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SYFY WIRE The Walking Dead

'The Walking Dead: Dead City' promises 'Escape from New York' vibe & Maggie/Negan tension

The Walking Dead: Dead City, hitting AMC in June, promises a very new dynamic for the franchise.

By Tara Bennett
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan in The Walking Dead: Dead City Season 1

Over the course of the 11-season run of The Walking Dead, the series dipped into cities like Atlanta and D.C. for storylines but permanent urban dwelling was never part of that narrative. But that changes with the upcoming spin-off series The Walking Dead: Dead City, which is set "years after" the flagship show's series finale and puts Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in a "post-apocalyptic Manhattan long ago cut off from the mainland." Essentially, goodbye woods and rural areas and hello John Carpenter's Escape from New York!

At Tuesday's Television Critics Association winter press day for AMC, Scott. M. Gimple, the Chief Content Officer of The Walking Dead Universe presented some early footage for The Walking Dead: Dead City, along with showrunner Eli Jorné and actors Cohan, Morgan and Gaius Charles, who plays U.S. Marshall Perlie Armstrong. 

Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee in The Walking Dead: Dead City Season 1

Framing Dead City as less of an ensemble series and primarily focused on Maggie and Negan, Jorné said the look of this series is more inspired by Carpenter's take on post-apocalyptic New York City, "What happened in New York is not what happened in Georgia and Virginia," he offered. "You learn how claustrophobic a city can be."

Gimple and Jorné said the altogether different environment of New York City will allow this series to show audiences the new ways that people can survive and escape the "million-plus" walkers still roaming. And that threat will force Maggie and Negan to work together. "The characters need each other, so whether they trust each other is kind of secondary ... and the drama comes from that," Gimple said. 

Jorné continued, "Maggie and Negan are two characters who are at odds in so many ways, they have so much history." Of course, that primary history revolves around arguably the most controversial moment in the history of The Walking Dead: Negan murdering Maggie's husband, Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), by bashing his head in with his infamous baseball bat named Lucille. It cemented Maggie's hate for Negan, even though they've had to work together in subsequent seasons for the greater good. 

Morgan said that moment still haunts him to this day. "I didn't think that I would still be here in this world," the actor said about surviving six more seasons and now getting his own spin-off series. "That one scene changed my life, literally. ... I still get shit for it," he laughed. "I walk down the street and people remind me daily that Glenn was their favorite character." 

"The idea of needing to remain in concert with someone who made your blood boil was so fascinating," Cohan said about the appeal in framing a whole season around their characters. "Maggie and Negan are like magnets that can't be put together. It's a really, really fun cat and mouse game."

As to how evolved Negan will be in Dead City, Morgan teased, "Where he finds himself now is far away from where we first met him ... yet, he's still that guy." 

Gimple added that this series will specifically explore "the idea of forgiveness and reconciliation" in a broader sense, and as applied to these two characters. Luckily, Cohan and Morgan said their actual relationship is the antithesis of their characters' dynamic, and they were actively discussing the spin-off while shooting the final season of The Walking Dead. They had about a month off between finishing the original series and starting Dead City, which Morgan said was plenty because, "It feels like a piece of my heart is missing when I don't see Lauren for an extended period of time."

Of course, there will be other characters in Dead City, and a primary one will be Charles' Marshall Perlie Armstrong. Gimple described him as "a very different character from what we've seen in The Walking Dead," adding, "It's like he's come out of a different genre."

Charles added, "When Scott says I come out of a different world, he means we haven't really seen the presentation of police and law enforcement and law and order. And [Perlie] [clings] to law and order as a way to make sense of this apocalypse." Expect that Negan won't take kindly to that kind of control.

Lastly, Gimple and Jorné reiterated that every series coming in The Walking Dead universe is being crafted so that new audiences will be able to jump in without feeling lost or confused about the deep mythology. Jorné said, "You don't need to bring 11 or 12 years of viewership to connect to this show." Morgan joked, "But it doesn't hurt!"

The Walking Dead: Dead City premieres in June on AMC and AMC+.

Craving more zombie action? Day of the Dead, and Night of the Living Dead, are both streaming on Peacock now.