'Walking Dead' Star Chandler Riggs on Carl's Eye-Opening Tour of Negan's World

The actor also talks with THR about his future with the AMC zombie drama as he plans to attend college in the fall.
Gene Page/AMC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 707, "Sing Me a Song," of AMC's The Walking Dead as well as the comic book series it is based on.]

AMC's The Walking Dead continued its march toward war with Sunday's supersized episode in which Carl (Chandler Riggs) got a close-up look at Negan and the terrifying ways in which he rules his army of Saviors.

After gunning down two members of the Saviors upon his arrival at Negan's compound, the baseball bat-wielding villain took the teen under his wing and offered him a personalized tour of the horrors of their home. That included Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) attempting to emotionally break Carl — after doing the same to his father Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and friend Daryl (Norman Reedus). During the visit, Carl was forced to remove the bandage covering his missing eye and sing for Negan. He also watched in horror as Negan burned a man's face with an iron — offering a backstory for what happened to Dwight (Austin Amelio) in the process.

But what may have been most interesting was the fact that Carl seems newly empowered after his run-in with Negan. Rather than being embarrassed by his missing eye, Carl now seems to wear his injury as a badge of honor and strength. And that, as scary as it seems, is thanks only to Negan.

Elsewhere in the episode, Michonne (Danai Gurira) goes after Negan in her own way, Rick and Aaron find another opportunity to arm themselves in the pending war against the Saviors and Spencer's list of enemies grows as the latter further distances himself from Rick's loyalists including Rosita and Father Gabriel.

Here, THR catches up with Riggs to break down the episode, preview next week's midseason finale and discuss his future with the AMC drama as he prepares to go to college.

This episode followed a lot of the events of the comics and featured Negan really doing his part to try and break Carl. What was it like filming this episode?

It was awesome. Jeffrey is such a cool guy. It's easy to play off him because he does such an amazing job. I've been looking forward to this storyline for years now because I'm a big fan of the comics and to finally get to make this come to life was really cool. The hardest part to endure was the extreme makeup rounds [with Carl's missing eye]. The first couple of test runs we did took like three to four hours to put it all on and we were able to get it down to an hour each day.

What was Carl's game plan when he left Alexandria to find Negan? Was he setting out to kill him?

He for sure wanted to kill Negan. The moment he left, he knew it was a suicide mission because he didn't expect to survive. He didn't expect to kill Negan; he thought he'd either be taken prisoner or be killed. That scene in episode five was the final goodbye for him. He knows that and he was prepared to sacrifice his life to kill Negan.

He had the opportunity to shoot and kill Negan. Why did he pause?

In the moment, he only has one eye so he knows if he does fire, he'll miss or Negan will duck behind other Saviors. After he kills two Saviors, he says, "No one else needs to die." It shows that he realized that these are people, too. They have lives and their own relationships. A lot of times, they do bad things but it's ultimately Negan who coordinates the whole thing. So for Carl, the fewer people dying, the better.

Negan forces Carl to remove his bandage — and finds that it makes Carl more of a badass. How will this interaction change Carl going forward? In the comics, he never goes back to the bandage. Is that fair to expect on the show, too?

In that scene, Carl does consider leaving the bandage off because up until that point, no one had seen him without it. Carl sees it as a weakness and it hinders his ability to accurately shoot — as we saw when he was throwing darts — and he is embarrassed about that. So for Negan to respect how it looks, it's a pivotal moment for Carl. That is when Carl starts to soften up to Negan. Then the next scene with Negan and the iron, Carl remembers the true reason he's there: to kill Negan, not to let Negan feel bad for Carl. Carl is on a mission and at that point, even for a moment, he gains respect for Negan. That's why the next moment when you see them in that room together, Carl is not unhappy with Negan. 

Negan forced Carl to sing as part of his efforts to emotionally break him. What was that like?

It was mortifying when I found out I was going to have to sing. Everyone is really respectful and tries to keep the set quiet during those emotional scenes. But it was really surreal singing "You Are My Sunshine" while Jeffrey pretends to bash someone's head in behind me. It was really weird.

The episode ends with Negan holding Judith, pondering life in Alexandria — and killing Carl and Rick. What might Rick's reaction be to finding Negan holding Judith?

It's a very surreal scene. Seeing Negan making baby voices to Judith and talking about killing her older brother and dad is really creepy and unnerving. For Rick, the minute he sees that Negan knows about Judith, he's going to be terrified because that is the one thing he has been trying to protect from Negan. That was the one thing that Rick had on Negan: Negan didn't know about Judith. 

Carl has now seen what the Saviors' compound and numbers look like as well as gotten a first-hand account of how Negan rules (as well as his many wives). How might he use this information going forward?

Both Carl and Daryl (Norman Reedus) have that information and a few people in the group share that common goal [of killing Negan]: Rosita (Christian Serratos) wants to take Negan down and Michonne is starting to want the same as well — as we saw with her scene in the car. People are starting to rally on the side of wanting to fight but you have to get everyone on that side otherwise people are not going to be willing to sacrifice their own lives trying to kill this guy. 

Could Carl, Michonne and Rosita work together?

It's definitely possible. They have to get Rick on their side because although he says Negan is their new leader, Rick still runs Alexandria so they have to figure out a way to persuade him [otherwise].

That shouldn't be hard now considering Negan has held Judith. Speaking of that uprising, Tara as well as Rick and Aaron have found weapons stashes. How could those weapons as well as Carl's knowledge of the Saviors' compound play a role in the rest of the season?

As long as they can get the Alexandrians on their side [that uprising shouldn't be hard] — but they would have to find out about the Kingdom and try to join forces with them and convince Gregory [at the Hilltop Colony] to fight the Saviors. That's if they actually want to fight the Saviors. Then they have to get the guns from the Oceansiders — and if Tara decides to go back and get them, it would be a difficult task. If they were to try and fight against the Saviors it would be a lot of work and really hard to get everyone to cooperate.

Spencer (Austin Nichols) feels as if he would make a better leader at Alexandria. Will Rick and Carl get a chance to set him straight?

I hope so! I love Austin but I feel so bad for him because I hate his character so much! The things Spencer is saying about wanting Rick to die? I think he's just lost. Spencer blames everything on Rick, which is what a lot of people in Alexandria have done. [Spencer's brother] Ron blamed Rick for his father's death and tried to kill him when his mother and brother died. It's common for the Alexandrians to want to kill Rick after their family dies.

How would you describe next week's midseason finale?

It goes out with a few bangs here and there and there's a lot of stuff from the comics, which is really cool. 

Looking ahead, congratulations on your college acceptance to Auburn. How might that impact your future with the show?

You never know how it will go. I really do hope it works out because that would be really cool. I like to be in The Walking Dead and I like to play video games and just hang out with my friends and try to be as normal as possible so going to college would be another really cool, normal experience in my life. I want for it to work out.

Is there a way in which you can be a full-time student as well as a series regular on The Walking Dead?

Yes. Theoretically, I could take one or two classes on campus and maybe an online class. My professors would have to be willing to cooperate. It wouldn't be easy but I think that could be possible.

Is that something you're trying to do?

Yes.

Do you have a contract for season eight?

I can't answer that.

What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments section, below. For more Walking Dead coverage, bookmark THR.com/WalkingDead.

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