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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday’s season three finale of The Walking Dead.]
After fighting for peace for the better part of season three, Laurie Holden‘s Andrea accomplished her goal but paid for it with her life.
During Sunday’s season three finale, Andrea took her own life after failing to escape the Governor’s torture chamber where Milton — who turned after the Woodbury leader stabbed him — took a bite out of her neck. It marked the end of the road for Andrea, one of The Walking Dead‘s original cast members — who in a twist, is now outlived by her comic book counterpart who has become a love interest for Rick.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Holden to discuss her time on the zombie drama, when she knew Andrea’s days were numbered and her response to watching the finale.
The Hollywood Reporter: When did you find out that Andrea was going to die?
Laurie Holden: I got the official word a few days before we began principal photography on the finale. [Departing showrunner] Glen Mazzara called me. It was a shock to everyone. It was never part of the original story document for season three and was rather unexpected. That said, this is The Walking Dead and the show is not conventional by any means. We know as actors going in what this gig is about. You just roll with it. I had one hell of a run and feel blessed to have had three great seasons.
THR: If Andrea wasn’t supposed to die then what was the original story?
Holden: Andrea was always supposed to save Woodbury. But she still did. There was peace to her death because she was reunited with her best friend and her family. In those final moments, she learns that the children and everybody at the prison survived. It’s a pivotal moment for Rick Grimes. Her death does propel story forward because when you think of it, in spite of her incredibly tumultuous journey she had, the people of Woodbury did escape and reach their sanctuary and none of the people of the prison were killed. After an entire season of seeing Rick’s descent into madness and tortured by the ghost of all things past, he heals by that interaction with Andrea. In those final moments, he gets what she’s all about and what she’s been fighting for. It’s an enormous wakeup call for him and allows him to snap out of his state of insanity. The Rick Grimes we’ve rooted for and have loved since the beginning — the strong, capable leader who believed in humanity, community and hope — is back and there’s a healing there.
THR: What kind of conversations did you have with Robert Kirkman about killing Andrea and taking such a major detour from the comics? He told us that there was a lot of debate about killing her off.
Holden: I’ve never had more people rooting for me in my life. The executive producers and the writing staff didn’t want it to happen and were cheerleaders for me. It was a difficult decision and a hard decision but at the end of the day, it may have been the right decision. Andrea had three amazing, great seasons and her death wasn’t in vain. It’s a depressing and dark episode but out of that death emerged a lot of hope and transformation. It was the right ending.
THR: The way the scene was filmed when Andrea frees herself, it seemed like it really could have gone either way for her. Was there talk about changing her outcome?
Holden: There were two versions of that that were shot. The first one portrayed her as the ultimate victim and that was not the story that I think needed to be told or that any of us could put our shoulder behind. We went back and did another version — the final version — which is much more satisfactory. Andrea went out with grace, dignity and was reunited with people she loved and was able to voice how she felt and what was in her heart. After a tumultuous season, I’m so grateful that she was able to say what needed to be said and share that with her family.
THR: Are you stratified with how she went out?
Holden: One-hundred percent. [Season four showrunner] Scott Gimple did the second version of her passing and I will be forever grateful to him for honoring this character and allowing her to go out with grace. What was written was perfect, organic and true to the character. It couldn’t have been penned more beautifully.
THR: The whole time we’re watching the episode and yelling at the TV for Andrea to hurry up. Why didn’t Andrea free one hand and kill Milton with the pliers then free herself?
Holden: My God, he’s a well-built man! (Laughs.) She needed both hands free to defend herself. This is what’s so sad and tragic about it — he bit her but she did stab him. It happened all at the same time. The tragedy is what happened if she freed herself a moment sooner. But that’s great drama.
THR: Do you think Andrea died a hero?
Holden: It’s not my place to say whether she’s a martyr or hero. She did the best she could and fought for humanity. This is a human being that had her ups and downs and was flawed, but she was a good girl. I’m proud of the fact that at the end of the world, after all that loss, Andrea still was able to retain her heart.
THR: How do you think Andrea’s death will impact Rick and Michonne?
Holden: The Governor better watch his back because I don’t think Michonne (Danai Gurira) is going to sleep until justice has been served after he took her best friend. These people are very unsettled. If ever they had motivation to take this person down, this is it. Rick’s life is changed forever, too. When he goes to the prison, he no longer sees Lori’s ghost. It’s like something snaps back into focus and he gets it. The fact that he was in charge of getting the bus back with all the women and children, he realizes community and humanity are everything. Going into season four, there’s going to be more of a sense of hope and humanity than there ever was.
THR: The series skipped Andrea’s relationship with Dale last season when Jeff DeMunn was written out and now Andrea has joined him. Are you disappointed you didn’t get to film that and Andrea’s burgeoning relationship with Rick, which is taking place now in the comics?
Holden: I’m not disappointed with the Andrea-Dale relationship. I believe that love is love and it has many incarnations. Dale and Andrea were a love story, he was the best man she knew and he mentored her and changed her life forever. Rick and Andrea, that’s unfortunate. Andrew Lincoln and I had incredible chemistry and the way we approach the work is very similar. It would have been electric, but you can’t have it all. At the end of the day, I’m grateful we had moment in the finale where Andrea could open her heart and have a lasting impact on Rick. They may not have had the affair they have in comics, but Andrea was instrumental in helping to heal his heart and at the end of the day, that’s pretty awesome.
THR: You’re a human rights activist — and Andrea was a human rights attorney. What kind of message do you think Andrea’s death sends?
Holden: She was a casualty of war but what’s important is her death was not in vain. This was a woman that until the bitter end was fighting for the people and belief in humanity. If she lost her life in order for everybody else to live, then it was worth it. I’m glad she went down if it meant that all the people that Andrea loved and care for were going to be OK. Isn’t that why we’re here, to love and be loved?
THR: Did you watch the finale as it aired? What have you thought about the fan response?
Holden: I’ve been so touched. The outpour of love that I received is comforting but it’s also sad because I just want to give everyone a hug. There are people tweeting pictures of them crying and saying that they’re grieving. It touches me but it also breaks my heart. I look forward to this airing internationally so I can come back on Twitter and let everyone know that Andrea may have passed but Laurie Holden is still here.
THR: What’s next for you?
Holden: I haven’t legally or contractually been allowed to tell anyone about the finale. Today is the first day of the rest of my life and I’m excited about the possibilities ahead. We’ll see what happens, it’s an exciting chapter. There are so many things I want to do: I’d love to do a Broadway play and I’m open to doing another cable drama if it’s the right one. I wouldn’t mind doing a film. I’m really exciting to fill up my love tank and spend quality time with my family; it’s been a jam-packed three years.
THR: Any parting words?
Holden: I collaborated with the most amazing people and forged lifelong friendships with Gale Anne Hurd, Greg Nicotero and Scott Gimple, they’re some of the best people I know and their kindness and generosity and support of me as a person and an artist has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. They’re my extended family now and I love them all.
Will you miss Andrea? Hit the comments with your thoughts. The Walking Dead returns in October on AMC.
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