Somewhat lost in all the recent discussion of The Walking Dead season 7's falling ratings is that the AMC drama remains easily one of the highest-rated scripted series in all of TV, at least for now. Thus, any major cast comings or goings are still big news. For the past few weeks, departure rumors have followed actor Chandler Riggs, who portrays Rick's now battle-hardened son Carl Grimes on the post-apocalyptic series.
These rumors seem to have sprung up based on two social media posts, one by Riggs himself and the other by his dad William Riggs. First, a tweet by Riggs announced that he had been accepted into Auburn University in Alabama. In a Facebook posting made not long after, William congratulated his son on finishing up his seven-year contract with TWD, and his impending college arrival. Later, Riggs' mother Gina-Ann seemed to do her best to squash the rumors, via an Instagram comment that implored fans to not read so much into what Chandler's father had previously written.
As part of a new interview with THR, Chandler Riggs himself directly addresses the reports of his impending TWD departure for the first time. Here are the relevant excerpts:
On how going to college might impact his future on the show:
"You never know how it will go. I really do hope it works out because that would be really cool. I like to be in The Walking Dead and I like to play video games and just hang out with my friends and try to be as normal as possible so going to college would be another really cool, normal experience in my life. I want for it to work out."
On whether it's possible for him to be both a full-time student and a regular cast member on TWD:
"Yes. Theoretically, I could take one or two classes on campus and maybe an online class. My professors would have to be willing to cooperate. It wouldn't be easy but I think that could be possible."
When asked specifically whether that latter route is the one he is trying to make happen, Riggs replied in the affirmative. However, when asked specifically if he had signed a new contract with the show for season 8, Riggs unsurprisingly said he couldn't provide a straight answer to that question. Obviously, if Riggs were to do so, he would effectively be spoiling that Carl will in fact survive season 7, and that would likely violate his contractual confidentiality agreements.
While the above statements could clearly just be a smoke screen intended to throw off fans that have correctly deduced Riggs will indeed be leaving TWD to go to college full-time, from a narrative standpoint it's hard to imagine Robert Kirkman and company taking Carl out of the picture at this juncture. There are too many things left to do with the character, who is of course still alive in the comics. It's also hard to imagine that Riggs will be re-cast, as not one character has been re-cast on TWD to date. In the end, it wouldn't be surprising to see Riggs manage to successfully balance his academic and professional careers going forward.
The Walking Dead will air the season 7 midseason finale, 'Hearts Still Beating', next Sunday at 9pm on AMC.