Carl Grimes’ death in the midseason premiere of The Walking Dead season 8 threw everyone for a loop, not least the cast of the hit AMC zombie drama. Just like the fans, those who make the series assumed Chandler Riggs would stick around for seasons to come, but showrunner Scott Gimple ultimately made the decision that Rick’s son would be the latest casualty our heroes had to endure.
TWD stars such as Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus and Danai Gurira have all expressed their sadness at Riggs’ leaving the show in the past. For Jeffrey Dean Morgan, though, Carl’s death also affected his own character’s arc in a major way. With the boy now gone, the fascinating relationship between the uber-villain and the young Grimes that makes such an impression in the comics can’t be explored any further.
While speaking at San Diego Comic-Con, Morgan discussed his disappointment that Carl’s story, as he puts it, ended so “abruptly,” as Negan’s dynamic with Carl helped humanize the monstrous tyrant on the page in a way that the TV show has yet to achieve at this point.
“There was a whole story that Robert [Kirkman, creator] wrote that I was excited to play, and it didn’t pan out that way. It ended a bit abruptly… Sometimes, you don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s what keeps us on our toes. I think that relationship brought out something in both characters that we don’t see in any other way. Those character traits that Carl brought out in Negan, I hope they’re brought out some other way because I think that [contributed] a lot in humanizing Negan.”
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What the actor has to say here echoes his comments from earlier this year, when Morgan revealed on Instagram that part of the reason he chose to take on the role of Negan in the first place was to explore the character’s humanizing relationship with Carl. So naturally, he’s a bit bummed that this never came to pass.
Like the actor says, though, there’s every chance that the series could find another way to show different shades of Negan. Especially now that he’s locked up, following his defeat in the season 8 finale of The Walking Dead. The star’s hinted that Negan may even find redemption over season 9, so maybe Carl’s legacy will be felt, after all.