- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “The Walking Dead” season 11, episode four.
- Lynn Collins returns as Leah with grayer hair than when we first met her character last season.
- Collins told Insider she pitched her natural hair color for season 11 when joining the cast.
Leah (Lynn Collins) returned to “The Walking Dead” with a bang on Sunday’s episode.
Jumping forward a few years, Daryl’s former flame is not only one of the feared members of the Reaper clan, but Leah’s also sporting a new look, rocking grayer locks from when we first met her.
Though you may not realize it, that’s Collins natural hair. It’s something the actress pitched and planned out with series showrunner Angela Kang when cast on the show in 2020 for season 10’s bonus episode, “Find Me,” so she could eventually show her more natural look on screen.
“I started coloring my hair when I was like 25,” Collins told Insider. “I was prematurely gray. I don’t really want to go into why I had all that stress. When COVID happened, I was so happy because I didn’t have to dye my hair every two weeks.”
Many of Collins previous roles, including “Bosch,” “Manhunt,” and HBO’s “True Blood” (seen below), involved her character having brown hair.
“When Angela and I were talking about the arc of this character, I was like, “I really don’t want to go back to brunette if we can help it,” Collins said of joining “TWD” as Leah.
Collins pitched the idea of wearing a wig while she and Daryl were younger before the show jumped forward in time. Upon her return in season 11 as, who the cast nicknamed, the Reaper Queen, Collins would then wear her natural hair color.
“When I’m working on developing characters, I give my character an animal and I gave Leah an eagle,” Collins said. “When I pitched that to Angela, she was like, ‘Oh my God. Yes.'”
Collins sent Kang photos with her hair pulled back, describing the different colors you’d see associated with her as a Reaper.
“She was like, ‘Yes, I love this idea,'” Collins said of Kang’s support. “So we decided to go with it.”
Collins added, “As an actress, I’m over 40, and I was like, ‘Why not just embrace this?'”
Collins isn’t the only character on “TWD” who’s rocking grayer hair. Since the time jump on season nine, Carol (Melissa McBride) has grown out her hair to have a gray and white mane.
Laila Robins (“The Boys”), who joins the cast this season as Pamela Milton, the leader of the Commonwealth, also sports a shorter grayer, blonde ‘do.
“I think Melissa is one of the most beautiful women on TV right now,” Collins said. “This idea that sexuality somehow has a ceiling because of age… I look at Helen Mirren who has just been doing the film festival circuit… This is proof that the sensuality of a woman who is truly in her skin, loving herself, there’s nothing more beautiful. It has nothing to do with age.”
“TWD” has embraced allowing not only its women, but its leading men to naturally go a bit gray in the zombie apocalypse. Before Rick (Andrew Lincoln) left the show on season nine, he started getting a bit more gray. Even Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is showing off some salt and pepper in his hair after coming onto the show with slicked back black hair.
(Granted, it’s always seemed a bit more acceptable in Hollywood for men, rather than women, to go gray on screen and become labeled “silver foxes.” However, more recently, more and more actresses are following suit, embracing their natural gray and silver looks on and off the red carpet.)
For Collins, getting to show off her more natural look was a small comfort, especially when she knows her next role may not allow her the same freedom.
“There have been so many things that I’ve overcome that I feel lighter and younger than I’ve ever felt in my life,” Collins said. “When I was 25, I don’t even know if I could have a conversation with that girl. She was so heavy and laden down with pain. Part of getting older is being authentic, being really true to yourself.”
“I joke around because I’m sure the next job I get, they’re going to be like, OK, this was fun. Can you please dye your hair back?”
You can read our longer conversation with Collins on Sunday’s “TWD” here and follow along with our show coverage all season here.