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‘The Walking Dead’ Stars Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira Explain Spinoff’s “Amazingly Emotional” Ending

[This story contains major spoilers for The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live finale.]

And the ones who lived lived happily ever after. The end.

For now.

The six-episode limited series The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live has reached its conclusion, bringing the story of Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes and Danai Gurira’s Michonne to a close, if only for the time being. Heading into the reunion series, there was little doubt Rick and Michonne would join together again and kick staggering amounts of butt along the way. Would they survive said butt-kickings? Another question entirely. But the Ones Who Live finale answered that concern with a resounding victory from Rick and Michonne, who not only stop the villainous CRM from waging war against an innocent city, but managed to do it all with time to get back to their family in Alexandria.

“I think it was very clear we needed [to survive] the epic journey,” Gurira tells The Hollywood Reporter about the season’s happy ending. “It couldn’t be easy, but that was always where they needed to land.”

Many elements of The Ones Who Live changed along the way, including its transformation from film trilogy to limited TV series.

According to executive producer and franchise mastermind Scott Gimple, however, the finished product is very different from what was initially imagined for the unproduced Rick Grimes movies. But the happy ending for Rick, Michonne and the Grimes family was never in doubt.

“I don’t think that was ever on the table,” Gimple says about any conversations about killing Rick and Michonne. “I think we knew our end point. It was the journey on how to get to that end point and really how they save each other even after they find each other, and how they turn each other around from certain places they’ve gone in their identities, which in some ways is a beautiful love story. When people do that for each other, they might have found each other physically, but they need to find each other even within each other.”

“We wouldn’t do that,” adds Lincoln. “That would be cruel. Besides, it’s going to take more than six episodes to kill me.”

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes


Big words from the so-called “Brave Man,” as Rick came to be known throughout Alexandria after his presumed “death” in season nine. In the final minutes, the Brave Man returns home, and reunites with his children, Judith and RJ, with actors Cailey Fleming and Antony Azor reprising their roles from the original series.

“We wanted it to feel like a dream come true,” says Gurira. “You can’t say there’s just never going to be happy moments in this world. There will be, and this is one of them. The characters have gone through hell and high water getting to that moment.” 

“It was lovely,” Lincoln says, remembering the day of shooting, in which he worked with his onscreen kids for the very first time. “It was this brilliant afternoon of reunions, and finding a very intimate, simple, direct scene, hopefully emotional. And it was amazingly emotional.”

While Rick and Michonne are alive and well for now, there’s reason to wonder if they’ll stay that way. While all three of Lincoln, Gurira and Gimple stopped short of confirming plans for future collaborations, the ending of The Ones Who Live leaves that possibility wide open.

After all, what’s going to happen when Rick finds out Daryl and Negan are out there in the universe?

“That’s very astute, and something we spoke at length about,” says Lincoln. “There are a few surviving personalities still in the universe, and it would be extraordinary to have them all breathe the same air at some point. It could be an absolutely tremendous, traumatic reunion of sorts.”

Danai Gurira’s Michonne


Rick and Michonne aside, Gimple believes there are still many story opportunities in the Walking Dead universe. The Ones Who Live resolved large aspects of the CRM storyline that first took root all the way back in the flagship series’ seventh season. Are there any other similarly planted seeds fans should be looking out for now?

“What I’ll say is, I cook up my own dreams and fan fiction and we see whether it happens,” says Gimple. “But we have a track record of dreams becoming realities. This show was a dream. I think of the Willy Wonka line: ‘This is where my dreams become realities and some of my realities become dreams.’ I don’t think it’s a crazy thing if that happened and we really are gratified with the reaction to the show.”

Whatever the future holds, whether it involves Rick and Michonne, all parties involved agree their next steps within the Walking Dead universe all revolve around the same central need: compelling character-driven storytelling.

“There’s something really so satisfying about this character and what I’ve been able to do with her over the years,” says Gurira. “I know it’s not all the time that you get these sort of characters and the way the writing has allowed her to evolve as a person and come to a whole different place than where she was when we met her in season three. And so that is something I’m really deeply grateful for. And honestly, genuinely at the end of this, I was happy for her. I was just really happy for my character. She’s been through it and her risks and her gumption and her courage have paid off and I love that for her as a character. What’s in the future? I cannot speak to that. But I’m very thankful for the journey that she’s had so far.”

Head here for a refresher on Rick and Michonne’s story.

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