There will be a lot of movement in season 9 of The Walking Dead, as it confronts more turnover than it has since the opening season. To sum: Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes is expected to leave; Lauren Cohan’s Maggie will, at the very least, have a reduced role; Norman Reedus’ Daryl will see an expanded role; another major character, Morgan, is now on the spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead; Jadis is now Anne; Jon Bernthal’s Shane will make a return visit; the show will have a new showrunner in Angela Kang; and there’s expected to be at least one time jump.
Add at least one more cast member to that list of changes, as AMC announced today that it will add Tony nominee Lauren Ridloff to the mix. She was nominated for a Tony last year for her lead performance in Children of a Lesser God and, interestingly, Ridloff is also deaf.
Ridloff will also be playing a deaf character in the series. According to EW, she will be playing Connie, “a seasoned survivor deft at using her senses to read people, situations, and trouble. Her character is deaf and uses American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate.”
There is also a Connie who is introduced to the comics in Issue 127, which is right after the time jump (or where the series is right now). Connie’s role in the comics is not that significant (nor is she deaf), but it’s possible that Ridloff may play a composite character. In the comics, Connie is introduced with a more substantial character, Magna, although given Ridloff’s stature, it’s possible that Connie and Magna may be rolled into one character.
In either respect, Connie (and Magna) are discovered in the D.C. area when Jesus leads a horde of zombies away from Alexandria, and they are brought to Alexandria to meet Rick and ultimately ally with Alexandria when they take on The Whisperers.
This tracks with what we know, so far about season 9, namely that there will be a time jump and that they will at least spend some time in Washington D.C.
Some are also speculating that Ridloff could see an expanded role on the series in the event that Danai Gurira — who plays Michonne — also leaves The Walking Dead. In the wake of her role in Black Panther, Gurira is fielding several major movie offers, including parts in Godzilla vs. King Kong and the next Star Trek film. With Lincoln, possibly Cohan and perhaps Gurira leaving the series in the next year, it’s more important than ever for The Walking Dead to establish a few more major characters with which fans can invest.
More answers are likely to come on Friday when The Walking Dead invades Comic-Con. Season 9 kicks off in the fall.