Tony Award-nominated actor Lauren Ridloff has joined The Walking Dead season 9 as comic book character Connie. New Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang has already promised that season 9 will focus on the show's many female characters, and now it appears the new season will be even more female-centric with the introduction of Connie, a survivor first introduced in issue 127 of the Walking Dead comic book.
Following two years of sagging ratings, The Walking Dead appears headed for a major shake-up in its ninth season. Fans already know to prepare for the departure of Rick Grimes, as star Andrew Lincoln exits the cast, ceding the series lead role to Daryl Dixon actor Norman Reedus. Showrunner Kang has also given details on the show's coming time jump, which mirrors the leap ahead executed in the comics after the wrap-up of "All Out War" against Negan and the Saviors.
Not all the changes coming for season 9 figure to be as earth-shaking as the departure of the show's star, or a major leap ahead in the narrative. EW reports details on a seemingly relatively routine move with the addition of Lauren Ridloff to the cast as Connie. Ridloff, who is herself deaf, will play Connie as a hearing-impaired person who uses sign language and is described as being "deft at using her senses to read people, situations, and trouble." The comic book version of Connie is not deaf.
In 2018, Ridloff was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play for her portrayal of Sarah in Children of a Lesser God. Her film resume includes roles in Todd Haynes' Wonderstruck and the upcoming The Magnificent Meyersons with Kate Mulgrew. The Walking Dead will be her first major TV role.
The addition of Connie to the Walking Dead stable of characters not only increases the female presence on the show, it also potentially heralds a major story development coming in the near future. In the comic books, Connie travels with a small group of survivors headed by a character named Magna. Shortly after the time-jump following All Out War, Magna's group is discovered living near Washington D.C. - a show setting already teased in recent key art - and brought back to Alexandria. Importantly, Connie and Magna later join the militia formed by Rick to combat the Whisperers, a group of villains who disguise themselves as walkers.
In the comic, the Whisperers are introduced just a few issues after the group including Connie. So does the arrival of Connie mean the Whisperers are about to make their long-anticipated debut on show? Things seem to be headed in that direction, assuming the show means to follow the timeline of the comics. But of course the show is always happy to deviate from the comics when necessary, as evidenced most prominently by Carl's death in season 8. With Rick Grimes making his exit as well, The Walking Dead will soon bear even less resemblance to the comic book series that inspired it. So at this point, it's hard to predict if Connie's arrival actually means The Whisperers are coming - or if The Whisperers will ever show up at all.
The Walking Dead season 9 is set to premiere later this year on AMC.