Who Is Pope in ‘The Walking Dead’? Meet the Merciless Villain

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One of the most brutal villains to appear in The Walking Dead to date, Pope (Ritchie Coster) is on course to establish himself as the face of cruelty. As the leader of the Reapers, a group of war veterans ready to do whatever it takes to survive, Pope has already shown his true colors by burning a person alive. So, what’s there to know about Pope? Who plays the character in The Walking Dead?

Pope is the particularly bloodthirsty leader of the Reapers in ‘The Walking Dead.’

A soldier who managed to return from Afghanistan, Pope now serves as the leader of the Reapers. He likely became religious after taking refuge with a group of others at a church at the onset of the outbreak. While their surroundings were razed to the ground, Pope and his companions emerged from the church intact. The experience gave them a newfound sense of purpose, per Entertainment Weekly, leading them to make the will of God their driving force.

Ritchie Coster

Source: Getty Images

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‘Their mission now is to survive at all costs. And I think they feel as part of their philosophy that they are in some ways chosen. It’s sort of like religious concepts gone to their most extreme,” Angela Kang, the showrunner of The Walking Dead, said. “They’re like locusts that will kind of burn through an area, and then once an area is no longer useful to them, they’ll move on.”

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Unlike most religious believers, Pope uses fire to test the people around him. What’s more, he isn’t afraid to lean into his pyromaniac tendencies to dole out punishment either. In a Season 11 episode, he pushes Bossie into the fire and watches him die. Pope’s righthand woman is no other than Leah (Lynn Collins), Daryl’s old acquaintance and Dog’s original owner.

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Not one to trust even those closest to him, Pope tested Leah’s and Daryl Dixon’s (Norman Reedus) loyalty by locking them in a cabin and setting it on fire. Leah and Daryl got out just in time. The ordeal more or less doubled as Daryl’s initiation ceremony, with Pope proclaiming that Daryl was “forged by fire, ordained by God” after he got out.

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Ritchie Coster appeared in movies like ‘Let Me In’ before joining the cast of ‘The Walking Dead.’

A mightily talented actor with considerable experience to boast, Ritchie starred in TV shows like Sex and the City and Jonny Zero in the past. Ritchie’s latest projects include Shades of Blue, Happy!, and The Flight Attendant.

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A graduate of London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Ritchie frequently appears in theater productions like Erica Schmidt’s adaptation of Cyrano at the Daryl Roth Theatre, New York, and Sam Gold’s Hamlet at The Public Theater, New York.

A long-time friend of The Walking Dead alum Lennie James, Ritchie was excited to play Pope.

“We wrote this character and knew we wanted him to have these intense and unpredictable qualities,” Angela Kang told Entertainment Weekly. “And then I spoke with [Ritchie] on the phone expecting to do a whole sales pitch to him about why he should come do it, but he’d read the script and loved it.”

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“And then he’s really good friends with Lennie James, who played Morgan,” she added. “And so he had done some digging, and Lennie obviously still has many friends on the show and was like, “It’s such a great place for an actor. You’ll have a great time.” I was very grateful that Lennie laid that groundwork.”

Catch new episodes of The Walking Dead every Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on AMC.

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