Lauren Ridloff can be seen in the 11th and final season of "The Walking Dead," premiering Sunday. Photo courtesy of AMC
NEW YORK, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Stars of The Walking Dead say they aren't sure their characters are capable of finding happiness as they return to civilization after years of living rough during the zombie-apocalypse.
"It's not necessarily the focus of my character of Connie," Lauren Ridloff, who is deaf, told UPI through a translator in a recent Zoom interview.
"She's survived the apocalypse for so many years - we are talking years - and that's become a big part of who Connie is now. I think the pursuit of happiness has really just dissipated. It's no longer a viable option," Ridloff said.
"Within the Commonwealth, what Connie finds she's still holding back from the old world is that value of truth and justice, and at what cost? Probably happiness."
The second half of the 11th and final season of the iconic show, which debuts Sunday on AMC, will depict many of the survivors living in a seemingly safe, clean and orderly community called the Commonwealth.
Connie works as a newspaper reporter, Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) resumes her career as a lawyer and Princess (Paola Lazaro) runs a record store.
Matsuura and Lazaro said they think their characters have struggled too long and seen too much to ever really be fully comfortable in this new world.
"I don't think it's anyone's nature to sit still, kick back and relax and go: 'Well, we did it! We found a place!' They know what's up. They are mistrustful of it from the start," Matsuura said.
"For Princess, you can see in how she looks different now and how she is trying to style her hair differently and dress differently, I think she is trying to assimilate," Lazaro said.
"She feels like she is part of a society for the first time, probably, in her life. You can see that difference in her," she added "But I think there is always going to be that part of her that is like: 'No. My nature is wild. It's not this.'"
Matsuura thinks the story line of people trying to embrace normalcy after surviving a horrible ordeal reflects what so many endured in real life these past two years of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Everyone was like: 'We're not going back to the way we were. We're going to change. The world is going to be so different when we come out of this lockdown,'" Matsuura said.
"Now we are living the realities of some people really wanting to go back and keep what we had before and other people being like, 'Well, no, everyone feels different now. The world has changed.' I think that's like the Commonwealth."
She joked that her time on The Walking Dead taught her how fickle she is as an actress.
"When I started on this show, we spent all of our time covered in mud in the forest, night shooting, being dirty," she recalled.
"I would be like, 'I really miss a cool air-conditioned studio and dressing nicely and having my makeup done in a good way.' And then the Commonwealth happened, and Yumiko really gets this transformation, and now I miss the woods, the dirt and the grime."
Matsuura said she thinks she will feel that way as she moves on to other acting jobs, too.
"I'm going to miss getting down and dirty," she said.
"There's something really lovely - particularly as an actress - about the lack of vanity we have on the show. You come in and get some dirt on you, blood splattered on your face and you're good to go. You're wearing the same outfit you've worn for the last three years."
Ridloff said she will miss the way the setting of the show influences the development of the characters, but emphasized she will not pine for the days she spent sweating in the Georgia sun, covered in sticky fake blood and muck.
"I don't miss having to take a very long bath after a long day on set trying just to look halfway decent the next day. I do not miss that part," she said.
"It really does take a while to remove the dirt from the nails, actually," Lazaro agreed. "The thing I'll miss the most is The Walking Dead family, including the fans and my castmates."
Speaking of fans, a lot of them might love to see Connie and OG zombie-killer Daryl (Norman Reedus) turn their years-long flirtation into a full-blown romance.
"I do think the Carylers and the Donnie-shippers will continue waging that war," Ridloff teased, referring to opposing viewers who want to see Carol (Melissa McBride) end up with Daryl. "I love seeing that. I think fans will find the season to be very interesting."
Count Matsuura among those rooting for Connie and Daryl.
"She'd make a great match with Daryl. I wish them well. They seem like they make each other happy. We need some happiness on the show," Matsuura said. "I'd like to see a relationship end well."