- Warning: There are massive spoilers ahead for “The Walking Dead,” season 11, episode 4.
- Lynn Collins speaks with Insider about her return as Leah as one of the Reapers.
- Daryl’s reappearance may make Leah question her future with the military group.
Leah (Lynn Collins) made her big return to “The Walking Dead” on Sunday’s episode and she didn’t exactly look thrilled to see her former flame, Daryl (Norman Reedus).
“People who’ve seen this episode, they’re just like, ‘Oh, she’s so cold,'” Collins told Insider via phone last week.
“I was like, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” Collins said, channeling the same line of dialogue Reedus said to us last month when teasing what was to come with Leah, Connie, or Carol. We now know, he was referring to Leah.
Collins burst onto “TWD” earlier this year during the show’s bonus season 10 episodes. After 10 seasons, many fans were surprised the show gave Daryl a love interest in the mysterious loner and that Leah — not Carol or Connie — was the one to get him to let his guard down first.
Leah disappeared after giving Daryl an ultimatum to choose her or his apocalypse family back at Alexandria. Daryl did return for her, but it was too late. Leah departed and Daryl wound up with Leah’s canine friend, Dog.
On Sunday’s episode, we learn that Leah isn’t just back on the scene. She’s a member of the military Reaper group who has been hunting Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and the Wardens. Leah and Daryl’s reunion is far from romantic with the latter becoming a hostage of the Reapers for much of the episode.
“[Daryl] left. Even though he came back, she does not know that yet. In her mind, he left her and that anger, I think it’s clear,” Collins said, adding that Leah’s not totally sure if she can trust Daryl, yet. “In the episode, he does try to resolve it. But then it’s, ‘Is he just saying this?’ Because, you know, he’s captive.”
Leah and Daryl will likely have plenty of time to catch up now that he’s unexpectedly been welcomed into the Reaper clan by the episode’s end. (Something tells us that won’t last long).
Insider spoke with Collins about the final season of the show, her thoughts on the Reapers (and how she was given the nickname of the Reaper Queen), her thoughts on Carol and Connie, and who gets Dog in this very fraught custody battle.
Collins had to keep it a secret that the show was ending when she was cast on ‘TWD’
Insider: You joined the show during the season 10 bonus episodes. I’m guessing while you were working on those that you must have learned that “TWD” would be ending with its final 11th season. How did it feel to learn that? Do you remember where you were and how you reacted to that news?
I knew when I was cast in season 10 that I would also be in season 11 and that it was the last season, so I had to keep it secret.
It was at the end of September when I found out. I was just really happy because as you know, I was a huge fan when this show first started. To be a book ender on it, it’s a huge deal and I’m honored.
Collins was warned when she joined ‘The Walking Dead’ about how passionate the fans get about Daryl
Before we chat Sunday’s episode, I know you previously spoke a bit about fan backlash after you joined the show and your first episode aired. I know the fans get a bit passionate and very vocal when it comes to Daryl and Carol. What was it like stepping back on set after being immersed into this fandom and maybe seeing some of the comments people were saying? Was it hard? Did you have that in mind at all? Or do you leave that at the door?
They kind of warned me at the beginning that the fans were passionate and sort of divided on who Daryl should be with [since] technically Leah [is] the first, official love interest.
It was really like being thrown into the fire. I was like, “It’s OK. I can handle this.” And then there was a hot minute where I was like, “Ooh, maybe I can’t handle this.” I knew where the character was going and I wanted to be commenting, “Y’all have no idea. It’s not what you think. This doesn’t go where you think it goes.” So it’s just been a game of how can I keep my mouth shut?
I think we’ve all been there a little bit with social media interactions, honestly. Did you receive any support from AMC or did any actors reach out to you and check in on you at all and say, “Hey, I saw this is going on. I saw some people aren’t being nice. How are you doing?”
[Johnny O’Dell, who ran “The Walking Dead” social for Skybound], we did an interview around February where we spoke for a little. He was like, “Don’t worry. You don’t have to engage. Just focus on the performance. Let the fandom be the fandom… Ultimately, this is a TV show and it’s meant to be fun. Just ignore it and do your job.”
It’s interesting because the social media and the fans are so vitally important and at the same time… it’s easy to just focus on the work and focus on giving the fans the best show we can possibly give them. Whatever their opinion is going to be about it, we can’t control that. We’re just here to tell the story.
Leah was tracking Daryl. We’ll have to wait to see what becomes of their old relationship
Let’s talk about Sunday’s episode because Leah sees Daryl for the first time in what I’m guessing is a few years. I don’t know if you know the timeline. What’s going through her mind?
I’m going to correct you. She’s been tracking him. He sees her for the first time.
I didn’t think of it that way.
You see her in the episode before. She’s the one in the mask and she’s tracking him.
When she’s tracking him, what is going through her mind? I have to imagine Leah thought that she was probably never going to see Daryl again. What is she feeling?
It’s that weird situation when you’ve broken up with someone and there’s not a whole lot of closure or no closure at all, and then you see them and what is your expectation in that moment? It’s probably a bunch of nausea and weird feelings. I think that’s what it is for both of them. [They] never expected to see each other again, but, here they are.
I think everyone’s had a moment like that. You guys had, what I guess I’ll call, a romantic entanglement, unless you prefer to call it something else.
They were shacked up. Let’s just call it like it is. They were shacked up. They were playing house. I mean, who knows how long it could have gone on, right? And then the fact that he comes back to it, he was ready to further that commitment. They did have a commitment. It was a relationship. What it becomes now is really what the fun is. I mean, that’s why the episode, “Find Me,” even exists.
How do you think Leah’s going to respond when she finds out that Daryl lied to her about not being on his own and kind of ultimately choosing his Alexandria family over Leah all those years ago? You did say, “Hell hath no fury…”
Here’s what’s interesting. Originally, he chooses to leave. But he comes back for her [when she’s gone] and I think that’s the missing piece.
She’s already had the reaction of him choosing others over her. So it’s, “What does she do with the information that he came back?” That’s the question. That’s what happens in this episode. What he decides to do now, however it’s going to be resolved, it’s going to be interesting because now she’s a part of this group that is incredibly brainwashed and violent without shame or remorse.
Daryl’s return into Leah’s life may make her reconsider life with the Reapers
Let’s talk about that death at the episode’s very end. Pope [Ritchie Coster] mercilessly throws one of his own into a fire, even when he knows they have a limited number of people. How do you feel about Pope’s logic and how does Leah view that moment? Does it ever cross her mind that she’s maybe with the wrong people?
It’s the logic to keep people under control. It’s that sort of extremist terrorist mentality that you instill such fear in your followers that they won’t disobey you. That’s how that whole family, the Reaper structure, is. I think this is commonplace that there is this kind of punishment for whatever Pope considers a bad deed. This is part of the life of the Reapers.
Does she ever think, “Should I not be with these people?” Now that Daryl’s been reintroduced into her life, she’s going to have to think about that. Before, she could just sort of go along with the brainwashing because it’s all she had. There was no other choice. It’s that or be alone.
Collins says the show holds up a mirror to the world right now
Do you see the Reapers as villains? I feel like everyone who’s in their own group never sees themselves as the bad guys.
I’m going to say something pretty controversial. In some ways, in this show, based on the storyline, based on the circumstances of the planet at the time, I think why this show is so successful and why these characters are so beloved, be they considered the stereotype of villain or hero is that they’re all gray.
Everybody’s making decisions good and bad. Everybody’s making mistakes and everybody’s trying to do whatever they can to survive and to protect the people that they love and that they bonded with.
Leah’s both and she says that in this episode. She’s like, “This is me, the good and the bad, all of it.” I think this speaks to humanity, especially right now. We’re so quick to point fingers and be like, “Oh, they’re bad because they’re doing ‘X’ or they’re not doing ‘X.'” And it’s like, “Wait, we’re all trying to make the decisions that are best for us and our families.”
I don’t think that’s a controversial answer. Many of the characters have been shown as gray. They’re not just good or bad. We’re seeing a lot of that with Maggie and Negan right now as well.
Their performances are so awesome. Lauren is kicking butt. They all are.
The Reaper actors all had nicknames for each other and started calling Collins the Reaper Queen
You had a little nickname on set. The Reaper Queen? I love that.
This is what the boys, my Reaper boys [called me].
These men are the nicest actors I’ve ever worked with. Some of the crew members were like, “It’s so funny. You guys are supposed to be these rabid killers, and you’re all so sweet.” We had this beautiful, fun, lovely, light time working together. We had nicknames for each other. They would call me the Reaper Queen because I was the only female. So it was like, “OK. That makes sense.” Better than Reaper Mommy. [laughter]
Forget Daryl. Collins is Team Caleah — Carol and Leah.
How do you think Leah would respond to meeting Carol or Connie, the other women in Daryl’s life? Do you want to see them come face to face?
You know, there is this whole ship that’s Caleah [Carol and Leah] and I was like, “Yes!” If I was a fan, I’d be on that ship. I hope that the fans get to see interaction between Carol and Leah or Connie and Leah or all of them. Let’s hope and pray that the writers like give that to us.
Who gets Dog in the Leah and Daryl custody battle?
I’m going to let you go on a fun question. Who gets dog in the custody battle between Leah and Daryl? Because right now Dog seems pretty Team Leah.
We just got to watch. When people break up — co-parenting with a pet, you know, that pet gets confused. Poor Dog.
Poor Dog, indeed.
You can follow along with our “TWD” coverage all season long here. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.