Fans of The Walking Dead are not only counting down the days until the season 8 premiere, they’re taking in what it means for the series to have reached a huge milestone. On October 22nd, the 100th episode of The Walking Dead airs and it’s a celebration of where the show was born and where it’s going next.
The series clearly means a lot to the fans, but without the cast and crew, we wouldn’t have an incredible show to talk about. So in anticipation of the 100th episode airing this Sunday, they shared what it means to have come this far with EW.
Their answers will make you feel nostalgic, take on a renewed sense of being part of The Walking Dead family, and remind you why the first 100 episodes have set a standard for pop culture television.
Norman first said that it’s all been bigger than they ever expected and that the series is something they’re all living day by day. Everything is incredibly real. He went on to say that they’re very proud of what they’ve done, and we have to say, we are too.
I never thought we would get this far. I don’t think any of us did. It’s been such a big part of our lives, this show. It never felt like, oh, we’re going to go in and act on a show. It always felt like we were living it. The tears are real. The bruises are real. The friendships are real. The stories are so real to us, and it’s become such a yearbook, this show. It’s like the lines between reality and being on this show are super blurry sometimes. It’s a big achievement for us, and, we’re really proud of the work that we’re doing and the work that we’ve done. It’s been a giant blessing — a hard-fought blessing. It’s been great. It still is great.
It’s insane. It’s an incredible extraordinary amount of blood, sweat, and tears, and energy and commitment — and enjoyment and love and attention to detail and fight — to reach this milestone. It’s an incredible thing and it was funny because I was talking to my dad a few weeks ago and my dad just said, ‘It’s only a show.’ And I went, ‘Dad, it’s eight years of my life, my blood, sweat, and tears, and effort and energy and care and I’ve created this thing.’ And I said, ‘You used to be a civil engineer. When you build a road and a bridge, is the bridge real or not? ‘And he went, ‘Well, it’s real.’ And I went, ‘Rick Grimes is real.
He went on to say that he’s spent a lot of time with Rick, in a lot of ways, and that it’s huge to play a character for this long.
He’s just as real as any other part of my life because it’s what we’ve done. Reaching 100 episodes is an astonishing amount of time to spend with this man, in lots of different ways. So yeah, it’s huge. This amount of time with a character I’m sure will never happen again in my career. It’s just absurd. I never thought that I would ever play something for eight years. I keep thinking back to that first episode. I keep thinking back to Jon Bernthal and Sarah Wayne Callies and Jeff DeMunn and all of these incredible actors that we all sort of linked arms and jumped and it stuck.
Knowing how hard it is to shoot this show, the fact that we got to 100 episodes, aside from the fact that it’s just difficult to do within any TV series, but with this show in particular, is incredible. It’s mind-boggling. This show was my favorite show before I came on and started working with them, and so the groundwork and foundation had been poured long before I ever got there. And we’re still standing on that foundation.
He went on to say that he knows that being part of your favorite show is a dream come true, and so is making it as far as he has.
From people like Andy and Norman and Melissa and Steven Yeun, and Sarah Wayne Callies, Jon Bernthal — the whole crew that was there in the first season poured that foundation that we’re now standing on top of in season 8, episode 100. The show has had its ups and downs as every series does, and I feel like in talking to the fans now, they’re just as excited about episode 100 and season 8 as they were when I first came on the show. To be a part of your favorite show as an actor is a dream come true, but to be a part of it for so long and to make it to episode 100 is amazing. I’m speechless, you know.
I’m just so proud that we’ve come this far and I have a well of gratitude that I’m even still here and that I have met this amazing group of people and have them in my life. And also just the experience of making this show and being a part of it for this long — I’ve never been part of anything like this in my life, and it’s life-changing. To think that 100 episodes in, how we all personally and how our characters have evolved and survived, it’s been remarkable. When I first started, I thought Carol would be around for maybe three episodes. I never, ever, ever could’ve imagined that she would still be here 100 episodes in. No way.
Melissa spoke about her mom and dad who likely wouldn’t have watched the show had she not been cast in it. She also says the first episode is still one of her favorites, and we agree.
My mom and dad watch the show and this is probably not a show that they would’ve watched had their daughter not been a part of it, but they’re into it! Just watch that first episode. That first episode remains one of my favorites because of the humanity and the conflict and the heartbreak. That just reeled me in when I was watching the episode. I was like, this is really different. This is amazing. This is heart. This is real story. This could really go somewhere. It’s just special, although I didn’t think that Carol would be part of it.
It’s been seven years for me now. They say within a seven-year cycle you can change completely. Every single cell in your body is renewed, so physically you are literally a different person after seven years. Not that your soul is different, but on a physical level you’ve essentially expired and replenished every single cell.
Lauren said the series put her into a constant place of gratitude and the way she describes how she views her character is incredible.
I try to marry this idea that it doesn’t feel like any time has passed at all and yet it is a really significant period of time. And it’s probably significant for how much I feel I’ve changed within that time span, all thanks to being part of something so big and so intimate at the same time. It’s a good way of getting perspective on things. The show is meaningful enough that it does put you in this constant gratitude, and put me in a constant state of assessment and recollection.
Ultimately, it’s a serious blood thing. It might sound cliché, but honestly, every day I do tend to pinch myself because of all the people I get to work with — from the script to sound to hair and makeup, to the cast, to the camera crew. It’s just a family, and to be able to spend that much time together and in this deep, deep, deep solidarity — it doesn’t happen all the time.
Danai went on to talk about the family that they’ve become and how the energy is something she feels blessed to be part of.
It doesn’t happen often that you find a family like that and you have the joint purpose. And it’s such a beautiful energy that you get to be a part of. Of course, Mr. Lincoln is such a huge part of that beautiful spirit the show has. It’s just family, and that, to me, is the best part. I just genuinely look forward to celebrating with everybody.
Really, the No. 1 thing is just how quickly it’s gone — just how much has happened and how much we’ve all done together, and yet it just ripped right by. I mean, if it wasn’t for Chandler being nine feet tall now, I would not know what year it was.
He went on to say that the opportunities that they’ve experienced are incredible and that it feels like it’s just been one ‘crazy long season’ in terms of what it feels like to have made it this far. It’s become an addiction. We definitely understand that!
There’s been a lot of unbelievable opportunities — like Norman met President Obama when he was in office, and premiering the show at Madison Square Garden, and all these crazy things, but for the most part, all I do is the show, day in, day out, year-round, so it’s weird. It’s just felt like one crazy long season of making this show, and desperately trying to make something that’s worthy of our audiences’ attention and time and passion. You hit certain moments, and that stuff is so intense and so rewarding, but when you hit those big moments, you’re just chasing them. Making the show has definitely been an addiction. What I’m saying is, it’s all been one giant lost weekend.”
We hit these landmarks and we hit these beats and it always feels surrealistic and weird and strange. The fact that people watch it, that’s a bonus. That’s the icing on the cake. So we come down here every year and we buckle up for a bumpy ride because we know that the scripts are going to be ambitious and that we’re going to be asked to really dig deep as actors and as directors and as filmmakers and really push ourselves. I think that’s probably the biggest challenge in terms of making the show is that we’re constantly pushing ourselves. I know that me personally, I feel the pressure when I’m directing.
Greg said that he feels like so much of his DNA is part of The Walking Dead and that it was a great honor to lead the group into a new season.
For me being able to be the guy who directed episode 100 — since I was there from the beginning — was a tremendous honor because I remember being there on day one when we were filming with Andy and Jon Bernthal, and I feel like so much of my DNA is a part of what this show is. So for me to be able to celebrate that milestone by leading this group into season 8, I couldn’t even really begin to express what an honor it is and it was to be able to do that.
When we think about what makes the series so special, we have to credit it to the cast and crew for caring about it so much that they consider it a critical part of who they are. It shows how passionate they are to create great content and how much they consider all of us in the process.
Season 8 of The Walking Dead premieres on October 22nd.
‘…but I knew him’