The Walking Dead - Melissa McBride as Carol

Exclusive: The Walking Dead's Melissa McBride on the Season 7 finale

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Jan 8, 2019, 11:00 AM EST (Updated)

"It looks like war is coming. And it looks like people are heading to the front lines and we just have to wait and see what happens," actress Melissa McBride, who plays Carol on AMC's The Walking Dead, said in an exclusive interview with Syfy Wire.

With war looming between Rick's troupes and Negan's Saviors on Sunday's Season 7 finale (judging by the previews and clips that have aired), even Carol appears to have been drawn back into the fight. While Carol's had her issues about killing, so much so that she left both Alexandria and the Kingdom to get away from people, Negan may just discover that you don't mess with Carol's friends.

McBride (The Mist, American Gothic) chatted with Syfy Wire about Carol's return to the fight, which character she's most worried about as a viewer and those Walking Dead death dinners.

I'm excited for the season finale and sad all at the same time.

Melissa McBride: I can't believe it's here already. It's really weird. The first half is a little slow, even while we're shooting it. It's like, "When do we get to mid-season?" And then after the mid-season it just flies. It's crazy.

You weren't on a lot of episodes during the first eight.

Yeah, that was real slow (laughs).

It was especially slow for you and Lennie (aka Morgan). But I think things have picked up since then.

But it is weird, though. I mean, no matter how many episodes, it seems like that first half is always ... I guess it's just because we were starting out. It's grueling and it's hot and it's horrible. And in the second half of the season, [it goes by so quickly]. It's done, and you've got to say goodbye to people.

The Walking Dead - Melissa McBride as Carol

What's it like for you when you are not on episodes? Do you have any clue what's going on with the show?

I still get the script, so I know what's happening.

Do you know before you get the script if you're going to be in an episode?

Vaguely. But you take it with a grain of salt, because things can always change. They say, "You may or may not be in this episode."

It's really interesting that Carol has had an evolution over the years, and now she's having a re-evolution, almost. From being an abused wife to losing her child to becoming a protector of those around her. And then she left both Alexandria and the Kingdom in an attempt to go it alone.

I know. It's her pattern. But this one is less superficial. It's not just putting on a sweater ... This one she was just at her end. Like she said there is just nothing left. Going through the days knowing what you've done, and what you're capable of doing if you had to, there was just nothing left. I mean if that is what you have to do, just the death and destruction, [losing your] humanity, everything, not knowing who to trust, knowing that maybe you're just like these people that you're fighting, and trying to protect yourself ... You become the monster. All of that stuff. She just had to go to either save herself or just do away with herself. 

But apparently she didn't move far enough away from the Kingdom. For some reason she's been surprised when everybody keeps showing up.

It was kind of funny I thought, for somebody who just really wants some solace and time to sort through and think about things. And ding dong. Ding dong.

What area your thoughts about the Kingdom?

I like the Kingdom. It's a beautiful place. Just hitting that against the darkness of the world. Going from point A to point B is just so dark, and then all these other groups are infiltrating your space. And then going and killing people in their sleep. The Kingdom is just a paradise.

The Walking Dead - Melissa McBride as Carol

It did appear that the initial attack on the Savior facility and Carol's efforts to save Maggie when they were captured, might have been the breaking point for her. Why wouldn't Carol want to stay in the Kingdom? I think of all the places you could live if I was in that world, the Kingdom is the one I would want to live in.

There's this colorful king and there is music and there are children laughing and running around and that's really beautiful. I don't even think Carol thought she was even worthy of a place like that. Anyway she had work to do on herself.

Now she's back in the fold it looks like. In the previews, we see Carol with the Kingdom group holding a gun and looking ready to go after Negan. I know you can't say much but can you tease us about the finale?

Well, there is certainly the culmination, as you could see in the preview.

Looks like a war is coming.

They have what looks to be like procured guns now for the Alexandrians and Hill Top. It looks like the Kingdom is on board.

And they've got the people from the dump. It appears Rick's got everything lined up now, but we'll see.

What scares me as a viewer is that Eugene is over there in the naughty camp.

Yes he is, that bad boy. I just talked to Josh McDermitt.

You did? What's he doing over there?

He's like why is everybody beating down on Eugene? He's just trying to survive.

I get it. I understand.

Not that Carol has gotten any criticism for her actions.

Exactly. But he's over there directing traffic and moving things along.

The Walking Dead - Melissa McBride as Carol

If Carol does not survive, what do you want to say to fans?

Thank you for watching (laughs) ... I love you ... Thank you for the support. Thank you for rooting for Carol like I did.

And if she does survive, what are your hopes for Carol?

I would say the same things to the fans as well if she did survive (laughs).

It would be nice if she found some peace.

That's my hope for everybody.

Not too soon though. It looks like Carol's got another battle to fight.

You don't have a show if everything's all peaceful. And then something awesome happens and it's all done. And that just can't happen ... It's just so strange to think of a world like that. You've just become so totally immersed. It's everything that Carol was fighting herself against becoming that thing that feels so awful. But it has to be done the one way. Is there really another way? If she's just going to come to the realization that is the only way. And is that some sense of peace? I don't know. All of them sort of carry that battle, that this is the worst humanly thing possible. But there has got to be some beautiful things to make it all worthwhile. There has to be. And I want them to experience that beautiful thing. And that's what keeps them going and going and going.

What has been your biggest challenge this season as an actress?

My biggest challenge this season? I think it certainly would be that you get a momentum going when you're shooting and then it's cut off. And then you wait a couple of episodes and you go back. That's kind of challenging doing that stop and go. But then it's exciting too because there's a lot more story to tell and you have an expanded cast.

It's a big cast now.

You get to go to the set and watch people shooting and stuff, those things that you're not in.

There are basically six communities interacting.

I know. One of the things that was fun was going to set on a day off where you can just mosey around and check out the sets and things like that, and some sets are just monumental. That whole heap set was incredible. That was seriously just mounds and mounds of trash.

The Walking Dead - Melissa McBride as Carol

The garbage set?

The Heapsters.

Oh, the scavenger garbage people.

The trash people (laughs). The Trashsters? I don't know what it's called. Yes, the heaps of the trash. I mean the set is just wondrous to stand there and behold the piles of trash that's on the lot where we shoot. Like where did they get it? Who piled it up? How did they make it so cool and how did they keep it up? It's crazy.

You've got the Heapsters, the Oceanside women. And you've got Negan's Saviors, as well as the Kingdom, Hill Top and Alexandria.

Yes. That's a lot of people. That's a lot of sets, and a lot to shoot. A lot of stories to uncover.

What has surprised you this season, the thing you weren't expecting?

The trash people. They were a surprised. The fact that Eugene's selling into Negan's camp over there.

He drank Negan's Kool-Aid.

Yeah, that's a surprise. It's hard since we've been out of production on the season and I'm trying to remember a lot about it. Even in the finale there's several surprises in this finale coming up. This script, just reading through it, I found myself saying, "What!!! No, no way!!!"

It appears likely we'll lose some characters this week in the finale. When characters die, what's it like for you? There has to be some emotion attached to the deaths.

It has a lot of emotion attached to it. And then also we'll usually get notified ahead of time when that happens. But it always makes just reading the script ... you want it to be good. This better be good. But to lose a cast member and to think that they're not going to be around in that capacity anymore, anyway it's sad. And there's mourning and there's also celebration, personal celebration among us for the one moving on. It's just a celebration that they were with us the whole time that they were and that they're undoubtedly going to do well moving forward with what they do.

I heard that there's a death dinner.

Yeah. It started off in a restaurant and then I think the walls were too thin for the amount of crying that we wanted to do. So we moved it to a safe place where we can emote and we wouldn't have to hold back, and we could really just be able to celebrate that person.

The Walking Dead - Melissa McBride as Carol

When is Carol's time? What thoughts do you have about her dying?

Well, I kind of don't. I mean it's become part of the water. It's not just a bubble in a water. It's just become part of the water that that's going to happen. So I don't necessarily go there. I just don't think about it as much. It's an inevitability, I suppose. My overall general thought is, like everybody else, this just better be good. I don't want to fall through a crack and drop twenty feet to my death. That wouldn't be fine.  

It's got to be a worthy death. A chance to save everybody or something.

Yeah. I just hope she doesn't trip and fall. That's all. She saves somebody and she's all happy and then something happens, but she didn't have her eyes open.

I hope at some point Carol finds happiness. In some ways I think she's had the toughest road of all of them.

If everybody were happy this would just be a totally different show.

Yes, it would.

I kind of like the show.

It would be nice if she could be have a little peace though.

What I want is hard, tough, horrifying challenges ahead. That makes it interesting. With something beautiful in between. That makes it all worthwhile.

Do you have anything else coming up you wanted to talk about?

Nope (laughs). I may take a nap in about five minutes. We can talk about that.

Here's a look at Sunday's extended finale, which airs at 9PM on AMC.