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'The Walking Dead' showrunner on finding 'parallel universe' series finale, how it compares to comics
As the last winter premiere of The Walking Dead drops Feb. 20, showrunner Angela Kang talks to SYFY WIRE about charting the series finale.
When The Walking Dead returns to AMC on Feb. 20, it's the beginning of the end of an era for the horror series. Going back to the show's second season, fans have been trained to look toward the show's mid-February premieres which rounded out the seasonal arcs. But with this 11th and final season for the series underway, the finality of the long-running horror series coming to a close this fall is becoming more real.
Even as audiences anticipate the Season 11 stories to pick back up this Sunday, current showrunner/executive producer Angela Kang and her writers are crafting the very end of the series, and she tells SYFY WIRE that it's already been tricky to find a way to satisfy everyone with the few hours they have left to write.
"Without getting into too much specifics, for us it is important to try to give [all] these characters moments to shine," Kang says of servicing the large ensemble of old-timers like Lauren Cohan (Maggie Greene) and Christian Serratos (Rosita Espinosa) to the newbies like Paola Lázaro (Juanita "Princess" Sanchez) and Josh Hamilton (Lance Hornsby). "Not everybody's gonna have the same amount of screen time and that's even just on the level of everybody's actor deal is very different. It makes it like a mathematical puzzle to figure out how to work things out."
Kang says they've made it apart of the show to try and let actor's go to work on other projects like Cohan's exit for the ABC series Whiskey Cavalier (2019) or even Marvel Studios projects shot near their home base in Georgia. "It's always been a juggle on our show because we want all of our actors to just do great, because we are so fond of them."
With Season 11 broken into three blocks of eight episodes, Kang and her writers call this the B block, but admit that in reality these episodes going into the C block which will premiere in the fall are telling one large arc to the finale. She teases that fans should expect events underway now will continue to intensify from B to C and there won't be as pronounced a difference between them as seen in previous seasons. "It's not like we go to C Block, and all of a sudden it's a musical comedy," she laughs. "But there are some shifts that happen of importance."
As with most series adapted from source material, The Walking Dead TV show has departed from Robert Kirkman's comic book series in many ways. Characters who died in the books remain alive, and vice versa. Arcs have changed dramatically and outcomes have diverged for many reasons. Because of that, the question is how much Kang has thought about matching or bringing any of the arcs back to how the comics ended?
"We always start with the comic as our basis," she offers thoughtfully. "But there's a fair amount of just riffing off of that too because we have a different array of characters that are in the books at the end. We've got different directions that the story has gone so we're definitely in a parallel universe from the comics. But we've thought a lot about what we think the story from the comics was about and what the show has been trying to say. There are elements of theme and intention that we're trying to honor even if not in a totally literal way to what the source material did."
Asked if it's hit her yet that she's tasked with closing one of the most popular dramas in contemporary TV, Kang sighs with acknowledgement. "It's a tricky prospect," she admits about the prospect that is on her plate right now. "We can only make it and then put it out in the world and hope that at least emotionally people find some resonance in it. That's the best any creator can do because at a certain point, it belongs to the audience."
The Walking Dead Season 11 returns to AMC and AMC+ on Sundays.