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The Walking Dead Actor Talks About His Shocking Return

Contains spoilers for The Walking Dead season 8

Writers for The Walking Dead are tying up one of the show's longest dangling threads.

In the final moments of "The Damned," the second episode of season 8, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) finds himself at the business end of a gun pointed by a long-lost character from the first season: Morales, played by Juan Gabriel Pareja. If your memory is a little fuzzy, Morales was one of the people at the Atlanta campsite when Rick showed up. But when Rick decided to embark on a trip to the CDC, Morales, his wife Miranda and children Eliza and Louis decided to instead leave for Alabama in search of family. It seems that Morales eventually went to Virginia, where he fell in with Negan and the Saviors, and since his family is nowhere to be seen, he may have run into tragedy.

Pareja told Entertainment Weekly that he first heard about a possible return back in April. "I got a call from the casting officers up in Canada reaching out and basically testing the waters to see if there would be any interest on my part to return to the show," he said. "And as I continued as a watcher and a fan of the show, I perhaps a little too eagerly accepted! [Laughs] After they spoke with my reps for a little bit, it was still kind of an up-in-the air thing. It was not a conclusive done deal. It was basically just kind of like, 'Well, maybe in two months we might be giving you a call, we just wanted to see if you would be interested if that were the case.'"

So the actor hit the gym and then got another call two months later. "But I was still very much in the dark about to what capacity and to what degree, so it was just a blind step in that direction," he said.

As for getting back into a role he hasn't played in seven years, Pareja said it wasn't all that difficult because Morales is basically a completely different guy now. "I think in many regards that it is a brand-new character, because as you saw in the episode, the recognition kind of starts to settle into Rick's eyes and he's like, 'Your name is Morales.' The only thing Morales has to say to that is, 'That was a long time ago, buddy.' So he is indeed a different guy, and honestly, even as an actor, there wasn't a whole lot of prep that I could do because I was kept pretty much in the dark myself until it was go time. And then I had to really just learn the material in that way and just make it happen. There's not much I really could have done to prepare for that seven-year transition. It's just a whole new guy altogether."

Pareja couldn't say much about what happened to his character, but he did confirm that we'll find out more in the coming episodes. "We'll definitely learn a little bit of a backstory from Morales and what's been going on with him over the years, and a little bit of what's lead to his transformation and transition into one of Negan's men as a Savior."

We'll probably see more of Morales in the third episode, "Monsters," which airs Nov. 5 on AMC.