Walking Dead Exclusive: The Actor at the Center of the Season Finale's Tragic Death Speaks Out — 'It Was a Shock to Everyone'
Warning: If you have yet to watch Sunday’s Walking Dead finale, steer clear of the following post mortem. And we repeat: If you have yet to watch Sunday’s Walking Dead finale, steer clear of the following post mortem. Everyone else, you have permission to proceed…
This was more than just another one bites the dust.
Sunday’s Walking Dead season ender not only marked the final episode for original cast member Laurie Holden, it served as a dramatic climax for her character, Andrea, whose Season 3 arc proved to be among the show’s most polarizing. (Why didn’t she kill the Governor when she had chance after chance!)?
In the following exclusive interview with TVLine, Holden — who deftly drove the role from tough to suicidal and back — addresses some of the specific criticism leveled against her ill-fated alter ego, shares her thoughts on her sad send-off (a self-inflicted bullet to the brain), and reveals when she learned that the end was nigh (hint: not that long ago!).
TVLINE | How long have you known about Andrea’s death?
I didn’t get the official word until a few days before we began [shooting] the finale. It was a shock to everyone. It was never part of the original story docs for Season 3. And it was rather unexpected. That said, this is The Walking Dead. This show is not conventional by any means — and we know that as actors going in. So you roll with it. You show up, you do the best job you can, and you honor the storytelling. Overall, this has been an extraordinary experience and I just feel so blessed to have been a part of it.
TVLINE | Do you know why the decision was made to kill her now?
Honestly, I feel like it’s story-driven. It does propel the story forward… The [second half of Season 3] was a bit of a free-for-all. It had an organic fluidity to it and it just naturally unfolded day-by-day, week-by-week, moment-to-moment.
TVLINE | Andrea has taken some heat from fans this season for, among other things, sticking by the Governor’s side for so long. What do you make of the criticism?
I think when people watch the [entire] season — especially the finale — that her trajectory will be clear. She was a woman caught between two worlds. All she wanted was peace. She was for the people and was willing to do anything and everything possible even if it meant sacrificing herself to preserve humanity and keep the people alive. At times her actions were a bit misunderstood or ambiguous. But when you see the season overall I think people will really understand this girl. She did the best she could. And I do feel there was a sense of closure, healing and completion. The people of Woodbury did reach a sanctuary. No one in the prison was killed. Rick was finally set free from the ghosts of his past. And Andrea died in the arms of her best friends surrounded by the people she loved. She wasn’t cannibalized. She didn’t turn. She was able to go out with a certain amount of dignity. Her last dying wish was to end it herself and she was granted that. And by the grace of God she’s now going to be with her sister. And Dale.
TVLINE | Do you think she died a hero? A martyr?
That’s not my place to say. I’d like to think Andrea’s death will have meaning. That what she stood for and believed in will continue to resonate in the hearts and minds of the people she left behind, because we all learn and grow from one another. I do love that the finale ended [with a shot of] a cross, because I feel that it’s a time for new beginnings and a spiritual awakening. Let the healing begin.
TVLINE | Milton’s exchange with Andrea in the finale felt very meta, because in many ways he was asking her the same questions fans have been asking all season: Why did she choose to stay with the Governor, why didn’t she kill him when she had the chance…
I am so grateful for how that [scene] was written. It was written by [new Season 4 showrunner] Scott Gimple. I feel like there is complete closure and resolution with the character, and any questions the fans had have now been answered. It couldn’t have been a better ending in terms of really understanding her past.
TVLINE | She kept coming back to the same refrain — “I wanted to save everyone,” “I didn’t want there to be any death.”
Since [around] Episode 9 — when the Governor pit [Merle and Daryl] against each other, and then when [Andrea] went to the prison and found out about all the insane things he had been doing — her whole modus operandi from that point forward was, “How can I make sure that these people stay alive? How can I bring about peace?” She was a human rights lawyer prior to the apocalypse; she’s not a killer. She’s never killed a human being in her life. She’s killed a lot of zombies. I think fans who were unhappy with the fact that she wasn’t able to follow through on killing [the Governor] when she was standing over the bed [with the knife], have to understand that that was a moral dilemma within her. She believed in humanity. She believed that, “OK, there’s got to be a better way.” And she was successful. There was a peace conference. Yes, it went south, but she was able to put that together. She was always trying. And there’s something to be said for that. And listen, at the end of the day, she was the casualty of war. I feel like she did not die in vain.
TVLINE | Was the final sequence between Andrea and Michonne as emotional to shoot as it was to watch?
Yes. [Sighs] Yes. [Long pause] You have to understand — we all love each other. We’ve been working on location in the backwoods of Georgia for the last few years. We’ve become a family. It’s very hard to say good-bye… I just love how it was written. I love that Andrea was able to ask for a gun and take matters into her own hands. I love that she was able to say, “I know how the safety works” — she came full circle from Season 1 with Rick. And I love that there was a healing and a closure between these two women who loved each other so much.
TVLINE | It made me want to see more flashbacks to the time Andrea and Michonne were on the run together. Are you sad there wasn’t more time spent showing the beginnings of that relationship?
It’s not up to me, you know? I’m the actor. I do what I’m told. The writers are the ones in charge of the storylines. And they write the scenes. Woulda, shoulda, coulda. Do I wish we could’ve seen and explored more of the comic-book-Robert-Kirkman Andrea? Yes. Absolutely. Do I wish that I had more scenes with Michonne showing that friendship? Yes. Absolutely. But at the end of the day, I don’t think I could ask for a better death. I feel like her life mattered, and she died trying, and her heart was in the right place. I feel grateful for that. You can’t have it all.
TVLINE | I was a little surprised the Governor made it out of the episode alive. Are you, as a fan of the show, looking forward to seeing him get his comeuppance?
I think that’s inevitable. The man has crossed into such evil, dark territory that there is no redemption for him — ever. But this is the nature of our show. This is why it’s so popular. I think everyone assumed that I would be saved from the torture chamber, that I would kill the Governor, and it would be a big happy ending. But we don’t do that on The Walking Dead. And, at the end of the day, all Andrea wanted was to get back to her family and to make sure that the people didn’t die — the people in Woodbury and the people in prison. And she accomplished that. And if it meant that she had to go down to make that happen so be it.
TVLINE | Will you watch the show moving forward?
I don’t watch the show now. Andy Lincoln (Rick) doesn’t watch the show. When we’re shooting it we’re so invested. It’s every moment of our lives, 18 hours a day. It’s necessary to separate. I think in time I will be able to go back and watch. Because I do love the people I work with. The cast and crew are the best people I’ve ever known, and I want to see their beautiful work and I want to see their journeys. That said… [Sighs]… I guess I’m like an audience member now. [Pauses] I don’t want to see any more people that I love die. [Laughs] Maybe I’d rather live in the dark.
TVLINE | Any chance we might see Andrea again – either as a ghost or vision like Lori or in a flashback?
Anything’s possible. Who knows what they have up their sleeve? There may be scenes of Andrea and Michonne that the audience wanted to see. You may see more of renegade-Robert-Kirkman-badass-Andrea.
TVLINE | What’s next for you?
Legally, I haven’t been able to procure work. Come Monday, I am a free agent. I’m excited about the future and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.
TVLINE | Any final thoughts?
Just that it’s not up to me to tell the audience how they should feel about this finale. I loved playing this character; I had the time of my life. I’m so grateful as an artist that I was able to be a part of this, and to tell this tale. But whether she was a hero or a martyr is not up to me. That’s up to the viewers to decide. At the end of the day I feel like she was just a gal who did the best she could. She tried.