How That Walking Dead Character's WTF Return Happened, According To The Actor

morales the walking dead

Big spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched The Walking Dead episode "The Damned."

Tonight's episode of The Walking Dead not only gave viewers one of the biggest gun battles of the entire series, but it also brought back the character Morales, who hasn't been seen since the penultimate episode of Season 1. (Not quite the longest gap between two Walking Dead appearances, but close.) Over the years, actor Juan Gabriel Pareja had used social media to keep fans interested in a Morales resurgence, and that apparently wasn't ignored by The Walking Dead' creative team. Here's how the actor explained Morales' big return.

I think it might have been in April, I got a call from the casting officers up in Canada reaching out and basically testing the waters to see if there would be any interest on my part to return to the show. And as I continued as a watcher and a fan of the show, I perhaps a little too eagerly accepted! After they spoke with my reps for a little bit, it was still kind of an up-in-the air thing. It was not a conclusive done deal. It was basically just kind of like, "Well, maybe in two months we might be giving you a call, we just wanted to see if you would be interested if that were the case." . . . I was able to get about two months of hard work in the gym to get ready for that moment, and then sure enough, as the date approached, we got the call saying that yes, it is a done deal. But I was still very much in the dark about to what capacity and to what degree, so it was just a blind step in that direction.

Wow, that had to be a long and arduous two-month wait between rounds of communication for Juan Gabriel Pareja, who most recently had a recurring role on Billy Bob Thornton's Amazon drama Goliath. Once The Walking Dead calls about making a return appearance after a six-year absence, it's probably hard to think about anything else.

Power to the actor for using that time period to, rather than just nervously pace in front of an unringing phone, take advantage of a stint at the gym with a personal trainer that Pareja says completely changed him into a new person. And that's seemingly reflected on The Walking Dead, where he might still be playing the former Atlanta survivor Morales, but this definitely isn't the same character that was last known to be heading to Birmingham with his family. This dude totally isn't interested in being friendly with Rick again, and to be expected, being one of Negan's Saviors has had an ill effect on him.

Speaking with EW about Morales' exciting comeback, Juan Gabriel Pareja said he actually didn't need to do all that much to get back into the role, considering it's almost a completely different character at this point in the post-apocalypse. Not that Pareja was able to do much prep work anyway, since he had little idea of what he would be doing on the show until everything was happening. As it goes with Walking Dead's secrecy tactics.

As far as what we can expect to see from Morales in The Walking Dead's near future, Juan Gabriel Pareja obviously couldn't divulge all the goodies, but he did tease some explanations are on the way.

I can't say too much, but we'll definitely learn a little bit of a backstory from Morales and what's been going on with him over the years, and a little bit of what's lead to his transformation and transition into one of Negan's men as a Savior.

I definitely want to see what happened with Morales between The Walking Dead Season 1 and Season 8, and while one can assume that his family met a sordid end, we're holding out hope that they're still alive somewhere. Thankfully, AMC even released a quick clip of next week's episode, and it's all about Morales putting Rick in his self-righteous place. Check it out!

Of all the people that Rick might have expected to completely bamboozle him during his quest to eliminate as much of Negan's threatening army as possible, Morales was likely on the low end of the list. (Probably somewhere around Rick's 5th grade math teacher and Mick Jagger.) But it happened, and there aren't any niceties to be found as Morales holds Rick at gunpoint. We can't wait to see what happens in the moments after that clip, and I, for one, wouldn't be all that upset to see Morales get a boot to the face for turning coat like that.

As seen above, The Walking Dead will definitely dig deeper into Morales' return when the show airs on AMC on Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET. While waiting to learn what happened, check out our thoughts about those potential deaths from "The Damned," and hit up our fall premiere schedule to see what other new and returning shows are on the way.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.