The final season of The Walking Dead will consist of 24 episodes to become the biggest season yet.
TV Fanatic recently got the chance to speak to Khary Paton (Ezekiel), Eleanor Matsuura (Yumiko), Josh McDermitt (Eugene), and Callan McAuliffe (Alden) as part of a Zoom session with other reporters.
"We get a lot of questions about mourning the end, but it is a long end. This is a nice, long victory lap," Payton explained of the expanded final season.
"We're going to be shooting well into next year," he added. "If we started crying right now, we would be spent by the time we get done. I'm still in the process of enjoying telling the story."
The good news for fans is that what we got to see on The Walking Dead Season 11 trailer (see below) was from very early into the shooting process.
"All that stuff that was packed into the Comic-Con trailer is just the beginning of what we're shooting," said Eleanor.
"At the moment, we are right in the middle of it, so even though there is so much talk about it being the final season and the end, it really does feel like a long way off, and there is so much more to do."
Matsuura revealed that she would like the cast to all be together at Comic-Con when the show does wrap. We're looking at a conclusion sometime in the second half of 2022, so it's still quite a long way off.
"As lovely as it is to see you all on Zoom, I want to see people again. I want us all to celebrate. I want that to be the goodbye," she said.
McDermitt shed light on the process of saying goodbye to the series and how it will be difficult when the scripts stop coming out.
"We're not letting go of our characters. We can't just turn it off that quickly," McDermitt said.
"We will still find new discoveries and growth within a character, even after the scripts stop coming out. It's going to be a weird transition, coming off a show that's been going on for so long," he added.
"It's sad, but we've made some great friendships and relationships here."
McDermitt was fond of the development of his character over the years.
"I didn't know where he would end up when I first came on. I was just trying to play the truth of who I thought this guy was," McDermitt said.
"He certainly gained more confidence throughout his time on the show, and that in itself changes your physical behavior. ... It's been fun to push and explore where he has been able to change."
The actor also touched upon Eugene's quest for love and how it might prove to bite the character in the back.
"He might have been blinded by love, a little bit, [by] the connection he made with Stephanie on the radio," McDermitt said.
"He's not just there for her, although that is a huge component of why he is there. His community is at war, and they are falling, and they need resources, and they need help."
Payton also dropped quite the bombshell during the session:
He thought that The Kingdom would still be in fighting form if it had never allowed Rick Grimes into the settlement.
"Ezekiel should have told Rick to 'Get the hell out. I'm doing just fine without you. Bye,'" Payton said, clearly joking.
"The Kingdom would have been much better off."
If you watch The Walking Dead online, you know Yumiko is one of the newer additions to the series, and she was thrown right into the deep end from the beginning.
"It's like you're thrown in the deep end, and you've all got to make it work and rely on each other," she said of her first scenes, which called for no makeup on her face.
"Those experiences are hard to replicate, but they've definitely changed me because if I can do that, I feel like I can do pretty much anything. I'll go do another job now, and I can't believe that they're putting makeup on me or getting a nice warm chair for me to sit on."
As for Callan, he wondered how his character would be changed had he not fought alongside Negan initially as a member of the Saviors.
"That journey, I'm sure, Alden would consider a misstep when he retraces the timeline of his life," the actor teased.
"It's a testament to the fact that missteps of that type can sometimes lead to very positive places," he further added.
"While it's interesting to think about the different things that he could have done, I like to think that it's all led to him having met these people [from Alexandria]."
Your thoughts on the final season announcement?
Are you ready to say goodbye to these characters?
Hit the comments below.
Catch the premiere tonight at 9/8c on AMC, and return to TV Fanatic for a full interview afterward.
Check out the trailer below.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.