This was supposed to be a huge year for The Walking Dead. Entering the second decade of the franchise, AMC was — and is — expanding beyond the mothership show and Fear the Walking Dead to add the teen focused The Walking Dead: World Beyond, with the promise of more on the horizon, including the much teased, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) focused theatrical movies.
Then COVID hit, and everything changed.
Due to the production shutdown, The Walking Dead was unable to complete the highly anticipated end of its tenth season, “A Certain Doom,” featuring a showdown between the show’s post-apocalyptic survivors and the creepy Whisperers, led by Beta (Ryan Hurst). Fear was also shut down, halfway through filming its sixth season and missed the expected Summer debut date. World Beyond, a two-season long limited series, was arguably hardest hit, and was delayed from its original April premiere date despite being mostly done with producing its first season.
Cut to months later, and like a zombie shambling its way through a dilapidated town, The Walking Dead franchise is coming back to life. Sunday, October 4 (or October 1 if you subscribe to the AMC+ streaming service) at 9/8c AMC will broadcast “A Certain Doom,” wrapping up Season 10 (more on that in a second, because there’s an asterisk there), followed by the premiere of World Beyond at 10/9c. The week after, on October 11, Fear the Walking Dead will premiere and finally reveal the fate of fan favorite character Morgan Jones (Lennie James), followed by a new episode of World Beyond.
But that, as they say, is not all! On September 9, AMC announced the surprising news that The Walking Dead will be ending with an extended, 24-episode long final season, stretched over two years. That will follow six additional episodes added to Season 10. And after TWD wraps, it will give way to two new spinoffs: one focusing on Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride); another called Tales of the Walking Dead, an anthology series that will bring back fan favorite characters at different points in their lives, as well as showing off new parts of the zombie apocalypse.
Before all that, though, how even will an action focused franchise with massive casts, herds of zombies, and multiple sets even deal with shooting in a world still very much in the throes of the COVID pandemic? To find out more about all of this, Decider hopped on the phone with TWD Chief Creative Officer Scott M. Gimple for a de facto State Of The Walking Dead.
Shooting Zombies In The Age of COVID
“AMC takes production safety, in this age, very seriously,” Gimple told Decider. “On Walking Dead, [showrunner] Angela [Kang] and the writers have done an amazing job putting together these next six episodes that are extremely friendly to the challenges that we face in production. We were just very smart about the creative.
What’s amazing was the constraints that were embraced have resulted in some of the most amazing scripts the show has produced. I can’t wait to see them in these episodes. And it just so happens — well, it doesn’t just so happen, because they were planned for this — but they’re incredibly safe to produce. Or at least, incredibly cognizant of the challenges we’ll face in producing them.
Fear the Walking Dead, it’s also weird… The stories that we were telling, or the way that we were going to be telling stories, was anthological with deep dives on characters. That means fewer characters per episode, it sometimes means a lot of scenes of just one or two characters. That makes things a little bit easier to be safer in the environment we’re in right now.
And then with World Beyond, we don’t start until January. We’re going to learn our lessons, and take the techniques that really take it to the next level by the time we start that. From the moment this started, AMC got very very serious about examining how on earth we were going to do this. We’ve used the time of the pandemic to figure out our approaches. I think the effects are going to play a huge part of it as well. You invoked large herds of walkers. I will also say — and it’s very worth bringing up — the amazing sort of stuff that Greg Nicotero has come up with to make the special effects side safer and smarter in the challenges that we have. There’s a few things he came up with. Which I was like, ‘Man, I wish we had that four years ago.’ For different reasons! But yeah, Greg has been a wizard. Greg almost became a doctor himself. So he’s pretty cognizant of the science that he was being given to keep in mind.”
Why End ‘The Walking Dead’ With 30 Episodes To Go?
“You know, that was really more on AMC’s side of the equation,” Gimple said. “We have a ton of story to get through. And then story beyond that. AMC had a good idea of the space we were working in creatively, and they made a call on it. But to tell you the truth, there’s so much planned. Even beyond the 30 episodes ahead of us, it feels very, very far away. It feels like we’re at base camp to Everest.”
How Does ‘World Beyond’ Fit Into The Overall Franchise?
World Beyond isn’t just the next iteration of the franchise, it’s also key to understanding a bigger mystery that’s been building in Walking Dead, and Fear: what is the three rings, otherwise known as CRM? The militaristic organization took Rick Grimes away on a helicopter, tangled with the Fear group, and finally we’ll see how and where they’re living in World Beyond.
“Well, as it relates to that mythology that I was developing — in many ways, around the Rick Grimes story — it’s a very big mythology,” Gimple said. “I knew there were corners of it that I wanted to explore that I think audiences would want to explore. It’s one of many new mythologies we have planned in this world. It isn’t like all the Walking Dead shows have to do with this three circles mythology.
World Beyond, in and of itself, is tonally very different from the other shows. It has a younger point of view. But also, there’s an innocence about it — and I don’t just mean how old the characters are. It’s people who grew up in a place of safety. They went through a lot of trauma getting to that place of safety, but they are in a place of safety. That leads to an interesting dynamic. The people on Fear, they discovered the apocalypse. They were in it from the beginning. These kids, and the people in Campus Colony where they are, they went through some pretty heavy stuff at the beginning of the apocalypse. But have been living relatively first world lives. They have an awareness of what walkers are, and the dangers are, but they just don’t deal with them on a daily basis.
So when characters leave this place of safety, everybody’s going to have to face growing up. Everybody’s going to have to face the dangerous world on their own. They make the choice to, rather than have it hoisted upon them. And that’s heroic. They’re leaving. They could just stay where they are, they could just be safe. But they feel they need to enter the world for a very personal reason. A quest, of sorts.”
Casting ‘World Beyond’
Given that World Beyond focuses on younger characters, it might be natural to think that casting the series is looking to the future of the franchise, and not just the series itself. Walking Dead training camp, if you will. That’s not the intention at all, says Gimple.
“All these shows are pieces of a greater whole. I wouldn’t put it on any of the shows to just carry the mantle of The Walking Dead moving forward. The Walking Dead, the main show, the classic show, of course, is the anchor to everything. But beyond that, these shows take up different spaces tonally and plot-wise and character-wise. We just want to make the best show possible. If anything, the only consideration show-to-show is to have differentiation to make them as distinct as possible. Beyond that, we want to make the shows just as great as they can be.”
What Does ‘Fear’ Look Like, Six Seasons In?
Over the past few seasons, Fear the Walking Dead has leaned further into its Western nature – the show recently moved to Texas and the surrounding areas, instead of the Virginia environs of TWD. And in Season 6, it’ll lean even further, with a more anthological approach that pulls out individual characters, or smaller groups, episode by episode.
“The Walking Dead is very much into — they have, in some ways, established their civilizations,” Gimple said. “There’s a struggle between civilizations and cultures — if you call what the Whisperers have a culture. On Fear the Walking Dead, they’re just starting to establish civilizations. In some ways, the characters were always sort of separated a lot, or in conflict a lot on Fear. They came together in Season 5, rallying around Morgan. But it didn’t work for them. It broke them all apart even further. And it’s very interesting to see how they struggle to come together, how they struggle to go their own paths.
In some ways, that’s why we’re focusing so much on these individual stories — because of how broken apart this group is. But they’re connected. They have to be connected. It’s just very interesting to see stories play out. Deep dives on individual characters. And then, I guess, seeing the connections they have with other characters either lead to better moments for them, lead them to dangerous moments, lead them to frustrations, leave them to moments of grace.
I will say also, Fear, I believe, is a quirkier show. It’s weirder, weirder things happening. I don’t even know if that’s — I might be taking for granted the fact that I read about the Whisperers in a comic long before I saw them on TV. Maybe I’m used to them. Because that’s pretty weird, what they’re doing! But I think there’s a quirkier nature to Fear. I think it can jump between comedy and drama a little more frequently. Not all the time, it gets pretty dark over there. But Garret [Dillahunt] and Mo [Collins] — just the things that they’ve been able to do in a more comedic space has always been super cool.”
What’s Next For ‘Carol & Daryl’?
Though the Carol and Daryl focused spinoff won’t debut until 2023, fans have expressed surprise that both the show, and Tales, were announced so far in advance. So was Gimple concerned about dropping this news so early, particularly because it seems to let fans know that the duo are safe through the end of TWD?
“Uh, yes. I was,” Gimple said. “I don’t like spoilers, and I like trying to keep the story to the screen as much as possible. So yeah, that’s a trickier part of it. But announcing the end of The Walking Dead is a bummer, in a lot of ways. And I wanted to be honest… about the story continuing.
“By saying this Daryl and Carol show is continuing, in some ways, you’re saying, ‘It isn’t the complete end of all things Walking Dead.’ In some ways, people think that if we hadn’t told them that, that was withholding. Or something like that. And then with Tales, there very well may be an angle of seeing a lot of these current Walking Dead characters — I’m talking about the classic Walking Dead show — on that show. Telling deep dive stories about them in ways that are continuing on with the story. It was nice to have some good news in there too. And it was nice to be honest and transparent. But who knows? Maybe they’re both walkers in this show.”
Will The Rick Grimes Movies Still Be Going To Theaters?
Movie theaters are still shut down in many places all over the country, which puts a bit of a crimp in the plan to release three, Rick Grimes focused movies through Universal Pictures. However, Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman has noted that the shutdown has given him and the rest of the team more time to work on the scripts, which is good… But has the plan changed? Will the movie(s) head for a mixed plan, like the Breaking Bad spinoff El Camino, that debuted on Netflix as well as select theaters?
“I mean, the plan is for it to be in theaters,” Gimple said. “The only reason I say too far off or anything like that is just — we live in totally crazy times. Everything seems great. We’re following the plan for it to be in theaters. We’re making it a theatrical film. But with the way things are going, there might be an alien invasion tomorrow. I, for one, welcome our Martian overlords. Who knows? There’s a lot of craziness out in the world right now. But we’re following the plan, and we’re doing just as Robert said: we’re using the time to hone things up.
Andy was asked about — and Andy is super involved, Robert is super involved — Andy was asked about how it’s going, and I liked his answer. It was just like, ‘We are working on it.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, if only I could be like that.’”
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Where to watch The Walking Dead
Where to watch Fear the Walking Dead
Where to watch The Walking Dead: World Beyond
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