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The Walking Dead adds new character relationships, new characters in final season

The creatives behind AMC’s flagship series prepare fans for the end at Comic-Con

Lauren Cohan as Maggie in The Walking Dead Season 11 Photo: Josh Stringer/AMC

As The Walking Dead moves into its final season, it has one last opportunity to adapt characters and storylines from Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore’s graphic novel series and have them interact with the already complicated lives of the survivors we’ve known on screen for almost 12 years. For those familiar with the source material that means arriving to The Commonwealth. And while the 2021 San Diego Comic-Con panel for The Walking Dead did not reveal too much about how or when The Commonwealth will factor into the AMC series’ final season, it did give comic readers an idea of which new characters they can look forward to seeing from the page on the screen.

Earlier in the year, actor Michael James Shaw was cast as Mercer, a chief officer of The Commonwealth. “This experience has been a joy,” Shaw said during the panel. “[As an] awkward kid who loved to read comic books, getting to step into the shoes of a really awesome comic book character is just a dream.”

During the brief SDCC panel, showrunner Angela Kang announced three new actors for the final season as well. Laila Robbins (The Boys) will be playing Pamela Milton, another key character from the Commonwealth arc in The Walking Dead comics. She’s the Governor of the Commonwealth, in fact, and one of the last antagonists in the series as a whole.

Ritchie Coster (The Flight Attendant) is joining in an as-yet unnamed role. His character may be associated with The Commonwealth, but he could also be one of the Reapers — the antagonistic group following Maggie at the end of season 10. Kang teased that the Reapers as killers were “skilled before the apocalypse” and “incredibly brutal organized warriors,” which is frankly terrifying.

Particularly tantalizing is the news that Josh Hamilton (Eighth Grade) will be playing Commonwealth administrator Lance Hornsby from the comics. The exclusive SDCC TWD trailer gave fans a first look at Hamilton in character via some vintage-looking video footage that will calls to mind Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) in Wonder Woman 1984. Whatever this version of the character’s deal is, it’s already fascinating. However, while his vain and smiling disposition in the trailer makes it seem like he’s poised to be The Walking Dead’s latest charismatic villain, that’s not necessarily the case. If the character is anything like he is in the comics, he’s in a leadership position, but he’s not in charge or anything worse than unlikeable. Punchable, maybe.

Josh Hamilton as Lance Hornsby in Walking Dead season 11 Image: AMC

Kang also mentioned that Margot Bingham (She’s Gotta Have It), whose voice we’ve heard as Stephanie talking to Eugene over the radio for a while now, will be joining the series in a larger capacity. But Kang curiously didn’t call her Stephanie — she went out of her way to not say who Bingham is playing, in fact. That may just be an attempt to shield fans from spoilers, but it’s interesting. Josh McDermitt also talked about how Eugene’s trust in Stephanie might be cracking after he took a group to look for her and soldiers (presumably from The Commonwealth) separated and imprisoned them at the end of season 10. Any hope for a romance between the two characters won’t be without conflict.

Those two characters aren’t the only ones in an “awkward place,” per moderator Chris Hardwick, when we pick up in the final season. Carol and Daryl had a pretty major fight, and might still be working things out. Yumiko and Princess will be an interesting new dynamic to watch. “Yumiko’s very organized,” says Eleanor Matsuura who plays Miko, “she leads a lot with her head. And Princess is all heart.” They found a sisterly bond in that balance. And of course, the tension between Maggie and Negan is “the whole season,” according to Lauren Cohan. “If there’s a feeling to be had,” she said, “we’re probably going to spend some time on that feeling.”

The Walking Dead is going for broke in the final season, and that means big emotions just as much as Big Bads. Kang concluded the panel by talking about not what’s going to happen, but how all of the actors made her feel. How many of them made her cry. How they’ve dazzled her, made her laugh, made her gasp, or whatever emotion it is when you go “ohhhh sh*t” — that one was reserved for Cohan as Maggie. The fact that interesting new characters are being added to this rich, lived-in cast and fictional world is just icing.

The final season of The Walking Dead will premiere on AMC on Aug. 22 and will be available to stream early starting Aug. 15 on AMC Plus.