SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of last night’s The Walking Dead Season 6 finale.
Unlike the past two season finales of the AMC blockbuster The Walking Dead, a major character died last night on the Season 6 ender – but we won’t know who it is until the beginning of Season 7 in the fall. Building up to that murder by baseball bat, last night’s 90-minute “Last Day On Earth” episode featured the long-anticipated arrival of arch villain Negan, portrayed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Of course, that unveiling in the Greg Nicotero -episode was the opening act for the real headliner. Sunday’s finale saw the captured and on-their-knees Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), the injured Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Glenn Rhee (Steve Yeun), the soon-to give birth Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and other core Survivors in the last seconds of what will literally be one character’s last day.
Getting ready to jet off to Europe for a whirlwind press tour for Season 2 of spinoff Fear The Walking Dead, Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd chatted with Deadline about last night’s visceral cliffhanger, who Negan killed, and the criticism the show has teased its audience too much this season and finally jumped the shark — or the walker, so to speak. Talking about why Morgan snagged the Negan role on TWD, she also touched on the ethos of Season 7, how Fear The Walking Dead has changed going into its second season, and the real-world comparisons between terrorism and her upcoming Syfy series based on Whitley Strieber’s 2013 Alien Hunter novel, which debuts April 11.
DEADLINE: First question. Who did Negan kill in the closing seconds of the finale last night?
HURD: (Laughs) Well, he kills somebody, that’s for sure. That’s all I can say.
DEADLINE: So, this isn’t like the is-he, isn’t-he fate of the Glenn Rhee character from earlier in the season or the not-fatal shooting of Norman Reedus’ Daryl Dixon from the end of the penultimate episode. nA core character really dies from being beaten to death by Negan’s bat?
HURD: Most assuredly.
DEADLINE: The chatter is that it’s Glenn, who was the one Negan killed in the comics, or Abraham, who died in the comics from the arrows to the head that killed Merritt Wever’s Dr. Denise Cloyd a couple of episodes ago. How do you respond to such speculation?
HURD: We love the comic book as much as the fans do, but at the same time, Robert Kirkman encourages us to defy expectations on TWD the show. Now, sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. But if I were in the fans’ position, I’d be speculating right along with everybody else. It is challenging not knowing.
DEADLINE: Will we learn for sure in the Season 7 opener who was killed?
if it makes you feel any better i still don’t know who got killed and it’s been like 6 months since i read the script #whoisit
— chandler riggs (@chandlerriggs) April 4, 2016
DEADLINE: So, Daryl’s obviously alive, for now, by his appearance in the finale. But where was he shot last week, cause there was a lot of blood…
HURD: It’s a flesh wound, as Monty Python says, but in a different context on our show.
DEADLINE: OK but for specific context, with the finale’s cliffhanger, the unknown fate of Glenn over several episodes this season that saw Steven Yeun’s name disappear from the credits, and was Norman Reedus’ Daryl killed or not killed in that final shot of March 27’s “East” episode, TWD is getting some body blows for becoming too much hype and tease. What’s your reaction to that?
HURD: The interesting thing is that the comic book does this over and over again. Now, obviously TV is a different medium, but we do take out inspiration from the comic.
Look, with the Glenn situation, we very much wanted the audience to be in the same position as Maggie and everyone else was. Which is there is no way to know. It’s not like he has a cell phone and can call someone and say, “You know what, I’m actually OK.” That reality is part of the universe that we’ve created, not knowing until you are reunited with someone. Yes, it can be incredibly challenging to wait, to not know one way or the other. But that’s within the rules of The Walking Dead universe.
DEADLINE: Within rules of the TWD universe, a couple of years ago, you described Season 5, before it debuted, as being where things became more suburban. Last year, the line of Season 6 was about new threats, and earlier this year you described it as where the Survivors went out into the world more. So how would you describe Season 7?
HURD: Season 7 certainly is going to be all about the game-changer that is Negan and what that means to the world of The Walking Dead and all of the characters in it. He’s certainly the most formidable foe that Rick has ever encountered, not only in the comic books but now on the show. We certainly got a taste of that in the finale. I’m really looking forward to Season 7.
DEADLINE: How far along are you guys on it?
HURD: There is a writers’ room but no finished scripts yet.
DEADLINE: With Negan being such a big part of The Walking Dead story once he was introduced in Issue #100 of the comic, why was Jeffrey Dean Morgan your choice to play the character?
HURD: I think he captures everything you need in a Negan. He’s imposing, he’s physically formidable, but most importantly he’s a fantastic actor. He can pull off the nuance of the danger and threat that Negan poses but also the incredible charisma he has. And you need all of those ingredients – and I actually think he is one of the best actors working today in either TV or film.
DEADLINE: Once you choose him, with Jeffrey being on Extant earlier this year and The Good Wife, was there ever a risk of a scheduling conflict that could have seen you not get him for TWD?
HURD: You always face that risk when you are negotiating a deal. But it worked out, and we feel very blessed that it did.
DEADLINE: With Season 6 now over, what are your feelings in retrospect?
HURD: What’s most impressive to me is just how enthusiastic six years in everyone on the show is. From Robert Kirkman, Scott Gimple, everyone in the writers’ room, cast and crew, everyone gives it 110% and you just don’t find that on many shows, especially this far in.
And then the passion and enthusiasm going into Season 7 is there just as it has been from Day One. It’s truly a phenomenon. Our cast and crew is just the most remarkable group of people working in television today and that’s what makes the show so special.
DEADLINE: TWD is over for the season but you’ve got the Season 2 debut of Fear The Walking Dead on April 10 and your new drama Hunters premiering on Syfy the next day. Are these worlds that TWD fans can step into to get their fix until the show is back in the fall?
HURD: With Fear The Walking Dead Season 2 we are still following the rules of the Kirkman-created universe, so we won’t violate those and there is no crossover. On the other hand, we are now out to sea on the show and we are going to encounter the kind of threats that you certainly wouldn’t encounter if you were landlocked in Georgia or the greater Washington D.C. area.
Fear is still very true to the ethos of the mothership in that it is about who would I be, and what would I do in the zombie apocalypse? It also deals with the issues of blood vs. bond. Is it possible that you can develop a stronger bond with a stranger that you’ve been thrown in with than with your own family? Those are things that the new season of Fear with tackle
DEADLINE: Are we going to see the Fear characters out to sea all of Season 2?
HURD: I can’t go into that specifically, but I will say it is not completely sea-bound.
DEADLINE: And Hunters?
HURD: Well, that really delves into the monster within. You know, on the show, you can’t really tell by looking at someone if they are a Hunter, if they are an alien intent on our demise. Whereas in the Walking Dead universe, you can very quickly pick up who is a walker and who isn’t. So it deals with a very different kind of fear and one that is very relevant to today because it is an allegory about terrorism and about fear of the other.
DEADLINE: That’s a classic science fiction technique, but do you worry in today’s highly charged atmosphere it will work?
HURD: Yes, when you think about science fiction, it’s a way to examine what’s going on in the world today. If you look at something that you might not consider science fiction like George Orwell’s 1984 or Animal Farm or the film I did that was adapted into a TV series, Alien Nation – that examined immigration through a science fiction lens. So, we can put aside all of our preconceived notions and all of our internal bias to look at something in a different way. While, at the same time, being able to be completely entertaining. That’s a challenge and I think Natalie Chaldez in creating Hunters has very much succeeded.
DEADLINE: Last question, will we see TWD at Comic-Con this year?
HURD: As far as I know, yes. It’s our annual pilgrimage and everyone loves it.