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What it's really like to be a newbie on The Walking Dead - Exclusive

The Walking Dead isn't the kind of show where characters stick around. The zombie outbreak has made the world a harsh place, after all, and The Walking Dead's characters tend not to survive over the long haul. As the series approaches the end of its 10th season, only two members of the original cast remain. Everyone else is either dead or gone.

The show needs to fill all that space somehow, though, and that means restocking with new characters like Callan McAuliffe's Alden. Alden joined The Walking Dead's cast in season eight as a member of Negan's villainous Saviors, and has managed to stick around through the current season (many of Alden's fellow Saviors haven't been so lucky).

Coming into a show so late in its run, especially one as big as The Walking Dead, sounds like it would be frightening. According to McAuliffe, that's not necessarily the case. The Walking Dead's post-apocalyptic landscape might be inhospitable, but its set is surprisingly friendly.

Callan McAuliffe had it easier than some other new cast members

McAuliffe was nervous at first, of course. "It was kind of intimidating to be entering into a world that was so well established and that had been going on for so long, because these people are a family," McAuliffe tells Looper. "It's like I'm the newborn and I'm coming home."

And yet, the rest of the cast welcomed McAuliffe with open arms. "There's no one on that program that I've worked with that was anything less than a stellar human," McAuliffe says. "It was a pretty seamless transition from having nothing to do with the program to being one of the cast members. They made it easy for me."

It helped that Alden didn't have any baggage when he first appeared. Characters like Negan and Michonne were fan favorites before they ever appeared up on screen thanks to their roles in the Walking Dead comic book series. Alden isn't based on an existing character, though, and so McAuliffe's debut didn't carry the same weight. "It's been nice to do what I felt like I ought to do with the character and be unencumbered by the expectations of fans or the expectations of the comic book fans," McAuliffe admits.

Still, it's taking some time for The Walking Dead's producers to trust McAuliffe completely, especially when it comes to the series' infamous plot twists. When he was first cast on the show, McAuliffe was forbidden from telling anyone who he was playing. More recently, he didn't learn about the death of Katelyn Nacon's Enid, who his character Alden was dating, until very late in the game.

"It wasn't too long before we did the deed on set, honestly," McAuliffe says. "That's also because I'm a new guy so no one knows the way of my mind yet. They're hesitating to give me too much in case I spoil something, which I think is wise."

Similarly, McAuliffe hasn't been around long enough to really shape the direction in which his character is going, although that's starting to change. "There's a lot more spear work for me [in the newest episodes], which is something that I insisted on the writers putting in," McAuliffe says, before adding, "I'm not going to have the power to insist, of course, but I really hope that I get to utilize my spear so that it might become something of a trademark of my character."

On The Walking Dead, all things must end

Of course, there's a downside to being a Walking Dead newbie, too: You're expendable. So far, Alden has managed to survive for three seasons, but many of the actors that McAuliffe has worked most closely with are gone. Enid left in season nine's penultimate episode. Siddiq, who was played by Avi Nash and joined just the show one episode before Alden, met his demise just before The Walking Dead's latest mid-season finale.

The loss of beloved characters is rough on the audience. It's hard for the cast, too. "The death of any given character represents the tie you have to the beloved actor and your time with them," McAuliffe explains. "And so even though you're still, in the moment, you're there shooting with them, it's definitely, there's an air of loss. It's a very particular, modern kind of loss."

That's especially true when you spend a lot of time with someone. "[Nacon] was one of the kindest to me on the show and one of the people that made me welcome, and so to know that she was going to be soon departing, I was kind of in a panic," McAuliffe says. "I actually kind of went and wrangled some other people to be my new friends."

Same goes for Nash. "Avi Nash I vibed really well. So he was, alongside people like Katelyn and Ross Marquand, one of my favorites to work with. And having now lost two of the three that I call my favorites, I'm now relying on Ross to stay alive."

As for when Alden's time comes — and on a show like The Walking Dead, it's a matter of when, not if — McAuliffe just hopes it won't be a complete surprise. "I'd like to believe I'd be given notice enough to get my affairs in order, you know?" he says.

So far, so good.

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 PM on AMC.