Virus-hit 'Walking Dead' lurches on as epilogue looms

·2-min read
Paola Lazaro, a newcomer to "The Walking Dead," plays Juanita Sanchez, aka Princess, this season

The pandemic-interrupted 10th season of "The Walking Dead" finally reaches its bloody conclusion this Sunday -- a 19-month wait since its premiere that has only made the zombie apocalypse show more timely, according to its stars.

The comic book adaptation may be far from its ratings heyday, with popular hero Rick Grimes long departed, but it remains the most-watched series on American basic cable (excluding premium channels like HBO) as it approaches its much-hyped conclusion with the subsequent season 11.

"It's more relevant than ever now during this pandemic," Paola Lazaro, a newcomer this season as Juanita Sanchez, aka Princess, told AFP.

The series is "teaching you how to rebuild a society after things have been broken, or things have been torn apart," she said.

"The Walking Dead" follows the gory adventures of a group of humans who have survived a catastrophe unleashed by a virus that turns the dead into highly contagious zombies who are endlessly hungry for human flesh.

When a real-life virus, Covid-19, shut down production for several months, season 10 had to be chopped in two, with filming of the final six episodes eventually resuming under strict health protocols.

As a result, many scenes feature just one or two characters at a time -- an experience for the actors that Lazaro, a playwright herself, described as "theatrical."

"The Covid episodes have given us the chance to really sit down with these characters and monologues," she said, calling the experience "a treat for me."

That means more backstory and development for characters like the villainous Negan -- including Sunday's final episode.

But as "Walking Dead" fans have learned over the years, no character -- no matter how major or popular -- is safe from sudden, brutal death.

Lazaro admitted she herself does not know if Princess will feature throughout the series-concluding season 11, expected later this year and into 2022.

"I don't know what's going to happen with the character -- I just take it word by word, moment by moment," she said.

While season 11 will spell the end of "The Walking Dead," zombies will continue to haunt TV screens thanks to an ever-growing stable of spin-off series set in the same universe.

A new show based on the characters of Daryl Dixon and Carol Peletier is expected in 2023, on top of the ongoing spin-offs "Fear The Walking Dead" and "The Walking Dead: World Beyond."

"People have grown with the show -- it's been on for so long that people have fallen in love with these characters," said Lazaro. "They become family, like part of your life."

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