- Warning: There are major spoilers ahead for season 11, episode nine of “The Walking Dead.”
- Callan McAuliffe spoke with Insider about his final episode of “TWD” as Alden.
- We discussed the final season, his next two movies, and pondered how old Alden was supposed to be.
Callan McAuliffe knew when he saw the skull and crossbones pop up on his phone next to the name Angela Kang that it likely meant his time on “The Walking Dead” was over.
“I lasted on the show much longer than I thought I was gonna,” McAuliffe told Insider recently of receiving the ominous phone call from “TWD” showrunner to learn his character was getting killed off the series.
On Sunday’s premiere, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) returned to an abandoned church to discover McAuliffe’s character, Alden, turned into one of the undead.
We had last seen a heavily wounded Alden on season 11, episode three.
“I’d kind of always been quietly anticipating that the call would come,” McAuliffe said of not being too surprised. “I think, like a lot of the cast members on the show, I had Angela’s number saved with a skull and crossbones on it.”
“She’d actually called me a few times. That fear had been diluted over the years,” McAuliffe added. “When [the time] finally came, I was like, ‘Oh, I guess that seems about right.’ I had a good run.”
McAuliffe played the former Savior since the show’s eighth season. After meeting Maggie, he was inspired to join her Hilltop community, later becoming a trusted member of the group as a blacksmith and adoptive father to baby Adam.
Insider spoke with McAuliffe by phone as he spent a chilly day in his Manhattan dwelling. At the time, McAuliffe hadn’t seen his death episode of “TWD” (he doesn’t watch the show).
We reminisced about his time on the apocalypse drama, how his death scene was brought to life (and the details you may not have noticed on Sunday’s episode), what Alden’s real age was on “TWD,” and how he wouldn’t mind being a part of Amazon’s “The Lord of the Rings” prequel series (even if it’s “atrocious”). After nearly an hour, we may have even convinced McAuliffe to tune in to an episode of “TWD.”
McAuliffe has known for a while that he was getting killed off ‘The Walking Dead’
Insider: I had a feeling when Maggie and Negan locked you up in that church early in the season that that might be the last time we see Alden. I wasn’t feeling good going into the episode. When did you find out that your time on “The Walking Dead” was coming to a close? Was this during the pandemic or have you known for a long time?
McAuliffe: I knew for a little while. They’re usually pretty courteous about the time they give you. I knew for a chunk of time.
But, it’s been funny to seeing fan theories float around. There’s a few people who came pretty close very early on. I have a pretty contentious relationship with “The Walking Dead” fan base on Twitter so I think a lot of people will be quite excited.
I’m curious, what theories were you seeing? I’m wondering if they’re a little different than what I had seen.
The main one that I saw floating around a lot was that I’d be strung up on the cross that the camera focused on so many times in that sequence. So I’m glad to have beaten the predictions there.
It may not have been obvious, but both of Alden’s legs are broken and his throat was slit by the Reapers on the premiere.
You haven’t seen the episode, but we never get to see what happened to Alden after Maggie and Negan left. We just see —
I don’t know that it’s much of a mystery. I got pretty grievously wounded.
Well, I was going to ask because when Maggie arrives on the scene, she has to kill some another walker that’s inside the church before she finds Alden. So I wasn’t sure if…
Certainly. I like to think that by some miracle, Alden mustered a final burst of energy and managed to, despite some 20 to 30 debilitating, and likely mortal, belly stab wounds, he managed to take a full-strength Reaper out with him, which, f that’s not evidence of the virtues of his character, I don’t know what is.
OK. I assumed he succumbed to his wounds, but I didn’t know if you had a theory or if Angela had told you exactly how Alden had died.
There were certain wounds that I had on the day, namely the one that was making me crawl and the one that was making me not moan so much. Actually, that’s a question for you. Do I do the walker hiss/moan thing?
You do make a groaning noise.
OK. On the day [of filming], we had a throat slit prosthetic and both of my legs are broken, which is why I’m crawling.
So, plainly enough, though I was either dead or near enough to dead when the reapers stumbled upon me in the church, but they saw fit to break both my legs and cut my throat because they decided I hadn’t been harmed enough.
Was Alden originally supposed to be a version of Dante from the comics and be a love interest for Maggie instead of Enid?
I thought that it was nice that you were able to come full circle with Maggie. I’ve been curious for a few years, were there ever talks or was there any consideration to pair Maggie and Alden together?
I ask this for two reasons. When you had first been cast, I always thought Alden was going to become some sort of remix Dante from the comics who eventually has a relationship with Maggie.
I heard a lot of that.
Then, a while back, Katelyn Nacon [who played Enid] told me she was caught off-guard by the Enid/Alden relationship because she also thought that you and Maggie were supposed to be paired off at some point. But then Lauren Cohan left the show for a bit and maybe that changed. Is there truth to any of that?
I wouldn’t be surprised, though I was never fully filled in. Especially when I first joined the show, it wasn’t fully necessary to give me every character arc because who knows how long I was gonna be there.
I wouldn’t have minded. That would’ve been an interesting storyline to pursue, but I have no confirmation for you there, I’m afraid.
I thought that Alden sharing his final scene with Maggie was a little Easter egg to something that never came to pass on the show.
Maggie mourns Alden’s death on “TWD.”
I remember when we shot it, I die on her lap, correct?
That’s super irresponsible of her. I’m a zombie.
But she manages to put me out pretty well. That director, Jon Amil, he was wonderful. He wanted to invest that moment with a little more humanity than perhaps is typical of the walkers… It’s like they gave the last light in my eyes a moment on the day to kind of make it even more grim for Maggie. Then I die peacefully on her lap in a kind of a maternal way.
McAuliffe was driving when he learned season 11 would be the show’s last.
Alden, on season nine of “TWD.”
Jackson Lee Davis/AMC
Do you remember where you were when you learned season 11 would be the show’s last and what your reaction was to the news?
I was on the road in Atlanta driving. Both Angela and [“TWD” chief] Scott [Gimple] called me on the phone to tell me and it was quite a lovely conversation we had.
I don’t remember exactly how I felt, but I suppose a part of me was saddened for all the fans who would digest this to the ends of time, I’m sure given the opportunity. Part of me is also, like, “Good things must come to at end.” I’m glad that they have an opportunity to close it out with some fire.
I caught up with Ross [Marquand] and he mentioned they were talking plans for season 12 and beyond. I always figured 12, at least. I was sure that it came as a shock to many people.
I’m sure it did as well, but there was so many convoluted factors in that year. It’s wonderful that we got to get another season out of it, regardless.
I felt super lucky to be working during parts of the pandemic. Once all of the requisite COVID protocols had been satisfied for a show of that scale and we knew everyone was being responsible, it was cool to just be working. I know so many people had a hard time with the pandemic and I got to do what I loved for the back end of it. It’s a miracle really.
I would’ve kept going because I loved the family and the show’s been very kind to me, but also, good stories have endings.
McAuliffe says the Alden and Enid relationship probably wasn’t the smartest idea.
When you look back at your time on the show, is there anything with Alden that you wish you could redo or that you would’ve liked to play out differently?
I’m pretty happy with all the stuff I did. As an actor, sometimes it’s impossible not to become a perfectionist because whenever you watch your own stuff, there’s infinite ways it could have been done, and not always better, but you think it might have been better. That unknown is paralyzing.
I’m getting better at just being satisfied with my knowledge that I’ve been doing it long enough that even my lesser instincts usually bring out something fine. I’m getting better about just being comfortable with that part of myself.
Did you mean with the story? Is there anything I would’ve done different?
Yeah. For instance, Jeffrey Dean Morgan mentioned how Negan probably shouldn’t have killed Glenn.
My mistake in so far as that goes is probably dating Enid just because, obviously, she was tied to a beloved character that was before my time. I don’t know if that was the smartest PR move.
This is when I had spoken with Nacon. I knew people were going to be concerned with how old Alden may be and their age difference. I think we figured that Alden was supposed to be about 29 and Enid 22 or 23.
After we’ve done the time jump, and I get a little confused about the timeline sometimes because I haven’t dwelled on it, but after we did the time jump I think I was in my thirties.
Yeah… that’s what we were trying to figure out.
[McAuliffe laughs] Maybe it’s a young 30s. I won’t speak anymore there.
No, Katelyn had said he was 29.
Yeah, you know what? Let’s go with it. Why not make it 27?
If it makes you feel better, when you Google how old Alden is after the time jump, it links to something I wrote and it says that you’re 29.
Oh really? Well, thank you very much.
If you want to correct that to be a much worse result for this interview, feel free. That’d be hilarious.
How much Twitter drama do you want to cause?
[jokingly] You know what? I think Alden is 40.
I furrow my brow a lot and I do some squinting. I think in certain light from certain angles I can look upper 30s.
McAuliffe doesn’t watch ‘TWD,’ but he’ll probably watch the series finale.
Alden on season 11, episode one of “TWD.”
Was there ever anything of yours that was cut from the show that maybe you were frustrated by or that you wished was explored a little bit more?
There may have been, but there was so much time between the shoot phase for me sometimes in the order of weeks to months that I don’t recall all of the things that I shot. The only things that I do recall are the things that have been shown to me.
Do you not watch the full episodes? Do you just watch clips?
I don’t watch the show. It’s the same thing we were talking about before. I think it would probably do me harm to watch the show. I don’t want to have to judge myself. But I keep abreast of all the going on with friends and fans and things like that.
I don’t recall something that I shot that didn’t make it. There definitely was something. I remember thinking, “Oh, that didn’t make it,” but I don’t know what it was.
Well, if you don’t wind up watching your death scene, it was done well.
I’ll probably watch that cause it’s my last fucking thing, you know?
I was going to ask you if you were planning to watch the finale and see how it all ends, but —
I think I’ll watch the show finale. I don’t know that I’ll watch mine. I’ll watch my scene.
McAuliffe would love to work with some of ‘The Walking Dead’ cast again or be a part of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequel show on Amazon.
Now that you’re not on set with everyone, do you stay in touch with anyone? Do you have a group chat?
I do. You can’t go four years on a program, even if you’re hard at work, without making some dear friends. I like to think if anyone from the show, especially those with whom I regularly worked, wanted to do something again with me, I’d be more than happy to.
It was a family before I got there. Initially, you can’t help but it feel like you’re kind of invading something personal, but they very quickly diffused me of that notion. I really felt like a part of it. Honestly, everyone is wonderful, but I’m particular friends with Ross, Cassidy [McClincy], Cooper [Andrews] and those guys just because I worked with them a little more.
So many of “TWD” cast have moved on to Marvel. Is that of interest to you at all? I mean, it looks like you’re a big “Lord of the Rings” fan from what I’ve seen.
I am. My Instagram handle is McBombadil. Tom Bombadil, from the books, is my favorite nonsensical character.
[Marvel] I certainly wouldn’t pass up an opportunity, I don’t think, if it was well written. I’d sooner be in something “Lord of the Rings” related, as you say. I’m cautiously hopeful about the Amazon series.
I got to say the pictures look a little crisp. Did you look at the pictures and the release?
I have. It’s supposed to be the most expensive TV show ever made.
It’s outrageous. I didn’t get that sense from those pictures. The armor looks beautiful… I think this is mostly a fault of modern photography and how clean it often looks. It didn’t look exactly how I was hoping it would, but… I’m still very excited.
It’s hard not to be excited with the amount of money that’s being poured into that thing. Even if it’s atrocious, it will be bombastically atrocious. So long as it doesn’t destroy the legacy of the thing I love most in this world, and I won’t pretend that I’m not quietly upset that “Lord of the Rings” is mainstream again. As long as it doesn’t destroy the legacy of one of humanity’s greatest achievements, second, perhaps only to the moon landing, I’ll be OK with it.
What’s after ‘TWD’? McAuliffe worked on two movies he’s excited about.
What have you been doing since your time on “The Walking Dead” ended? What do you have lined up next? Is there anything you can tease?
Some buddies of mine, dear friends, did a movie during the pandemic, which is one of the favorite things I’ve shot to date. I haven’t seen it yet, but I have very high expectations for it. It’s called “The Duel” at the moment. I don’t know if that title will change. It’s got some heavy hitters in it and we had a hell of a time in Indiana. It’s one of my favorite scripts that I’ve gotten to work on.
Then, there’s another movie called “Him and Her,” which we’ve tentatively shown to some folks. I can’t really say too much about it, but that’s hopefully gonna see the light of day sometime soon. I’m very proud of that, too. It was a very ambitious project just in terms of how it was shot.
Before I let you go, is there anything I didn’t ask you about that you want to mention or any message you have for fans?
So far as Cons are concerned, I’d love to do another one.
But, I guess just general gratitude for making space in their heads for Alden. I’ve had a lot of people come up and tell me, inexplicably, that he’s their favorite character. Those people have been just wonderful. They see me on the street and they approach me like, “By the way, Alden changed my life.”
It’s powerful stuff.
Because Alden is so incorruptible of heart, I think a lot of people find him [to be] a beacon of hope, which I’m obviously honored to kind of represent. There have been some really wonderful sentiments expressed to me about how Alden’s made people feel. I’m mostly just grateful that fans let me be a part of it.
He’s a new kid on the block and kind of turns up and suddenly he’s a series regular out of nowhere. You don’t know what he’s about or what he’s for… People still got invested in where he was going and who he was interacting with and I do feel like that requires a certain leniency on part of the longtime fans for that to happen. You have your main crew and then the fucking green Power Ranger comes along with his dragon flute and they go, “What’s going on here?” But, they made time for him. I was pretty shocked.
You can follow along with our “TWD” coverage all season long here. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.