SPOILER ALERT: This post contains details of tonight’s Season 10 semi-finale of The Walking Dead.
“It was just such an epic finale, but it was an epic year,” says The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus of tonight’s long-delayed Season 10 finale “A Certain Doom.” “I mean, we had Alpha, we had Beta, we had these giant super characters that season and the Beta episode at the end, the finale, where he’s coming at us with 200,000 zombies, it had to be as big as Alpha’s end,” adds the man who has played Daryl Dixon for almost a decade.
With a true battle royale, the return of Lauren Cohan’s Maggie, the death of Ryan Hurst’s Beta by Daryl’s hand, a massive herd of walkers and those final moments where a very new type of first contact is made, the Greg Nicotero-directed finale Sunday was truly one of the biggest ever for the AMC series based on Robert Kirkman’s now concluded comics.
But, “A Certain Doom” isn’t actually the end of Season 10 — there are now an extra six episodes about to start filming in the next few days in Georgia.
Originally set to run back in April, the coronavirus pandemic saw last night’s episode pulled from the schedule as post-production slowed down Then, it was announced at the virtual Comic-Con@Home in late July that finale would air tonight, along with the debut of the latest spinoff in the zombie apocalypse franchise The Walking Dead: World Beyond.
Last month, the big shocker came that TWD is going to end in 2022 after a super-sized Season 11. The conclusion of the mother show will be followed in 2023 by a much-desired spinoff with Reedus’ Daryl and Melissa McBride’s Carol Peletier. Created by TWD showrunner Angela Kang and Deadverse chief content officer Scott M. Gimple, the new spinoff is a clear indication AMC is truly committed to the walker business for many years to come.
Having recently inked a big new first-look deal with AMC and launched his bigbaldhead productions shingle, Reedus also has an ambitious and full dance card of adaptations, a publishing unit. At the end of the month, the ever persevering actor will drop a new Portraits from the Woods book of TWD BTS photography, with all the proceeds going to the COVID-19 response fund.
With Kang in Los Angeles and Reedus in the Peach State, I chatted with the duo about tonight’s semi-finale and what form the six additional episodes will take in this new world of COVID-19 and safety protocols. We also talked about bringing TWD to a close, the plan for the spinoff, and what the next season of motorbike-fueled RIDE with Norman Reedus will take given the present circumstances.
DEADLINE: “A Certain Doom” was filmed a long time ago and saw post-production completed since the pandemic effectively closed down production worldwide. So where does this defeat of the Whisperers and the introduction of the advanced Commonwealth community from the comics pivot in the new reality of the world, Hollywood and TWD?
KANG: Yeah, this was obviously planned to be our Season 10 finale. At the start of this year we were heavy into what was our planned Season 11; we didn’t yet know anything about the future of the series. Then the pandemic hit and some things changed. One of the things that we had to shift to was doing six episodes that were more production-friendly for the pandemic because, otherwise, we just wouldn’t be shooting anything for a long time. The epidemiologist was saying like, yeah, we can get back to work safely, but, we cannot have like 300 zombie extras crammed into a tiny space together. So, from there came like these six episodes, which are kind of a continuation of Season 10, though they weren’t originally planned to be.
REEDUS: Look, I actually think after all this time, you need to go back and watch a couple of episodes before just to get ready for it.
DEADLINE: How do you mean?
REEDUS: It was just such an epic finale, but it was an epic year. I mean, we had Alpha, we had Beta, we had these giant super characters that season and the Beta episode at the end, the finale, where he’s coming at us with 200,000 zombies, it had to be as big as Alpha’s end. So, to me, the whole season was large. To have a break and then to have this giant finale I feel like you might want to go back a couple of episodes and rewind, and then rev the engine back up to get it back to fifth gear, you know what I mean?
DEADLINE: Gearing up for the newly minted half-dozen extra episodes of Season 10, what can we expect Angela, considering the reality of the real-life pandemic?
KANG: I will say, they are really like deep dives into characters. It’s been really fun to kind of work on them creatively, although really a challenge, but a challenge I think that has been invigorating for people.
DEADLINE: How so?
KANG: Well, the cast has seemed to really respond to the scripts, and we’ve had a good time writing them. They don’t have the typical scope and scale of what would be like a gigantic like finale with like hundreds of extras by the time you get to the end, but I think we get to tell a really, really cool story that I think the fans will really love.
We’ll get to see dynamics between Maggie and Negan, we’ll see a lot of story related to Daryl and Carol, and where people have been in the past, which, I think, should be satisfying for fans who have wondered about X, Y, Z moments. Then, you know, the plan is to keep driving forward into Season 11, like while everything is pumping for these six right now. The writers room is hard at work planning the final big arc that will lead to the series end.
DEADLINE: Norman, you are there on the ground in Georgia now, a few table reads under your belt, about to start filming the extra six. What’s your POV?
REEDUS: I think it’s exactly what Angela discussed. We really get into the heads of the characters more than a giant situation where you’d have thousands of zombies on top of you and people screaming and running.
It’s more character-driven, because of COVID, it’s kind of changed the dynamic a little bit. Also, I think after such an epic battle at the end of this season I think you need some breathing room. I think people need to exhale and take a look around them, and I think that’s what’s happening now. I’m sure it’ll ramp back up again but right now it’s kind of an introspective exhale sort of a feel, which is nice. It’s a nice tone.
DEADLINE: One element of the remainder of Season 10 is Lauren Cohan is back as Maggie, as was made very clear in “A Certain Doom” with the character playing a pivotal role in saving the life of Gabriel and the fight against the Whisperers. It has been known for a while that Lauren was coming back, but how is Maggie different now, if she is?
KANG: I mean, we had her in such a limited capacity for that finale, but we were so happy to get to introduce her and have her back.
So, now she is back, we’re going to find out more about what was happening in that time that she was away. She has seen some dark things on the road, and obviously, like when she comes in, she’s with this man in like a metal mask, and who is this fellow, what adventures have they been on? That’s all part of the story going forward, and it’s going to drive one of the major missions that we’ll start to see unfold. It will lead us to meet some other interesting characters that will cross into some of the other major storylines of our series going forward.
DEADLINE: Norman, Angela took over as showrunner for Season 9 and really rejuvenated the series, which had become overwhelmed by its blockbuster status, in my opinion. Now she is leading the mother show to its conclusion and then launching the spinoff with you and Melissa. Having been there since the beginning with a character invented for the show, not from the comics, how does that feel to you at this transition point?
DEADLINE: Of course.
REEDUS: Angela was always my favorite writer on the show. When she came on many years ago, my favorite writer for Daryl, my favorite writer in general, and she really had this thing about her where she would listen to the actors and she would get a feel for what those actors felt of their characters. I think she used it to her advantage.
I think she really collaborated, which I think was something we all really wanted to do, and it’s hard to run such a show juggernaut of a television show. It’s a big deal, and there’s a lot of factors.
DEADLINE: Such as?
REEDUS: Well, we had gotten to the point where we were so huge that it’s a money-making machine as well as an introspective artistic television show, so the story’s there but there’s also the Death Star, and it’s cranking money, and it’s cranking action figures, fans and conventions. It was a thing, and I think sometimes the thing takes a hold of the ship and drives it for a minute, which leaves all of us who were there since day one making this little show overwhelmed, because this felt very independent in the beginning.
We fought to keep it as real as possible and we put a lot of time and a lot of tears, and a lot of sweat, and blood, and she kind of gave us that back. She gave us that taste of there’s a story here and it’s our story to hear and then we share it with the world, as opposed to hey, there’s a billion people on this ship. I think it kind of got a little out of our hands on our side anyway. Not now.
DEADLINE: So, having tamed the beast so to speak, what is it like to see the original Walking Dead coming to an end, Angela?
KANG: I mean, I think it’s really, I don’t know, bittersweet. I don’t want to say that because it’s such a cliché word, it’s just really the only thing I can think about because so much of my life has been tied up in this series. I didn’t necessarily think I was going to be the one that closed it out. I feel like it simultaneously is an honor, and I’m going to try to do the best work that we can with the writers and with everybody who’s involved on the show to make it a wonderful and memorable last run.
DEADLINE: Is there an aspect of heavy is the head that wears the crown though too?
KANG: Yeah, I feel a lot of the weight of responsibility, and so I’m still sort of in a phase where I’m processing it all and figuring out like how to translate it all into the creative. We’re all like working on that on the writing side, so I guess I just feel like, you know, I don’t want to f*ck it up (laughs). So that’s my sort of overwhelming feeling, I just want to make the story great.
DEADLINE: In that vein, what about the story to come, with Norman’s Daryl and Melissa’s Carol fronting their own series, which is TWD 2.0 on one level and not at all on another, isn’t it?
KANG: Let me say, though it went public last month, the spinoff is something that has been in the works for a while on and off. Scott Gimple and I have been working on the early stages of that, and we pitched out what kind of our idea for it was earlier this year.
DEADLINE: What was the pitch?
KANG: Well, we’re looking for a different tone, it’s a road story, and we’re excited to work on it, excited to keep collaborating with Norman and Melissa. Hopefully, we’ll set up all those blocks leading up to it because we started feeding things for a while, that idea that something was coming.
— The Walking Dead on AMC (@WalkingDead_AMC) October 5, 2020
REEDUS: It feels sort of surreal, to be honest.
REEDUS: I was told about the spinoff show a while ago and we’ve had talks about it for years. But we always thought that we would be leaving and coming back and checking on the group and so forth, so I didn’t expect that announcement. We’ve been there for a long time, so this has obviously been a huge part of my life, the show, so it’s a little bittersweet. But then again, I’m super excited about the sequel. I think it’s going to have a very different tone, it’s going to be a different show and I love working with Melissa, so I’m excited to see where we go with that.
DEADLINE: Sounds like a real planetary alignment on this one?
KANG: To some extent. I mean the spinoff has been talked about definitely at AMC for a while, and Scott and I have been talking about it for a while, it’s something that Norman would certainly be constantly talking about. So, luckily, the idea is that Scott and I had for the spinoff like really aligned well with just kind of a vibe that Norman was hoping for.
We knew we wanted to do this roadshow, we knew that we wanted the tone to kind of be a little lighter. By like lighter, I don’t mean like really light but just that it’s not quite as like we meet like one enemy and are following like the ups and downs and like war story of that. It’s more about a journey.
So, I think like where we are in the process is, you know, we pitched out a version of this to AMC like pretty early in the year, I don’t even know if I’m allowed to say that, but I’ll just say it anyway. Then we’ve been working on and off on just the next stages of that, so we’re still in the development phase. But I feel like we’re making some good progress. It’s just one of those things that we have to balance alongside our other duties that are day-to-day on the show and what Scott’s working on development wise.
REEDUS: You know, I was always a fan of shows like Kung Fu and Billy Jack, and all of those shows I grew up with where it was this one guy traveling across the country and he just kind of gets in these situations. Tonally he’s not looking for trouble, and he’s not looking to cause anything he’s just on his own path and kind of changes the dynamic of the room as he leaves the town…
DEADLINE: I can see that…
REEDUS: Yeah, so I’m curious where we’ll go and also very, very excited. You work with actors on a show like Walking Dead, everybody’s got to sign a seven-year contract to work on the show. With a show like the one I think that we’re going to make, you can get really good actors to come in and do a guest spot, which I’m really excited about.
DEADLINE: The spinoff of just one of many projects, Walking Dead, RIDE and otherwise you have on the boil coming off this deal you inked with AMC for your bigbaldhead productions. How are you going to keep it all going?
REEDUS: I’ve always made things …I mean, I wrote a novel during this time. I’ve always done stuff like that. I did that before I was an actor and I kept doing it while I was an actor. I’ve always done photography. I’ve always done art shows around the world. I’ve always put together stuff like that. I’ve always made little films. I’ve always done stuff like that.
I’ve always worked on stuff hoping it was going to have a door I could walk through one day and make it real. I’ve always done it.
When the deal came for the first-look deal, they said, a lot of actors do this and it’s a vanity project and they never really get their hands dirty. They let other people do it and they try to make films where they star in them, and I was like, trust me. I already have a billion ideas and a billion things I’m working on (laughs).
To be honest, I’ve never had time to do some of the things I wanted to do. I’m busy all year, and Walking Dead was eight months of the year. There were many parts of the year I was doing RIDE. I got a little break at Christmas, and the whole time I’m doing art shows, and I’m doing art books, and I’m doing things for charities, I’m always doing those, but the COVID thing kind of helped me do that in a way because I never would’ve had the time to kick the company off the way that I wanted to kick it off.
All of a sudden everybody’s doing Zoom calls, and everybody’s reading things, and everyone’s getting ready for the world to open back up and it kind of gave me the time to do all of this
DEADLINE: To jump back to “A Certain Doom” for a sec, Angela, the end of the episode takes us deeper into Kirkman’s comic canon. Are you sticking close that story going forward the rest of this season and Season 11 as much as possible?
KANG: Well, when we saw these Stormtrooper-like characters show up in the comic book, I’m sure for some, it was like wait, who are these guys?
The design is taken from a group that is prominent in the comics, and comic fans will recognize them as the entry into the story of the Commonwealth. But, for people who don’t know the comic that are following with the show, I’ll just say that we’re about to get into a lot more story with these people. I’ll also say, this deep into this new apocalypse, it should tell you right away this is like a heavily organized group, and how do you even keep white armor clean? What does that in and of itself like tell you about these people?
They’ve created these semiautomatic weapons with bayonet tips, and so it’s all pointing towards that this is a much different type of group than the Whisperers, who just were all about like communing with nature. These are people that must be behind walls and have like access to things, so you know our characters will tangle with these guys, and we’ll keep going with the story from there.
DEADLINE: Going into that, Norman, what’s going on with RIDE going forward? I know you start filming a new season, but the pandemic cut that short. So, pardon the analogy, but is the journey over?
REEDUS: I’m actually have my house in Georgia right now. I just came back from a wardrobe thing. I’m back at the house. I’m waiting for someone to show up because they’re taking one of the rooms here and they’re turning it into a video conference interview-type room where I will be doing commentary and video and telling stories about past RIDE episodes.
This season we shot two episodes in New Zealand and then the world stopped.
Now, I can’t really go anywhere to film anything other than Walking Dead. I mean, right when they shut everything down, I was on my way to Italy and Croatia, and they’re like, no, it’s done.
So, we’ll have the two episodes out of New Zealand, and then it’ll be kind of a best of season for the remaining four. Then I’ll shoot Walking Dead up until Thanksgiving, have a break until January, and then from January I’ll be shooting two full seasons for a year, and we’re going to try to find the time, depending on what the world looks like, to bounce off and do a RIDE episode here and there, and pick that back up.
DEADLINE: I come back to Mr. Busy…
REEDUS: (laughs) Yeah, we have all of these other projects that are in development right now. So, I’ll be busy, of course, but I’ll make it work. I always make it work, and it’s the things I like to do anyway. It doesn’t seem like work at times, so I’ll make it work.
DEADLINE: In terms of making it work, Angela, TWD is on the verge of starting to film the rest of Season 10 right now in Georgia. It’s a challenge for everyone, obviously, but how are you guys managing the necessary safety protocols and actually making a show?
KANG: The advantage we have is that we have our own studio and backlot. So, a lot of the challenges that I’m hearing from other showrunners that they’re facing is if you’re a location-heavy show, it becomes so hard to go on location in a way that’s safe.
DEADLINE: It’s impossible doing that right now…
KANG: Yeah, for them it’s impossible, but we control our environment. You’d be surprised how much, with plenty of preplanning, we’ve been able to build on the backlot, so it won’t feel like, oh, you’re just seeing the same like one place over and over. The art department has built out all these locations that are on the backlot. Then, on the safety side, the studio itself has upgraded the HVAC, put in air scrubbers and UV light things to zap germs on the stages. We’ve got so many safety protocols in place following every single thing to the letter that the unions have all asked for plus gone beyond.
DEADLINE: Such as?
KANG: We have a mobile lab that is set up at the studio. Because a problem that a lot of productions were facing is not getting test results turned around in time, so you don’t know if like people are good to go or not.
I think one of the advantages is we really planned our return to production around like what the epidemiologist told us. We listened to the experts on like every single thing. I’m not throwing shade on anybody at all, it’s just like we have like a military-grade operation, it’s so stringent.