Exclusive: The Walking Dead's Melissa McBride talks losing a cast mate, Negan, and season 7's bloody start

The Walking Dead's Carol

Oh, Lucille, how you torment us! We caught up with Melissa McBride, aka The Walking Dead's Carol, and if you think losing a character from the show is hard for us, imagine losing a part of your TV family. We'll finally learn who Negan took out with his beloved barbed-wire bat, Lucille, when the zombie-fest returns for its seventh season on AMC at 9 p.m. ET this Sunday.

“If you care about anybody on The Walking Dead, you should tune in [laughs]. If you've been watching and you care about any of these characters, you should tune in. If you want to know who got the bat, you should tune in,” said McBride.

When it comes to the new season, “I, for a minute [laughs] ... for a minute ... thought that there was going to be a break for Carol,” she said.

“I used to think that I didn't carry any of that home with me, and I carry a little bit, just a little bit. Enough to be cranky somedays. But there was a minute I was enjoying some lighter moments and thinking we're in the turn. But, of course, once you go around that corner there's always something horrible (laughs). You can bet on it. This season it's extremely difficult emotionally for me and losing a cast member is never easy.”

If the comics are any hint, uber-villian Negan will challenge our heroes in every way. “The world keeps changing and getting more and more desperate. And that theme that's been there all along is what are you willing to do to survive and are you willing to survive,” said McBride.

Yes, it's been a long, bloody six years. At the end of last season, as others faced the bat, Carol left Alexandria and ended up gravely injured herself.

“I get it. What Carol's had to do, like everybody else, just thinking about the children and how far she's pushed herself, and just point blank shooting people... I just can't even... Getting to such a conflict inside and caring so deeply for those people. The only way she thought she could deal with it was to remove herself” by leaving Alexandia, she said.

After battling some bad guys on the road, she was rescued by Morgan and they headed to The Kingdom, while most of the rest of the cast faced Lucille. 

The Kingdom will introduce “amazing new characters, like King Ezekiel and his tiger.. It's just lush. There's so much going on... Their world is getting bigger and more spread out and strange.”

The Walking Dead's Ezekial and his tiger

For McBride, it's “surprising that Carol would end up there feeling the way she does. The comic book readers know about The Kingdom. It's really a thriving place. And it's interesting to see Carol in a place that's thriving when really she's not.”

McBride admits Carol's actions through the series have surprised her. “The writers are always surprising me with the turns that they're giving Carol from time to time.” Carol's leaving the group “came as a surprise. But it all makes sense to me and I can understand how she comes to that conclusion with herself.”

Her character has surprised us too. From being a meek battered wife, to becoming strong after losing her daughter, to killing a sick Karen and David in the prison to keep illness from spreading, to killing little psychotic Lizzy after she murdered her sister, to saving the gang from the Terminus cannibals, to getting run over by a car and losing Beth, to threatening young Sam while giving him cookies, to killing a group of Savior women to save a pregnant Maggie, to taking out a group of threatening Saviors when she was leaving Alexandria. No character has evolved more.

And if Negan thinks he's tough, just harm someone Carol cares about. The dude just might be in more trouble then he knows.

“It's always debatable, all of the choices our characters make. There's always that fine line,” said McBride. “It's a lot to think about. Especially as a viewer. You know, 'What would I do?' That's a gray place. But you know, it's really not. Like, are you going to survive or not.”

And then there's the Carol and Morgan of it all, which “could be interesting,” said McBride. Last season Carol and Morgan came to blows over Morgan's attempts to save a vicious Wolf survivor, which put Alexandria at risk. “Yeah, she does end up there with Morgan and we'll have to see how she takes it. Is she at the mercy of these people? And will she recover from her wounds?” she said.

“And then it's like Terminus and the Governor's place. Is this another Alexandria. Everywhere we go it's the same thing. Having to relate and more people to potentially care for and more people to kill for, and can she do that?”

And while Carol is dealing with her issues, McBride sees Morgan's taking a life to save her character in last season's finale as something that could be a major conflict from him. He's been dedicated to avoid killing.

“Especially what he did at the end of last season. Where does that take him? It's going to be interesting to see how that has effected him,” she said.

Of course, the biggest question is who will live and who will die, as Rick and most of the gang – including favorites, Glenn, Maggie, Daryl, Michonne, Carl, and Abraham – face Negan's bat will be answered quickly. But as one or more character leaves the story, another significant one enters. McBride is excited about the new evil addition to the family, Negan.

“We have Negan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, to look forward to. Negan is such a dark character. He's just amazing in that role,” said McBride. Morgan (as in Jeffrey Dean) just completed a run on The Good Wife as a very sexy investigator who gave the good wife one big reason to stop being so good. But as Negan? 

“He's still hot and sexy. He's just mean with a bat,” she said with a laugh.

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