Is The Walking Dead's Future Female?

With Andrew Lincoln departing, stars Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, and Norman Reedus and showrunner Angela Kang tell us where the series is headed next.

by | October 5, 2018 | Comments

The Walking Dead SDCC season 9 panel poster (AMC)

(Photo by AMC)

After nine years of cast turnovers and a handful of high-profile departures by executive producers, The Walking Dead is experiencing its biggest changes since its fourth season: the arrival of new executive producer and showrunner Angela Kang and the departure of star Andrew Lincoln. It appears that the future of TWD is decidedly female.

While Kang told Rotten Tomatoes she didn’t think there was a conscious shift toward a more female-forward focus — “I think we have these incredible women who are lead characters. But we also have our great men, like Norman [Reedus] who plays Darryl,” she said, “so I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a conscious change towards doing sort of a gender thing.” — a change is definitely occurring both on screen and behind it.

Throughout the series, characters like Maggie (Lauren Cohan, who is also departing), Carol (Melissa McBride), and Michonne (Danai Gurira) persevered through physical and mental trials to become some of the series’ strongest characters. Kang, who has written on the series since its second season, said the character progression for each of those women was only natural.

“It’s more like, here’s who we have that we’ve followed for many years, that are really strong, that we have organically moved to places of leadership within the story,” she said. “It does allow us, though, at this point in the story, to sort of spotlight these really strong women characters, and see how they bounce off of each other as well as the other characters in our world.”

To McBride, the changes in leadership coming to Alexandria and the ones occurring behind the scenes already reflect a different sort of Walking Dead; which she credits to Kang.

“The show has gone through a couple of different showrunners and they all have their unique point of view and the way that they approach the work. And it’s totally felt and realized in the production,” McBride explained. Those showrunners include The Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont, who ran TWD for the first season and a half; The Shield‘s Glen Mazzara, who took over when Darabont’s relationship with AMC became acrimonious in the program’s second year; and Scott Gimple, who took Mazzara’s place the following year and ran the series until he was promoted to AMC brand manger for The Walking Dead ahead of its ninth season.

McBride continued, “From the very first episode [of the season, the show has] a lot more cinematic of a feel — the way [Angela’s] using the landscapes, the way she’s using the props, the way all the departments are just really taking hold of what it is they do, being creative within their departments. Angela’s got good leadership and she also communicates well with the departments.”

Like McBride, Reedus will be one of the most senior members of the cast after Lincoln’s departure — no easy feat on this show — and one of the few to make it all the way from Atlanta to Alexandria. In his view, Kang’s leadership has produced a visibly different set in the show’s ninth year.

“We had a couple seasons where it was male-driven and guys sort of chest-bumped going ‘I’ma kill you, I’ma kill you, I’ma kill you,’” he said, adding, “We have a lot of new directors, a lot of new writers, they’re mostly all women. It’s a different vibe.” Reedus also credits the change with establishing new “awesome” characters for the year, which include Samantha Morton and Ryan Hurst as Whisperers Alpha and Beta.

The Whisperer War storyline, featured in issues 157-162 of The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, was a personal favorite of Kang’s, and her immediate pitch when she succeeded Gimple. In the comic book storyline, Negan (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the series) takes on more of an advisory capacity, and Kang teased “a version of that story” may play out in the new season. Of course, if Rick is gone by the time the show’s version of the Whisperer War begins, who could Negan possibly advise?

As is the tradition for The Walking Dead’s cast and crew, everyone was mum on any further details. But Kang noted Rick’s imminent departure changes the very nature of the show.

“I think it forces us to reevaluate as writers our own storytelling rhythms, and the things that we have leaned on over the years to make a Rick-centric story work,” she explained. “We have to go, ‘OK, well, we can tell stories with these other characters. But these other characters are not Rick. They don’t have his personality.’”

As a result, characters like Darryl, Carol and Michonne (Danai Gurira) will face very different sorts of dilemmas once whatever happens to Rick happens.

“It’s been interesting creatively because it really forces us to look very hard at the ways that we can tell these stories going forward,” Kang added. “So that’s the thing that we challenge ourselves to do every day.”

One of the show’s most powerful characters, Michonne, has had what star Gurira describes simply as a “journey” from season 3 to the woman audiences will see after the 18-month gap between seasons 8 and 9.

“[Michonne has] been saying since season 5 [that] we have to not turn into something we don’t recognize. From her own experience, she’s been pushing away from that,” Gurira told Rotten Tomatoes. “To get to that point, where we can actually have some stability and have a moment to try to find our feet, and create something for our children, and our children’s children. Getting back to something resembling who we once were [is] something that I think has been really threaded through her quite beautifully over the course of years.”

Gurira was quick to add that Michonne’s journey may not lead to a Rick-style leadership role.

“She’s trying to create something that allows for people to come forward and come together. I think that’s the clear thing,” she said. “If you put the structures in place, it’s not just about you. You’re thinking in a futuristic way. You’re thinking generationally. You’re not just thinking about yourself. That’s how Michonne is built.”

Of course, Gurira skillfully avoided any more specific questions about Michonne’s life following Rick’s departure, instead joking that working on the show has taught her “how to say very little to press.”

Reedus, however, said that he would miss Lincoln’s presence on set — and credited the star with teaching him how to be a much more professional actor.

“Part of what makes Andy ‘Andy’ and a good leader on set and a good quarterback for this football team is he cares from a good place. He’s never been into the limelight or the money or whatever,” Reedus told Rotten Tomatoes. “He does everything for the right reasons and, like everyone says, he’s the first guy there and the last one to leave because he comes from a good place.”

Lincoln isn’t completely gone, however. He’ll actually be on set following his character’s departure so he can shadow a director in anticipation of directing an episode of his own during season 10.

“It’s just going to be family time,” Gurira said of his imminent, though different, return.

And as with TWD‘s many other cast departures, the show will hold Rick in high regard as it forges forward with new storylines and new characters.

“We have loved our long relationship with Andrew Lincoln as Rick. It’s been really fun for us to write for him and to watch him on screen,” Kang said. “But there is definitely a lot more story to be told with the rest of the ensemble that is left.”

The Walking Dead season 9 premieres on Sunday, October 7 at 9 p.m. ET.

Tag Cloud

women zombie political drama strong female leads revenge reboot Fox News Film Festival Sundance TV 72 Emmy Awards ID TV hispanic heritage month Marvel Television criterion festival Tarantino Western Legendary Lucasfilm Musical Disney Channel Adult Swim adventure medical drama TNT fresh HBO Max Mary Tyler Moore golden globe awards screenings RT History CBS versus 2017 Food Network GLAAD Video Games dragons king kong American Society of Cinematographers Chilling Adventures of Sabrina HBO Lionsgate lord of the rings Teen TCM Brie Larson NBC DGA NYCC HBO Go sequel 4/20 popular marvel comics series 90s Peacock President Marvel stop motion Sony Pictures The Purge black comedy know your critic TCA 2017 godzilla Podcast name the review Women's History Month Walt Disney Pictures Reality kaiju Hear Us Out news Super Bowl Arrowverse Bravo 2020 Neflix dark Extras Summer anthology Sci-Fi Comic-Con@Home 2021 Opinion chucky social media latino 73rd Emmy Awards Character Guide 2015 Disney Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Marathons Disney+ Disney Plus technology art house ABC Signature AMC TV One Comedy Central Showtime venice joker Anna Paquin rom-coms Cannes dogs jurassic park stand-up comedy Pacific Islander cars docudrama 93rd Oscars Family cooking Christmas Nat Geo VOD TIFF what to watch 45 Shondaland young adult Apple Mindy Kaling binge canceled legend Disney streaming service Hallmark Christmas movies video prank international Star Trek free movies Winners Epix Mystery rotten trailers Comics on TV Paramount Network worst movies Mudbound japan Crackle IFC Films sitcom Marvel Studios batman Song of Ice and Fire gangster Pet Sematary Writers Guild of America docuseries best Pop action-comedy richard e. Grant genre The Walking Dead boxing movie SXSW stoner halloween aliens mob natural history breaking bad Apple TV Plus war ghosts OWN finale spanish all-time Amazon Prime crime drama The Academy YouTube Red mutant blaxploitation fast and furious cancelled 2019 italian 71st Emmy Awards cartoon Freeform justice league USA YA cinemax Comedy composers TCA Awards BBC America Horror elevated horror AMC Plus Awards Lifetime Christmas movies MCU Drama obituary transformers IFC unscripted festivals WGN dc See It Skip It directors Quiz Image Comics rt labs Wes Anderson Animation cops superman Red Carpet New York Comic Con boxoffice Oscars archives Universal Pictures Rock classics hispanic El Rey thriller high school christmas movies based on movie Vudu dceu mockumentary rotten movies we love Classic Film Spring TV australia Creative Arts Emmys Tomatazos kids BBC Amazon Studios 2016 Trailer franchise marvel cinematic universe rt labs critics edition space 2021 Broadway documentary toronto vampires Netflix Christmas movies indie movies biopic CNN zombies green book nature jamie lee curtis slashers Funimation hidden camera TV renewals TCA Winter 2020 CBS All Access 21st Century Fox hollywood talk show San Diego Comic-Con First Look Paramount hist crossover screen actors guild singing competition comiccon Trophy Talk ESPN facebook historical drama critics Certified Fresh streaming cancelled television Pride Month BBC One game show TruTV independent First Reviews GoT critic resources scorecard comic books E! Kids & Family Fall TV comics Stephen King Polls and Games Election TV Land VH1 Holiday Premiere Dates USA Network comedies dreamworks The Walt Disney Company renewed TV shows ratings Best and Worst spanish language golden globes Fox Searchlight OneApp 1990s Amazon book adaptation remakes black History Interview Turner 24 frames live action ITV indiana jones Chernobyl reviews Grammys BET blockbuster science fiction Trivia YouTube Premium Columbia Pictures Britbox Nickelodeon Television Academy Spike DC Universe razzies Endgame Ovation psychological thriller Mary Poppins Returns animated Holidays PBS french BET Awards cancelled TV shows king arthur olympics crime thriller slasher scene in color dramedy Thanksgiving die hard telelvision Disney Plus travel cults Cosplay television Baby Yoda Hulu Exclusive Video FX on Hulu deadpool cats child's play blockbusters Rocky Discovery Channel Infographic Pirates sequels TCA SDCC serial killer BAFTA psycho adenture PlayStation japanese Rom-Com Fantasy true crime Pixar romantic comedy mission: impossible halloween tv Superheroe Avengers A24 police drama monster movies SundanceTV Country superhero Tubi cancelled TV series robots LGBTQ Comic Book nbcuniversal Superheroes documentaries adaptation kong Shudder Ghostbusters witnail pirates of the caribbean foreign sag awards FOX ABC Family Apple TV+ royal family Action a nightmare on elm street TLC award winner The CW period drama book heist movie Martial Arts canceled TV shows 20th Century Fox laika Travel Channel MSNBC sports Calendar ABC The Arrangement Instagram Live CMT spider-verse Year in Review wonder woman basketball Dark Horse Comics Tokyo Olympics vs. Captain marvel Hallmark Countdown Music miniseries teaser new star wars movies Black Mirror 2018 new york FX Crunchyroll biography disaster IMDb TV emmy awards Black History Month PaleyFest dexter Pop TV diversity Academy Awards Sundance casting Heroines live event universal monsters target toy story TBS Awards Tour APB Star Wars 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards MTV Spectrum Originals FXX Film worst posters scary movies Starz E3 suspense rt archives Set visit new zealand films harry potter romance Schedule TV movies discovery spy thriller Alien james bond satire Biopics Tumblr aapi tv talk werewolf Musicals 007 crime Cartoon Network quibi Binge Guide Acorn TV Sundance Now Amazon Prime Video A&E comic book movies WarnerMedia nfl DC streaming service mcc Sneak Peek parents Emmy Nominations football GIFs spider-man VICE streaming movies Warner Bros. debate Esquire Valentine's Day Logo twilight 99% supernatural south america Photos comic The Witch ViacomCBS YouTube spain Turner Classic Movies asian-american Nominations Lifetime game of thrones anime comic book movie Paramount Plus Ellie Kemper zero dark thirty Syfy Emmys Reality Competition DC Comics Television Critics Association CW Seed Netflix LGBT Rocketman National Geographic spinoff theme song X-Men Winter TV politics NBA video on demand Watching Series Elton John doctor who Universal feel good Mary poppins children's TV sopranos DirecTV saw concert Masterpiece scary RT21 Box Office Toys