We anticipated as much, so we rang up executive producer Robert Kirkman to get all the grisly details behind Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) dramatic, devastating death, as well as scoop on what her passing means for her inconsolable next of kin. And yes, we also got to the bottom of the episode’s other major casualty, T-Dog.
TVLINE | How and when did you break the news to Sarah that she was getting killed off?
[Exec producer] Glen Mazzara broke the news to her before we started filming this season. We were in the writers’ room crafting this season and that event was something that had been planning for a while. And as we were telling the story, [Lori's death] just kept getting moved up and moved up, because we wanted to make this season extremely intense and the first few episodes absolutely explosive and jarring. We had to tell her pretty early on because we knew that it was going to be a pretty big deal. It was unfortunate to lose her, but it does so much for all of the other characters; we really thought it was the best route to go. And Sarah was absolutely professional about it. I think all of the actors on this show understand that it’s The Walking Dead, and, unfortunately, anything can happen. Any character can go at any minute.
TVLINE | You mentioned some of the pros related to killing her off sooner rather than later. What were the cons?
I don’t want to go into all the cons because I don’t want to reveal the different things that we can’t do now. But it was something that we put a lot of thought and care into. There were definitely a lot of cons. She was an absolutely integral part of the show. And not having her on the show is somewhat jarring, but that’s what we were going for. There is going to be so much going on with Rick and Carl coming out of this. It’s going to change those characters so much moving forward, which will affect our stories in pretty positive ways as the season progresses. It all seemed worth it.
TVLINE | What does this do to Carl?
Carl really is the central focus of this show. A lot of the show deals with what it is like for a child to be growing up in this world, and having his mother protect him thus far and try to maintain his sense of, “He is a child. We have to keep certain things from him.” That’s deteriorated to a certain extent this season. Having her taken out of the picture completely is really going to radically change how Carl is treated and how he’s going to continue to develop as he grows older in this world — and also growing up in the world where people are dropping around him like flies. Life and death — they have very different meanings for him. He’s going to grow into a radically different human being. It’s one thing to be an adult and thrown into this world and have to realize what’s different, but a child doesn’t really realize what’s different. By the time this kid is 16 he’s not really going to know what his life should have been like; he’s just going to know what’s around him. And that’s going to be very interesting.
TVLINE | I suspect there’s going to be a lot of debate about whether Lori’s wish to sacrifice her own life for her child’s was selfless or selfish. I mean, she’s now saddling Rick with two children in the apocalypse.
I think it’s questionable whether she had a decision. She definitely knew that the chances of her getting out of that alive were slim to none. That’s an extremely dangerous procedure to be performed by Maggie, who doesn’t really have any experience dealing with that kind of thing. She kind of knew from the get-go that the chances of her making it out of there were slim-to-none. She knew the score and acted accordingly.
TVLINE | The smile she shared with Rick in the prison yard – what was the underlying subtext there?
Maybe that was her way of saying goodbye? I definitely think that’s open to interpretation. We definitely wanted to give people the sense that if she had survived, those two would have rekindled their romance and they would’ve gotten over their issues. There was definitely a softening of their relationship that was occurring. We really wanted to give people the sense that if she had only stuck around for a little bit longer everything would’ve been OK. But in the world of The Walking Dead, nothing is going to be OK for very long.
TVLINE | Safe to say her death will accelerate Rick’s descent into darkness?
That’s unavoidable at this point. We’re going to go in some pretty interesting, unexpected directions with him. He’s a guy who has taken on this mantle of leadership and he’s watched as his leadership kind of resulted in death after death after death. And now he’s lost his wife, which he’s definitely going to blame himself for. So, he’s going to be questioning everything now. It’s going to take a big toll on his confidence and his leadership skills at exactly the wrong time, because the Governor and the people of Woodbury are looming on the horizon. That’s a conflict we’re definitely heading for. Now we’ve got a Rick Grimes who is dealing with quite a bit of stuff. He isn’t necessarily going to have the time to focus on this new governor issue as it emerges.
TVLINE | The performances in this episode, particularly from Andrew and Sarah, were astonishing. Were you on the set for this episode? What was the mood?
I wasn’t on set that day, but I will say that entire sequence between Sarah Wayne Callies and Chandler Riggs leading into the scene outside with Andrew Lincoln was so emotional I actually have trouble watching it without tearing up a little bit — and I’ve seen it like a 100 times. I’ve got to hand it to Sang Kyo Kim, who wrote that script, and Guy Ferland, who directed it, and all the actors. They really kind of elevated that material to a crazy degree. It really is to me the best example of this show. It’s a zombie show about these crazy monsters running around trying to eat people, but for it to be so emotional on a strictly human level and really be kind of a tearjerker is just a really cool thing that makes me really proud.
TVLINE | Will we see Lori again? Maybe in a flashback? Or a dream?
I’m not going to say. There may be some snippets [of her]. There could be a flashback eventually. We definitely want to have Sarah Wayne Callies back anytime we can. How that would happen remains to be seen.
TVLINE | The episode claimed another victim — T-Dog. Was it important to you to send him out a hero?
Yeah. That guy’s really stepped it up this season and has really been one of the driving forces in Rick’s crew. To have him go out any other way would’ve seemed like a real tragic loss and it wouldn’t have done the character justice. We felt like it was the best way to send him off.