NEW YORK, August 22 (UPI) – Khary Payton says many actors find themselves out of work when a job ends unexpectedly, thus having an extra-long season to say goodbye to The walking dead wasn’t that bad in comparison.

“We get a lot of questions about the mourning of the end, but it’s a long ending. It’s a nice, long victory lap,” Payton, who plays Ezekiel, told UPI in a recent Zoom interview with journalists.

“We’re going to shoot well next year,” he added. “If we started crying now, we’d be exhausted by the time we’re done. I’m still enjoying telling the story.”

Based on the comic book series of the same name, the zombie-apocalypse drama launches its 24 episodes, 11th and final season on AMC Sunday.

The show follows a group of survivors who battle undead and evil humans for dwindling resources and attempt to rebuild civilization in a community called Alexandria in the southern United States. Most of the previous seasons consisted of 16 episodes.

“All that stuff that was wrapped up in the Comic Con trailer [last month] is just the start of what we’re shooting, ”said Eleanor Matsuura, who plays Yumiko.

“Right now we’re right in the middle, so while there is so much talk about this being the last season and the end, it feels really far away, and there is so much more to do.”

Matsuura said she hopes the coronavirus pandemic will be under control by the end of the show, so the entire cast can revel in the triumph at a fan convention.

“As beautiful as it is to see you all on Zoom, I want to see people again. I want us all to celebrate. I want this to be a goodbye,” she said.

While Josh McDermitt is starting to cut down on the items he has in his Georgia home, since he will likely be moving in the near future for his next gig, he doesn’t think he’ll be leaving The Walking Dead world anytime soon.

“We don’t let go of our characters. We can’t just shut it down that quickly,” McDermitt said.

“We will always find new discoveries and growth within a character, even after the scripts are finished. It will be a weird transition, after a streak that has been going on for so long,” he added. “It’s sad, but we have made some very good friendships and relationships here.”

McDermitt has relished Eugene’s development from cowardly slacker to beloved team player over the years.

“I didn’t know where he would end up when I came in. I was just trying to play the truth about who I thought this guy was,” McDermitt said.

“He’s definitely gained confidence throughout his time on the show and that in itself changes your physical demeanor.… It’s fun to push and explore where he may have changed.”

One aspect of the series that initially won over McDermitt was the way the writers gave the characters a place to go instead of locking them in place and always having them do the same or react the same.

“Nobody stagnated,” he noted.

Season 11 finds Eugene questioning his recent actions, which resulted in his capture, Ezekiel, Yumiko and the Princess (Paola Lazaro).

“He might have been blinded by love, a little, [by] the bond he made with Stephanie on the radio, ”McDermitt said.

“He’s not just there for her, although that’s a big part of why he’s there. His community is at war, and they are falling and they need resources and they need help. . ”

Callan McAuliffe wonders what would have happened if his character, Alden – now redeemed and a member of the Alexandrians – hadn’t fought alongside former series villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his gang, the Saviors years ago.

“This trip, I’m sure, Alden would consider a faux pas when he traces the timeline of his life,” McAuliffe said.

“It’s a testament to the fact that missteps like this can sometimes lead to very positive places,” he added. “While it is interesting to think of the different things he could have done, I like to think that it all brought him to meet these people. [from Alexandria]. “

Payton joked that his home community, The Kingdom, would have done much better if he had never welcomed strangers led by Alexandria frontman Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln).

“Ezekiel should have told Rick to ‘Get out. I’m fine without you. Goodbye,'” Payton said, laughing. “The Kingdom would have been much better off.”

Matsuura recalled how his first scene on The walking dead was a full-scale zombie attack. She had to be covered in sweat with no makeup on her face as she fought alongside other survivors against legions of flesh eaters.

“It’s like you’re in the deep end and you all have to make it work and rely on each other,” she said.

“These experiences are hard to replicate, but they definitely changed me, because if I can do it, I feel like I can do just about anything. I’m going to do other work now, and I can’t believe they’re putting on makeup or giving me a warm chair to sit on. ”