‘The Walking Dead’ star Lauren Ridloff thought the showrunner was calling to say her time on the zombie show was over after she briefly left to film a Marvel movie. It was to learn the show was ending.

TWD 1106 Connie / Lauren Ridloff
Lauren Ridloff finally returns to ‘TWD’ on Sunday’s episode. Josh Stringer/AMC
  • Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for “The Walking Dead.”
  • Lauren Ridloff told Insider she thought her character was getting killed off “The Walking Dead.”
  • Instead, Ridloff learned the show was coming to an end, something she has “mixed” feelings about.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Lauren Ridloff was nervous last year when she received a Zoom call from both “The Walking Dead” showrunner Angela Kang and the universe’s chief content officer, Scott M. Gimple.

“We’re all sitting there having small talk. Whereas, inside, I was sweating. I was dying,” Ridloff told Insider via Zoom with the assistance of an American Sign Language interpreter.

“I was like, wait, wait, wait. Are they calling me to tell me, ‘You know, this might be the end of Connie’? I didn’t know what was happening,” said Ridloff, who has played Connie, a member of Magna’s group, on “TWD” since season nine.

Magna, Luke, Connie, and Kelly twd 906
Magna, Luke, Connie, and Kelly on season nine, episode six when they joined ‘TWD.’ Gene Page/AMC

When Ridloff asked what they were really meeting about, Kang and Gimple informed her season 11 would be the show’s last.

After production on the series was delayed during the pandemic, AMC surprisingly announced last September its apocalyptic drama would end with season 11. The final season consists of an extended 24 episodes instead of the show’s usual 16-episode format.

“I have to say, I honestly had mixed feelings.” Ridloff said of learning about the show’s final season, adding, “I’m so thrilled to be part of a beautiful story… I think it’s a big part of pop culture and you see so many references to ‘The Walking Dead.’ It really truly has been an influence globally and I’m proud of that and I’m grateful that this show happened.”

“But, of course, I’m sad about the fact that it’s ending,” Ridloff said. “Who knows what’s going to happen? So, [it’s] mixed feelings.”

Lauren Ridloff D23 Expo 2019
Lauren Ridloff takes the stage at Disney’s D23 Expo 2019 on August 24, 2019 for Marvel’s ‘Eternals.’ The Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA via Getty Image

Ridloff wasn’t the only cast member to initially think they may be getting the ax from the series.

Khary Payton, who plays fan-favorite Ezekiel on “TWD,” previously told Insider of a similar experience when he learned about the show’s final season from Gimple and Kang.

When we last saw Connie, she had gone missing during a cave-in to accommodate Ridloff’s role in Marvel’s upcoming “Eternals” movie. On last year’s delayed season finale, which aired in October 2020, fans finally learned that Connie was alive and was found by Virgil (Kevin Carroll) at Oceanside.

TWD 1106 Virgil and Connie, Kevin Carroll and Lauren Ridloff
Virgil and Connie are running at the start of Sunday’s episode from some unknown threat. Josh Stringer/AMC

When Ridloff wrapped filming “Eternals” last February, she planned to return to “TWD” until pre-production on the show for, what was then, season 11 shut down the following month.

“Everybody went into lockdown. So I couldn’t come back to ‘The Walking Dead’ until just recently,” Ridloff said.

“TWD” filmed six bonus episodes for season 10 during the pandemic, but Ridloff wasn’t a part of them. Last fall, Kang told Insider Ridloff’s schedule was “still up in the air” when they had to re-adjust and make plans for those unexpected episodes so Ridloff wouldn’t be a part of them.

The plan was to always give Ridloff “a big episode” when she returned and that’s just what they did.

TWD 1106 Connie and Virgil / Lauren Ridloff and Kevin Carroll
Connie jumps in to save Virgil from getting killed by a member of the Feral group. Josh Stringer/AMC

Sunday’s episode plays like a mini horror movie, something “TWD” has surprisingly never really done before in its 11 seasons.

It’s the best of the season’s six episodes so far not only for Ridloff’s performance, who offered a suggestion to make Sunday’s big reveal more emotional, but for executive producer Greg Nicotero’s directing choices to make it feel like you’re in a claustrophobic setting right alongside Ridloff as she and Carroll navigate a spooky, haunted house filled with unexpected inhabitants.

“It was a big deal for me,” Ridloff said of returning on Sunday’s episode.

“I was so inspired that I was going to be able to come into ‘The Walking Dead’ world, again, specifically, focusing on Connie’s story and working with Kevin [Carroll],” Ridloff said of Sunday’s episode. “Kevin and Greg, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I just think it was the best way to come back.”

You can read our longer interview with Ridloff and Kevin Carroll here and follow along with our “TWD” coverage here.