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The Walking Dead stars on how they feel about ‘surreal’ and ‘rough’ end to long-running show

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It has been 11 years since Rick Grimes opened the doors from his hospital, to discover the world had been taken over by the undead – and that his life would never be the same again.

But now, the long-running show, which had us all wondering just quite how we would fare during a zombie apocalypse, will finally conclude in the coming months after years of love, death, war, peace – and of course stabbing the undead in the head.

Starting life as a comic book, The Walking Dead, which has a death count that could rival Game Of Thrones, has spawned video games, discussion shows and countless spin-off series, and will soon move on to the big screen.

- The Walking Dead _ Season 11 - Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC
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The undead have taken over planet – but they’re not the biggest threat to people. Pic: Josh Stringer/AMC

It showed to audiences that even though walkers (the name given to the undead in the show) ruled a post-apocalyptic earth – humans still remained the biggest threat of all.

Heads up – there will be spoilers below for those not up to date on the goings on in the show up to season 10.

Season 11 sees Maggie leading what is seen as the main group, based at Alexandria and made up of the likes of Carol, Rosita, Daryl and Gabriel, while Ezekiel, Eugene, Princess and Yumiko are being questioned by The Commonwealth, a new community – all while new threats make themselves known.

Lauren Cohan as Maggie, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, Seth Gilliam as Gabriel, Callan McAuliffe as Alden, Glenn Stanton as Frost, Marcus Lewis as Duncan- The Walking Dead _ Season 11 - Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC
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The group will soon be walking towards the series’ conclusion. Pic: Josh Stringer/AMC

One of the longest-standing cast members, Norman Reedus, who plays fan favourite Daryl, told Sky News that ending the show will be “surreal”.

“It’s been such a big part of my life, this show and living out here in Georgia (where the show has been filmed since 2010), I kind of go home to New York on my vacation time.

“So I don’t know. I’m trying not to think about it. I know it’s going to happen.”

Reedus’ Daryl was seen as a lone wolf by many, particularly in the early seasons, but the crossbow-wielding, motorbike-driving hero has since become part of the diverse main group, helping them with battles and scavenging, after becoming close with the now-departed Rick Grimes, played by Andrew Lincoln.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead _ Season 11 - Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC
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Norman Reedus’ Daryl has become a fan favourite. Pic: Josh Stringer/AMC

He says it’s the relationships in the show that keep audiences coming back.

“They’re overlooking each other’s shortcomings, or dealing with each other’s shortcomings and finding things about each other that they find helpful, and I don’t think any one of these characters would have made it this far by themselves,” he explained to Sky News.

“I think it’s only because they’ve come together and learned how to work together… there’s power in numbers.

“They are kind of all part of the conversation, and I think that sort of teamwork is what makes them care about each other, what makes the audience care about them… I think really it’s those relationships – we’re kind of the glue that kept the show together.”

The charismatic Negan was introduced to viewers at the very end of season six, where he threatened to kill a member of the main group – with viewers having to wait a whole year to find out who met their fate at the hands of Lucille – his iconic barbed-wire covered baseball bat.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the man behind the villain everyone loved, said he is now focussed on trying to “f****** get the job done and not cry every day about this ending”.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan in action - killing yet another walker. Pic: Josh Stringer/AMC
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Jeffrey Dean Morgan in action – killing yet another walker. Pic: Josh Stringer/AMC

Morgan told Sky News: “The fact of the matter is, it’s become such an important part and a big part of my life – of anyone involved in this show’s life.

“I put it out of my mind because I don’t want to be sad about it. It’s going to be rough.

“But I’m trying to enjoy it. I think more than anything, I go to work every day and I thank my lucky stars that I was cast in this show.”

But the Negan of then, who ruled over militant dictatorship called the Saviours with an iron (which he used to melt the faces of detractors), is a big departure to what viewers can expect now – with his tail between his legs, (reluctantly) helping the main group feed their families.

He’s now under the command of Maggie, played by British-American actress Lauren Cohan, the woman he widowed when he mercilessly bludgeoned her husband Glenn to death.

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Morgan said: “He is now facing off with Maggie. It’s so different than what I would have been able to do even last year or two years ago, because of the growth and what we got to show.

“It’s so important to be able to do that, especially with what we’re dealing with here – a man who killed this woman’s husband, and we know she wants him dead, and yet he’s the only one questioning her sanity.

“The reason that she is insane is because of him, so it’s a very f****** odd situation to be in, and yet so much fun to play.”

Maggie’s story took her from being part of a tight-knit family from a farm in Georgia, to suffering the loss of those around her and leading an army into war – and now heading the fight for survival.

Lauren Cohan as Maggie - The Walking Dead _ Season 11 - Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC
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Lauren Cohan’s Maggie is now the main group’s leader. Pic: Josh Stringer/AMC

Talking about why fans love the show so much, Cohan told Sky News: “I always feel as a viewer that there is enough mystery – and maybe it’s because in some ways, this isn’t a story that you ever really find the answer to… I think the viewers want to be with us on the journey of catching a break.

“The way that the writers have created all this – that’s the emotion for these people, to be so dependent on one another and to lose and to gain both love and people, and to lose those things it’s compelling.”

Cohan says her character has a “stubborn refusal to be depressed”, and that she takes inspiration from a colleague’s shirt, which says “maybe today, Satan”.

“I think Maggie just gets to a point where she realises that is true – but can’t deal with it right now.

“And these immediate necessities have almost become a gift, because it doesn’t give you the opportunity to dwell for too long on anything but the survival. And in some ways, it keeps you present.”

Seth Gilliam, the actor behind Father Gabriel, the monocular and prophetic priest, who can also wield an automatic machine gun when needed, says the show’s success is down to viewers being able to relate to the different characters and the creativity of the fans.

Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel Stokes - The Walking Dead _ Season 11 - Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC
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Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) is pretty handy with a machine gun. Pic: Josh Stringer/AMC

“I think that there are enough of them to appeal to pretty much every member of the family,” he told Sky News.

“I also think the style of the show lends itself to a lot of at home-play in terms of cosplay or makeup – making yourself into a walker or putting a walker bite on your arm. There are lots of different creative ways that the show inspires you.

“I think that combination of finding a character that you relate to and having some kind of creativity inspired in you, makes it kind of a show that appeals to a wide variety of people and continues to appeal with each passing episode.”

And while Father Gabriel spends his time helping the main group find food and fuel to survive, there is another group who have ended up at a mysterious new settlement – The Commonwealth.

Yumiko, played by British actress Eleanor Matsuura, alongside Eugene, Ezekiel and Princess, begins the new season being questioned by The Commonwealth.

Eleanor Matsuura as Yumiko - The Walking Dead _ Season 11 - Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC
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Eleanor Matsuura (Yumiko) says she feels ‘very, very smug’ about knowing the show’s ending. Pic: Josh Stringer/AMC

Matsuura bragged to Sky News that she knows how the show ends – something she says she’s “very, very smug about” – but added, like her colleagues, she hasn’t had time to “compute” the impending conclusion.

Talking about the show’s success, she calls the world of The Walking Dead “all encompassing and all consuming”.

“You can really get lost in that world,” she added.

“But actually, truly, the thing I love about the show is the connection, the characters, is the stories of human connection, to finding love, finding a lost one.

“The best times in the show is when you’re like, ‘well, what would I do if I was in that situation?’.

“It holds those two things so beautifully – and that’s probably what makes it so beloved by so many people.”

Filming for the final season is ongoing in Georgia, with fans being forced to wait until after the new year to find out what happens to Maggie, Daryl, Negan, Gabriel, Yumiko and the others.

Season 11 of The Walking Dead begins streaming in the UK on Star on Disney+ on 23 August – you can catch up on the rest of the seasons now.

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