Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “The Walking Dead.”
Fans said goodbye to Andrew Lincoln on Rick’s final episode of the AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” but it was also the start of a new beginning on the zombie drama. The end of the episode jumped ahead six years, culminating on a now 10-year-old Judith Grimes, played by Cailey Fleming.
If Fleming looked familiar, it’s because you’ve seen her in the new “Star Wars” movies playing young Rey. But it wasn’t her role in another popular franchise that helped the young actress take on the coveted role of Judith on “TWD.”
“We did a very wide-ranging search for Judith. We had so many amazing little girls audition, just so much talent regionally,” showrunner Angela Kang told INSIDER. “Cailey just had the most amazing read. Me, and the other executive producers, we all just sparked to her. She just had this kind of liveliness and light and such intelligence in her eyes, and just made such great choices.”
When it came time to narrow the selection down to a handful of finalists, Kang said it was easily Fleming’s part to win.
“She came in and she had so much personality and life and was a great person. We just knew she’d be a perfect fit for the cast,” added Kang, who said it was a bonus that she very much looked the part.
“We were looking for the best actress and it just happens that she looks so much like Sarah Wayne Callies, who played her mother, and also bears a striking resemblance to Chandler [Riggs], her brother,” said Kang. “It felt like all the pieces fell in place.”
When it was finally time for Fleming to head to set, Kang said some of the veterans of the show were taken to her immediately.
“She’s such a professional actress at 11 years old,” said Kang of Fleming. “Her first two days on set, the actors, Danai [Gurira], Jeffrey [Dean Morgan], they’re all like, ‘Oh my God, she’s out-acting all of us.’ They really love the work that she’s doing and love working with her. She’s just absolutely fantastic for us.”
Kang additionally told us that the writers were excited to explore some things that they weren’t able to with Carl Grimes on the show, like having Judith share some of his comic-book scenes with Negan.
You won’t have to wait too long to see those on screen. “The Walking Dead” airs Sundays on AMC at 9 p.m. You can follow along with our show coverage here.