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The Real Reason Chandler Riggs Left The Walking Dead

Few shows ever have been as ruthless in killing off fan-favorite characters as "The Walking Dead." But even by its standards, the Season 8 death of Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) was shocking. The son of the show's original lead Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Carl still had plenty of comic-based stories left to tell. Ultimately, though, Riggs was axed from "The Walking Dead" not because the actor was ready to leave or the character was out of stories, but because then-showrunner Scott M. Gimple needed to give Rick some motivation to keep Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) around.

Rick's humanity seems to be hanging in the balance as he contemplates killing Negan and the rest of his followers. That all changes when Carl is bitten by a walker and tells his father that he can see a future where all of the survivors live in harmony and happiness — including Negan. As a result of his son's hopes for a future filled with less violence, Rick promises Carl he'll work toward making his dream a reality.

"This was a story turn, that's it," Gimple told The Hollywood Reporter regarding Riggs' departure in 2017. "We did not receive a request [from any actor] or anything like that. This has everything to do with story. It's unbelievably difficult to lose someone you've worked with for as long as we've worked with him. It's been a really tough thing. We're hoping to be telling a story that's worthy of it."

Chandler Riggs was shocked that Carl had been killed off

For Chandler Riggs, finding out that Carl was being killed off the show was a shock. The young actor was planning to start college and had recently purchased a home in Georgia, where the show is filmed, when he received the call. Though he had initially planned on attending college and filming "The Walking Dead" at the same time, his exit caused the actor to take a gap year and pursue new career opportunities instead.

"It was devastating for me and my family because the show has been such a huge part of my life for so long," he told The Hollywood Reporter at the time. "For a few days, we didn't know what to do; I just bought a house in Senoia [near where the show films in Georgia]. That was a big deal that I wouldn't be on anymore. I decided that I wanted to not go to college for at least a year and move to L.A. and focus on acting and music."

Riggs' father also claimed that his son was blindsided by the decision. "Chandler was absolutely devastated," he wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post shared by Insider. "I was disappointed Scott had been dishonest with a 17-year-old making life decisions and waited to tell us."

After The Walking Dead, Riggs found a new TV family

Despite the shock of his departure, Chandler Riggs landed on his feet. In 2019, he joined ABC's drama series "A Million Little Things," which follows a group of adults grappling with the aftermath of their friend's suicide. Riggs' character P.J. believes a member of the group is his real birth father.

In terms of tone, the grounded and heartfelt show seemed a world away from the gritty, zombie-fueled action of "The Walking Dead," and Riggs liked it that way. In a 2019 interview with The New York Post, the actor it was refreshing for him to be part of a cast where he wasn't viewed as the kid who grew up on the show. "In Canada ['AMLT' is filmed in Vancouver] I can go out for some drinks with my castmates and just be an adult," he said. "I'm getting to work with so many professionals that don't see me as just 'the kid on the set' and that's really cool." The drama ended in 2023 after a five-season run, opening Riggs up to even more opportunities going forward.

Chandler Riggs is still a big fan of The Walking Dead

Even though his removal from the show was less than ideal, Chandler Riggs looks back fondly on his time on "The Walking Dead." In September 2020, he responded to the news of the show's then-upcoming final season with a post on X, formerly Twitter, writing, "truly the end of a legendary era in television. i was the biggest fan of the show while i was on it, and will continue to watch until the very end & am so excited to see how it closes."

In a 2023 interview with ComicBookMovie.com, Riggs again emphasized his love for the series. "It was an incredible experience and I'm so lucky to have been on it for so long," he said. "I'm so grateful for everything it gave me over the years." While he acknowledged that Carl's death was difficult to process at the time, he said it also freed him up to explore other creative opportunities, like voicing Superman in the 2023 animated film "Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen, Part One." "I've been able to play other characters and really feel like I'm stepping into being an adult actor," Riggs said. "It was really cool and I'm not bitter about it at all."