Q & A WITH 'THE WALKING DEAD'S CHANDLER RIGGS (CARL GRIMES)
It's damn near impossible to have a childhood during a zombie apocalypse: The Twinkies are stale; your friends are all dead, so there are no cool sleepovers; and videogames can't compare to the thrill of shooting real-life zombies in the face. Your parents don't even have a liquor cabinet to raid. Luckily for Chandler Riggs, the 13-year-old actor who plays Carl on The Walking Dead, he gets to have his cake and eat it too: When he's done filming dramatic scenes that even seasoned actors would have a hard time with—like the one where he shoots and kills his mother after she gives birth to his baby sister—he still gets to do regular kid things like ride around on a scooter, play Call of Duty, and listen to dubstep. We chatted with the native Georgian a day before filming the season finale to find out what it's like to be the only kid on set.
GQ: How old were you when you started acting? Chandler Riggs: I was four.
GQ: At four, what makes you want to get into something like that? Chandler Riggs: It was mainly my parents. They were in a theatre show and I always felt like I wanted to be on stage. And then the next show they were doing was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I was in the kid's choir, but that was the first thing I did in front of people.
GQ: And now you're part of the most-watched basic cable drama in television history. Congratulations. Chandler Riggs: [Laughs] Thank you.
GQ: What's your favorite part of the job? Chandler Riggs: The honor of being able to work with all these amazing actors, you know? It's great, I love it.
GQ: It's hard to fathom how anyone would handle growing up during an apocalypse. Is it difficult for you to try and get inside Carl's head? Chandler Riggs: Not really. I'm a lot like Carl. I'm a lot like the character, so it's pretty easy to get into the mindset of it.
GQ: In what ways are you like Carl? Chandler Riggs: In episode 4, where Carl had to kill his mom. I don't think I would let my mom bleed out and die a painful death and then turn into a Walker.
GQ: Do you have a favorite cast member that you like to watch? Chandler Riggs: Andrew Lincoln [Rick Grimes] is really, really cool. He's kind of like my mentor. He helps me out a lot, and Steven Yeun and Norman Reedus [Glenn Rhee and Daryl Dixon respectively] are really cool guys, and they're a lot of fun.
GQ: Do you sit around and pick these guys' brains on what they've done in the past, or acting techniques? Chandler Riggs: They kind of teach me, like, “I think it would be cooler if you did it a little bit this way,” you know? Andrew Lincoln has helped me lots of times with the choices that I've made with the character, so it's cool.
GQ: Is it hard to be on a show where you know you're going to lose cast members every season? Chandler Riggs: Yeah, definitely. It's hard, but we have to push on past it. You have to keep on going.
GQ: Let's talk episode 4: What did you think when you first got the script? Chandler Riggs: I knew that Sarah [Wayne Callies, who plays Carl's mom, Lori] was leaving in season 3. When I got the script, I didn't know I would be the one to kill her. It was tough just reading the script, but like I said you, just have to get past it.
GQ: Do you feel like the show has forced you to mature a little bit? Chandler Riggs: I think so. There are no kids on the set—ever—so I think it has a little. For me, adults like Steven and Norman kind of act like kids, [laughs] so it's pretty fun.
GQ: What do you do for fun? Chandler Riggs: There's not a lot you can do on the set, in between the shots. They set up so fast. I have an electric scooter and I actually brought that to the set one time, and I used to ride that around in between shots.
GQ: What about off the set? Chandler Riggs: I do a lot of video games. A lot of that.
GQ: Are you a Call of Duty guy? Chandler Riggs: Yeah, I love Call of Duty. [Laughs]
GQ: Were you ever a fan of the comics before the show started? Chandler Riggs: I don't really read any comics, but when I got casted on the show I starting reading The Walking Dead comics. I felt like I needed a better idea of the character.
GQ: Is it physically and mentally exhausting to do some of these scenes sometimes? Chandler Riggs: It is, but I do school on the side too. About three hours a day.
GQ: What's your favorite subject? Chandler Riggs: [Laughs] I don't really have one.
GQ: How long have you been homeschooled? Chandler Riggs: Since the beginning of sixth grade.
GQ: What kind of music do you listen to? Chandler Riggs: I'm really into like electric pop music and dubstep, things like that.
GQ: Anyone in particular that you like? Chandler Riggs: I really like Deadmau5 and Coyote Kisses. And Foo Fighters too, I like rock. We saw them live.
GQ: We gotta find Carl a woman. When are you gonna get a girlfriend? Chandler Riggs: You'll have to watch and see [laughs].