'Walking Dead's' Chandler Riggs on Carl's Eye-Opening Shocker

The young actor talks with THR about the stunning events of the season six midseason premiere.
Gene Page/AMC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 609, "No Way Out," the midseason premiere of AMC's The Walking Dead and the comic book series the show is based on.]

AMC's The Walking Dead made good on one of the biggest and most shocking and graphic moments from its comic book source material during Sunday's midseason premiere.

The series brought multiple panels from Robert Kirkman's comic series to life in what many had anticipated would be a bloody, graphic, deadly and extremely shocking episode that saw Chandler Riggs' Carl lose his eye. The sequence of events start when Jessie's (Alexandra Breckenridge) youngest son Sam (Major Dodson) — the same one who wouldn't leave his second-floor room out of fear — spots a boy his age among the walkers and freaks as the guts-covered group tries to make their way through the undead hand in hand. Haunted by Carol's words, he panics and the walkers feast upon him, with Jessie looking on — and screaming — in horror.

As she's bitten and attacked, she refuses to let go of Carl's hand amid the commotion — during which Rick is completely freaking out — and Carl screams for help. Rick realizes what's happening and chops Jessie's hand off, freeing Carl. That's when Jessie's older son, Ron (Austin Abrams) raises Carl's lost gun on Rick and Carl. Michonne spots what's happening and plows her katana through the boy's chest. However, Ron's stray bullet catches Carl in the eye, bringing one of the most stunning moments from the comic series to life. (More on how Greg Nicotero and his team brought that moment to life here.)

Below, Riggs speaks exclusively with The Hollywood Reporter about finding out about Carl's eye in the comics, his reaction to learning it would come to life on the show and what's next for the young soldier.

When did you first read the comics and discover that Carl loses his eye?

It was either during season two or season three and that comic came out and me and my dad were frantic and [wondering] if Carl going to die and if I was going to be killed off the show. We were worried for a while because in the comics, that panel (below) looks like he would definitely die from that. We were freaking out over it. We had kept up with the comics for a while and had been slacking with it until my character was in grave danger of being killed off (laughs). It was very scary.

Did you talk with Robert Kirkman after that panel?

No, it was very worrisome though and I thought I'd lose my job. Thankfully, that was not the case in the comics.

After you read that, were you pushing producers to have that happen on the show?

Not really. I wasn't pressuring them but it was still a long way away from happening. I felt like it would never happen and then when [showrunner] Scott Gimple sat down with me and told me the whole storyline of season six, I was really excited to hear that Carl was going to lose his eye. That was something I'd been looking forward to that ever since I figured out that he'd live through the gunshot wound.

What was that conversation like with Gimple when he told you it was happening?

It was in a random restaurant in L.A. and we met up for lunch and had been trying to meet up when I was there for Talking Dead for episode 15 [in season five]. He gave me the storyline for season six and it was very exciting.

What was filming the scene like?

It was a night shoot and it was really late. That whole sequence is really dark and brutal. The whole thing with Jessie and Sam was crazy. With her hand getting chopped off everything was crazy. The fun part was the whole turning around and revealing that my eye was gone.

How long will Carl be out of commission? In the comics, he's out for a long time but here, he squeezed Rick's hand.

We'll have to see how quickly the story ends up progressing. Hopefully Carl will be back up on his feet soon.

How different will the new Carl be? In the comics, he's much more hardened but that's already happened a lot here.

It's a big thing for him, especially since originally in the scripts it wasn't just a stray shot from Ron. It was very quick when we shot it; it was Ron aiming the gun at Rick and Carl standing up and taking the bullet for Rick and essentially saving Rick's life. They edited it in a different and more innocent way, which is really cool. It'll be cool to see how it ends up turning out.  

How does this change your approach to the character?

I was talking to Scott about it because physically it was harder losing depth perception and about 70 degrees of vision. You don't realize how much you rely on both your eyes until you're having to go hours without being able to use one of them. It's harder to film, which makes it easy for me to play Carl because it's such a drastic difference in how I live. It's easier to make that change.

Greg Nicotero mentioned that producers had you refrain from cutting your hair at the start of the season so they could cover up the wound in a more natural way (again, like the comics).

My hair is pretty long at the moment there. They're hoping for me to keep it long enough so I can not have to wear the bandage the whole time and push my hair up and see with my eye when I'm not shooting. They'll have to have my hair pretty long to cover that eye!

Do you think this will lead to a hardened Carl? Has he officially lost his childhood here and turned him into the badass Carl from the comics?

Maybe, yeah. The transition from a boy into a man was more in season four when Rick mentioned that Carl was a man at that point. His childhood ended there but hopefully the cool Carl will emerge from losing his eye and be really exciting. It makes him a lot harder and ruthless. My character is always so much more fun to play when that happens.

Does he have any animosity toward Rick? This was his plan to lead everyone out.

I don't think Carl will blame Rick. It was more Ron's fault than anything and he's dead. There's not much vengeance he has against anyone. If anything, he thanks his dad because he was the one that saved the community and gave them the courage to fight and kill all of the walkers. He looks up to him and has a lot more respect for him.

When Carl wakes up, this community will be totally different. Will he be surprised by the new Rick?

He'll be proud of the community — it's what the entire group has wanted for so long. The entire second half of last season and the first half of season six was about trying to get these people to realize what it's like outside the world and they need to fight and learn how to kill walkers and need to know how to survive. And they proved that they can do that in this episode.

How will Carl losing his eye impact his romantic interest in Enid (Katelyn Nacon)?

I'm not sure. They will see things pretty differently now, physically and mentally. But Enid learned a lot from her adventure with Glenn. Who knows what's going to happen with those two.

My theory is that Enid is a version of Sophia from the comics. How similar is their relationship?

For a long time, I've been trying to figure out where Enid fits in and that's what I've been thinking for a while now — that she's replacing Sophia. It made total sense, seeing how attached she is to Glenn. If Negan ends up showing up and killing Glenn like he does in the comics, I think she'll take care of Maggie. But I don't know. It would be interesting.

How do you think this will change Carl? Sound off in the comments below. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC. Click here for EP Greg Nicotero's exclusive photos and to find out how he and Riggs shot that huge scene. Click here for Breckenridge's exit interview; and here for our postmortem with creator Robert Kirkman, showrunner Scott M. Gimple and Nicotero.

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