad. I'm not good in those scenarios anyway, so I'll say something serious, and then I realize I'm being too serious and then I'll throw a stupid joke in there just because I'm nervous. So it was a bit of that."
As for the actual last night of filming, it was a big zombie scene that took place in the Commonwealth square, and while many of the cast members had already said their goodbyes to the show, Kang notes that "a lot of the people who had already wrapped were still in town and came to the set to finish wrapping out the rest." Rather than ending 12 years of filming with a huge emotional scene between series leads, the wonky scheduling meant the final frames shot on The Walking Dead were instead mostly done with extras.
And when it was finally done, and Greg Nicotero yelled "CUT!" for the last time, the party — complete with confetti cannons blasting streamers across the Commonwealth — began. Champagne was popped, music was blared, Marquand was somehow deputized as a bartender and started mixing up drinks. But, in reality, the party was beginning and ending simultaneously, and not just because the director "stayed for five minutes and went home and passed out."
For many on the cast and crew, the enormity of the moment — even if they are moving on to other Walking Dead projects — did not truly hit them until it was all over. "It didn't feel real for a long time," says Reedus. "I just thought there was more coming. Then when I drove home for the final time, the sun was coming up, and I pulled my car up to my gate and I'm sitting there waiting for my gate to open, I'm like, 'Wow, I'm never going to take that drive again. Now it feels really real to me.' Even when I drove off going, 'Bye, guys, I miss you. I love you,' I still thought I was going to see everybody the next day."
For McBride — who shares Walking Dead OG status with Reedus, since both actors go all the way back to episode 3 of the series — reality also struck after leaving the lot: "The drive home was strange. You're in your car and you have all these thoughts and all these feelings of what just happened, and the day you just put in, and the days you just put in, the months, the years you just put in. And now I'm just driving away. Is that it?"
Luckily for the legion of Carol fans, the answer appears to be no. While McBride was originally announced as joining Reedus for a post-TWD spin-off about apocalyptic BFFs Daryl and Carol, the actress later pulled out of the series once it moved overseas, with the network releasing a statement that "Relocating to Europe became logistically untenable for Melissa at this time."
But that doesn't mean McBride is finished with the character. When asked point blank if she is done playing Carol, the actress cracks a sly grin. "I feel like Carol has more story to tell," she says before pausing. "I'll leave it at that." Another pause. "I think she's got some more story." Another sly grin.
Reedus is far more direct on the matter. "Their journey's not over," he boasts emphatically. "They will meet down the road. You can pretty much bet all your money. I read all these people whining about it, and I have to just keep my mouth shut, but there will be a lot of foots in a lot of mouths at some point."
These aren't just random hopes and dreams. The person chiefly responsible for mapping out the characters' futures is fully on board for more Daryl and Carol. "We will be telling stories with each of them moving forward," says Gimple. "I've never stopped talking to Melissa about this. I'm thrilled at the idea of it, and I'm very optimistic for the future of telling some cool Carol stories."
Jackson Lee Davis/AMC Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride ride onto 'The Walking Dead' as Daryl and Carol
As filming on The Walking Dead was coming to an end, the franchise's chief content officer decided to take one last saunter around the Riverwood Studios set in Senoia, GA that had been the show's base of operations for more than a decade. Many of the series' iconic locations were on this lot. The Prison. The Hilltop. The Sanctuary. Oceanside. The Heaps. The Commonwealth. All were filmed here, with interiors being shot on one of four mammoth soundstages, and exteriors spread out over 120 acres of rural woods and farmland. For a while after buying the studio in 2017, AMC even sold tickets and gave tours to fans intent on seeing up close where so many memorable moments had taken place.
"I took a walk around the studio with a camera," says Gimple. "I walked up to the Hilltop. And I walked over to Oceanside. And I walked where the Heaps were. And I walked where the Prison was, and where we shot a million things. I was by myself, and I was just trying to dig up all the memories of doing this crazy show, and all the people that I was privileged to do it with, some who are gone. It was sad because it was over, but it was also a lot of gratitude."
He wasn't the only one who took a final solitary stroll around the lot. Days after all the actors had wrapped and confetti cannons had fired, McBride returned one last time to her now-former home, only to discover a very different scene. "I went back to the set for some reason, and it was very strange because the base camp was all packed up and gone," she recalls. "They had taken down all the departments and were cleaning it all out. There was no hustle and bustle. There was just quiet."
But not for long.