'Walking Dead' Season 3 interview: Chandler Riggs talks Carl's grown-up new role

Chandler-Riggs-Carl-hat-Walking-Dead-AMC.jpgImagine being a 13-year-old actor who gets paid to fight zombies. Sounds like a blast to us, and Chandler Riggs -- who plays Carl on "The Walking Dead" -- says it's just as much fun as it looks.

In the first two seasons, Carl was often portrayed as a victim or a source of anxiety for his parents Rick ( Andrew Lincoln) and Lori Grimes ( Sarah Wayne Callies) who were desperately trying to keep him safe in a world overrun by flesh-eating walkers. But Carl's not so innocent anymore. His friend and only peer, Sophia ( Madison Lintz), was tragically killed by walkers last season. Then Carl put a bullet in the head of surrogate father figure Shane ( Jon Bernthal), when he turned into a walker.

Season 3 picks up several months after the Season 2 finale, and everyone in the group -- including Carl -- is instrumental in battling walkers and overtaking a massive prison to use as a new shelter now that Hershel ( Scott Wilson) has lost his farm.

We spoke with Riggs about what's ahead for Carl this season on "The Walking Dead."

What's the biggest change for Carl in Season 3?
Chandler Riggs:
[The end of Season 2] was when we first saw him move toward being part of the group. In Season 3 he's definitely grown up a lot more. It's been seven months [between the end of Season 2 and start of Season 3]. They've done a lot of target practice, tactical training, things like that. He's not even close to being afraid of killing a walker. In episode 8, I actually shot a gun for the first time.

There's just no way Carl can be a 'normal' kid hanging out with a bunch of adults in a world full of walkers, right?
Yeah, he's forced to be an adult. He's lost the only kid left [when Sophia died]. The last kid he saw was eight months ago. That's hard for him.

How is Carl's relationship with his parents this season?
He still feels really betrayed by his mom because he found out about the affair [with Shane]. He's really detached from his mom and he doesn't really like her anymore.

But he's still supportive of his dad. Rick goes to some really dark places this season, do you think it's good that Carl is looking up to him?
I think so. He has someone to look up to. [Rick] only does what he needs to do for the group. He does whatever he needs to to keep the group safe. If he feels like it's a threat, he takes it out. That's the best he can do.

How is it working on the prison set? All the actors say it's pretty incredible.
It's built on the outside of the sound stages, and the inside is the interior of the prison. I think it's really, really cool how they do all that stuff. The bricks look so real. It's amazing. It really helps [the performance].

Do you have a favorite zombie from the show?
In Season 1, you know the one with the missing jaw and the tongue hanging out? It was a lot more gross in person than it was on television. Madison Lintz, who played Sophia, we were at lunch one day and she had this big piece of chocolate cake. She just sat down with it and the zombie walked in. She looked over [at the zombie] and she looked at the cake and said 'I can't eat this!' She was really sensitive to blood and stuff. That was one of the grossest zombies I've seen so far. And in the [third season premiere] when they rip off the mask of the zombie in riot gear, I didn't see it in person but I saw it in the episode. That was gross!

So you watch all the episodes?
I do. It's funny because a lot of the other actors don't watch them. Sarah Wayne Callies doesn't watch them until the season's over. Scott Wilson does the same. Danai [Gurira] is thinking about doing that but she doesn't know yet. Andrew Lincoln doesn't watch them at all. It's cool, he doesn't have to watch the show to love it.

It's a fun show to watch though...
It is! So much fun!

Do you read the comics too?
I do. I'm up to eighty-something, but I know what happens in 100...

Chandler-Riggs-Carl-gun-Walking-Dead-AMC.jpg We won't spoil that for people who don't know! Have you had a chance to work with new cast members Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne, and David Morrissey, who plays The Governor, yet?
I haven't been able to work with David yet, but I have gotten to do a lot of things with Danai. She's super nice, really really nice. She's nothing like her character. She's great to talk to.

Are they any actors on the show you wish you could work with more?
Laurie Holden, who plays Andrea. She's an amazing actress. I'd really like to work with her a lot more. She's a super nice person.

How did you find out about last season's big reveal that Sophia was a zombie, and what did you think of it?
I read the script. I was sad because that was the only other kid on set who was getting killed off. When someone dies on the show it's really like losing a friend. They don't come back to set. The only time you ever see them again is maybe at a convention.

Do the writers ever ask you for input on your character?
In Season 3 they asked me what I wanted to see and told me what's going to be coming.

And did they use anything you suggested?
There were a few things. I really can't say. I wish I could!

What are your hopes for Carl after this season, assuming he survives this season?
I've been really spoiled with my character. I've got everything I wanted with Carl. In the future, I don't really know. We'll see how this plays out, I have a ton of off time in the hiatus to think about it.

Photo/Video credit: AMC