AMC’s Carol and Daryl Walking Dead spinoff just lost its leading lady.
Original Walking Dead star Melissa McBride has departed the untitled spinoff set to follow her character alongside frequent onscreen favorite Norman Reedus’ Daryl.
“Melissa McBride has given life to one of the most interesting, real, human and popular characters in The Walking Dead Universe. Unfortunately, she is no longer able to participate in the previously announced spinoff focused on the Daryl Dixon and Carol Peletier characters, which will be set and filmed in Europe this summer and premiere next year. Relocating to Europe became logistically untenable for Melissa at this time. We know fans will be disappointed by this news, but The Walking Dead Universe continues to grow and expand in interesting ways and we very much hope to see Carol again in the near future,” AMC said in a statement Wednesday.
The actress has played Carol since she joined The Walking Dead pilot with a recurring role in season one. The untitled spinoff was picked up in September 2020 with details, including the filming location, yet to be worked out. Sources say McBride, upon learning of the Europe filming location, decided against filming abroad. The Walking Dead The flagship series has filmed in Atlanta for the past decade-plus. Sources say other opportunities for McBride and Carol are being discussed.
Carol and Daryl have been fan favorites on the show from the start. Both characters started as sidenotes but quickly rose to star status as their characters evolved into badass fighters and following a string of cast departures.
AMC, in a move that effectively spoiled the series finale of the flagship, announced a straight-to-series order for the Carol-Daryl spinoff in September 2020. The spinoff is poised to debut in 2023, following the conclusion of the flagship drama’s 11th and final season.
Reedus and McBride inked groundbreaking “franchise/universe” deals with AMC in late 2018. Those multiple-year pacts, the first of their kind for AMC, included sizable pay raises for both stars and covered three years of the franchise as a whole, meaning if their characters are written off of the flagship and relocated to another property in the Walking Dead franchise — ie, their new spinoff — they would continue to get paid.
McBride’s deal, which also included a sizable pay bump, saw the actress score an estimated $20 million over three years. The pacts were described as groundbreaking in that they stretch beyond traditional series/overall deals and allow both Reedus and McBride — who have been regulars since season two when they made $8,500 per episode — to move freely among new projects in the Walking Dead universe as franchise chief Scott M. Gimple charts a course that includes revisiting characters who have come and gone with anything from new series and digital offshoots to miniseries, among others.
“I’ve always enjoyed working so closely with Norman throughout these many seasons. In playing Carol, and as a viewer of the show, I’ve also long been intrigued with ‘Daryl and Carol,’ and by what so early on between them, even then, felt somehow bound,” McBride said in September 2020. Their shared history is long, and each’s own personal fight to survive, even longer — the most obvious aspect of what has kept them close and loyal. But there is also a rather mysterious aspect to their fondness for one another that I enjoy, and their playfulness when the world permits. I’m very curious! Angela has a way of shaking things up in great and unexpected ways. She’s like a kid playing with the dimmer switch! I’m very excited!”
The Walking Dead has seen its fair share of shocking cast departures. McBride’s exit draws parallels to Andrew Lincoln, who starred as the face of the franchise, Rick Grimes, since season one. The star left the series a few seasons ago with plans to topline three feature film spinoffs set in the world of Robert Kirkman’s zombie drama. There’s been no movement on the Universal Pictures features in years.