‘The Walking Dead’: Sarah Wayne Callies Always Knew Lori Had an Expiration Date

Sarah Wayne Callies as Lori Grimes in "The Walking Dead" (Frank Ockenfels/AMC)
“The Walking Dead’s” third season has been action-packed with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his gang taking over the prison by force, and Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) being taken as hostages to Woodbury by Merle (Michael Rooker). But the fourth episode was a real shocker — even taking into account the deaths of Shane (Jon Bernthal) and Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) at the end of Season 2.
[**Spoiler Alert**] Sunday night, the death toll mounted with the loss of Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), who sacrificed her life for her baby, and T-Dog (IroneE Singleton), who threw himself into a group of Walkers to save Carol (Melissa McBride). It was definitely a three-hankie episode as the group was reduced by two more.
XfinityTV.com spoke to Callies the morning after her TV demise to talk about her death, the baby’s survival and why both events are important for the story going forward, especially for Rick and Carl (Chandler Riggs).
“Carl is a force to be reckoned with,” she says. “I think it is very telling that Lori isn’t worried about Carl. She tells him he is going to be fine. Her concern is about Rick. The most important thing to her is Rick not see her as a Walker and have to put her down… Carl has evolved into a child solider. I think that Lori’s death signals a change in the balance between Carl and Rick and maybe this boy has flint in his heart in both a good and a bad way that his father doesn’t anymore.”
Episode 4 begins with the discovery that someone has opened one of the gates and baited the path along the way with fresh deer meat. It is chaos when the battle begins between the humans and the walking dead and the groups get separated. Lori, Carl and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) are chased into the prison when Lori announces that the baby is coming.
The three of them lock themselves into a cell and Lori goes into labor, but there is something wrong with the baby. Maggie, who has never birthed a baby before, is forced into adulthood as she has to perform a C-section that could cost Lori her life.
As Lori reassures Maggie that she is ready to sacrifice all for her unborn child, she has a beautiful moment with Carl, giving him the best life advice she can in her last few moments.
“Carl has to become a man,” Callies says. “There is no one else to put Lori down, or be the bearer of her last words. Carl has to take from Lori the last things she says and carry that into the future, which is an enormous burden. Lori’s final act is to turn [Carl and Maggie] into the adults who can keep the baby alive.”
Callies says that she knew from the get-go back in Season 1 that Lori died in the comic book, so she took the role, assuming that her character had an expiration date.
“The death of Shane, the death of Lori, those, to me, were very difficult things to get around,” she tells XfinityTV.com. “I said something to [executive producer] Frank Darabont and he said, ‘I don’t need to kill you.’ I said, ‘Due respect sir, yes you do.’ He said, ‘I never had a leading lady argue her way off a show.’” To which Callies replied, “In the comic book, Rick goes nuts because his wife dies. I think the way he goes nuts is pretty cool and I think that you are going to want to do that at some point, so know that I am a big girl and when you make that call, I am not going to be fighting for my job.”
The planned date for Lori’s death was originally further along in Season 3, but Callies says when she was told last spring that they had shortened her character’s timeline, she kept her promise and didn’t whine about it.
Callies was especially pleased when she learned how she was going to die because the great gift of her final scene is Lori getting to say everything she wants to say to her son, and she was also happy to learn that the baby — whose paternity is still unknown — would survive.
“I think Lori is terrified for the child. From the beginning, she has seen this pregnancy as a death sentence,” she says. “Her decision to throw up the morning after pills that she took last season was in part a decision to say, ‘Okay, I will either die for the baby, or I will die with the baby.’”
Callies also sees her character’s death as important for Rick — will he accept the child — but also for what happens to him later in the season. She sees him asking, “Why didn’t I tell her I loved her? Why didn’t I say, I forgive you. Why didn’t say I was sorry? We have all lost people thinking we were supposed to have more time. There is a cost to being silent.”
Callies has already filmed her next project, the motion picture “Black Sky,” which was her first experience doing a big-budget special effects film. But she says she will always have a fondness for the role of Lori Grimes, who she enjoyed playing because she saw in her a very different kind of woman.
“People asked how it is to leave the show. I say, ‘Watch the episode, it is all there,’” Callies says.